A-M u s i n g s: Squandered Treasures

In a country as nominally religious as Saint Lucia you would expect everyone to know the Parable of the Talents, but for safety’s sake, as few seem to care about the country’s talents, the parable is all about a man, who went on a journey, and who entrusted his property to his servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. On his return, the servants who had received most talents had doubled their holdings and handed the profits to the master, who said, ‘You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

This parable has always worried me. The Capitalist Master is hell-bent on reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has scattered no seed; he not only berates the servant who made no profit for him, he casts this ‘worthless servant into the outer darkness’. In other words, the master wants something for nothing, and is pretty unpleasant when he does not get his way. He is not, one would have thought, a good role model.

But enough of this idle chatter; let’s get to the meat of the matter. I shall, however, avoid the temptation to comment on the ability of Saint Lucians to ‘scatter seed’ especially at Carnival, and instead concentrate on the country’s sadly neglected ‘talent’: Derek.

Quite a few years ago, I attended the opening of the Derek Walcott Theatre at Cap Estate. It was a fine occasion. Everyone who thought they were someone was there. John Compton was beaming like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat, a self-satisfied, mischievous grin lighting up his face while the Laureate explained to the audience how much he appreciated the creation of the Theatre and how easily it had come about: He had simply asked the Prime Minister for a Theatre and, look, there it was!

For a very short while, the Theatre appeared to ‘flourish’ in a limited fashion, and it was great; but then, almost as suddenly as it had appeared, it disappeared, leaving only a nicely maintained sign at the mock roundabout by the side road to the Cap Estate Great House. Lord only knows what visitors seeking the Nobel Experience think when they discover the remains of what once was, for a brief period, a monument to our island’s unofficial poet laureate.

Not many Small Island States are blessed by Nobel Laureates. It is sad that doubly blessed Saint Lucia cannot rouse itself from its lethargy and profit from its Talents, but instead prefers to remain in the ‘outer darkness’, bringing to light its talents but once a year during Nobel Laureate Week.

Why is it impossible to have a functioning theatre with a permanent staff of skilled technicians, artists, actors, marketeers, and functionaries that could ‘market’ our talent and provide daily entertainment to locals and visitors alike?

First of all, you need talented performers, but performers with nowhere to perform, are hard to come by. Then you need writers, but writers with no outlet for their works are easily discouraged. Lo and behold, we are back to the chicken and egg conundrum: Something’s gotta give, Saint Lucia!

A long-running popular extravaganza – they have them all the time on Broadway and in London’s West End – would provide the basis for a theatre. Imagine, for example, how a production of Ti Jean and His Brothers could form the foundation for an industry and harness the creativity of carnival costume designers to provide ever evolving, visual feasts for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.

Now, it may well be that the object of our adulation would find no pleasure in being ‘marketed’, but it is done all the time. Even Shakespeare might be turning in his grave at the sight of all that has been done, and continues to be done in his name. The Preservation and Renewal of Culture can Big Business, at least as big as Climate Change with all its billions strewn hither and dither the world over, but we have to get it right.

Hotel guests would be invited to “A Night at the Theatre” that, done right, would be the cultural highlight of every vacation. Schoolchildren would attend matinee performances. Three, maybe four evenings a week would be set aside for other performances of works by other artists or other forms of entertainment. If we were to really set our minds free, we could imagine a cultural compound – not in the limiting sense, more like a campus, with theatre and workshops.

I could go on, but I won’t. It’s the Vision Thing, you know. We need Vision, Energy and Perseverance; and sadly, I no longer have them.

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