National Arts Festival to continue the legacy

It has been said, though, that our folk culture is an underground culture. (Pictured: Performance of Adrian Augier’s Esperance)

The Nobel Laureate celebrations are over during which Saint Lucians celebrated local excellence. Now comes the National Arts Festival when Saint Lucian artists will be celebrating the Legacy of that Excellence from February 13th to 25th at the Cultural Centre as well as the Castries City Hall.
Our people and our artists have travelled a very long way since their arrival in these parts just over four hundred years ago and, despite great odds, have managed to hold on to certain aspects of that Legacy: the Drums, the Music, the Dances, their Songs, the Visual and Plastic Arts, their Beliefs and Practices, their Folk Tales, a new Way of Life that is unique in the modern world. We still hear and see them in Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago the Guyanas, and, if we go lower down, in Bahia in North-Eastern Brazil.
In one of his poems the Honourable Derek Walcott says that, “We left somewhere a life we never found, Customs and gods that are not born again . . . ” With that I disagreed at a Conference organized by the University of London on ‘African Religious Survivals in the Caribbean,’ when I spoke on two of my favourites: Voodoo and Shango, the one the religion of the peoples of Dahomey, Guinea and the Congo, and the Shango, the religion of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. I maintained that our ancestors when they arrived in this Region did not leave their cultures behind; they brought themselves.
It has been said, though, that our folk culture is an underground culture. With that I agree, for certain elements of that folk culture  were not permitted in the plantation slave society, and those had to be carried on and practiced in secret and at night. Elements of those cultures have survived in Piaye with the Koutomba in the attitude to Death and the Living, in Babonneau and Fond Assau in the North where the Ekiti people, a sub-group of the Yoruba Empire had arrived and settled after Emancipation.
Those elements of the surviving folk culture and the results of the dynamics in the process of acculturation and inter-culturation in Music, Song, Dance, Drama, Sculpture  and Folk Tales are what the public will be viewing and experiencing during the National Arts Festival being organized by the Cultural Development Foundation. The Chairperson of the Festival is Miss Floreta Nicholas, former Chief Magistrate and herself a playwright of considerable talent.
This year’s National Arts Festival has been scheduled to coincide with Saint Lucia’s Independence Anniversary celebrations and will undoubtedly add exciting variety to the Independence Anniversary activities and will most certainly contribute to the appreciation and importance and significance of Independence and emphasize the Saint Lucian National Identity.
It will be Independence Anniversary with a marked difference, that which the audiences will see and enjoy, that very difference which one of our Nobel Laureates, the late Sir William Arthur Lewis had identified during his Address at the Graduation Ceremony of the students of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, on the 5th. February 1971 when he had asked the rhetorical question: “In what respects should we strive to be different?”
That difference, observed Sir Arthur, “must be unique” in our achievements in our Art, our Music, our Literature. All those, insisted Sir Arthur, must be clearly distinguishable from other peoples. They must be different and unique. That, in truth, is the most valuable sense in which we, Saint Lucians, must be different. It will be, above all, the most valuable contribution that we would be making to the common heritage of mankind, and I insist, that when the history of Western Christian Civilization will be written, that history will not be complete without the contributions from our Nobel Laureates and the other writers and artists of Saint Lucia.
The National Arts Festival will reveal all those things to the audiences.
Yes, we will be celebrating the Legacy  established by our Nobel Laureates, but especially by our Cultural Icons and Cultural Activists, sixteen of whom passed away in 2010 and to whose lives and work this year’s National Arts Festival will be dedicated. In their activities and their works they sought to create forms of expression that would establish the Saint Lucian Personality.

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