National Arts Festival Preserves Bahamian Culture
NASSAU, The Bahamas – For more than half a century, the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival has been an important agent in the preservation and encouragement of Bahamian culture, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard said, on October 26, 2011.
“It has helped to keep alive, perpetuate and give greater exposure to Bahamian culture in all its aspects,” Minister Maynard said at the 2011 Awards Presentations, held at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. “In the early days, the European influence was predominant. However, as time went on, all the Bahamian genres were included and expanded.
“Many indigenous works of Bahamian artists and writers have been showcased, such as pieces by Alfonzo “Blind Blake” Higgs, George Symonette and Timothy Gibson, literary works by Dr. Susan Wallace, Michael C. Pintard and Dr. Marion Bethel.”
Among the dignitaries, cultural icons and stakeholders taking part in the awards ceremony was event patron Governor-General of The Bahamas His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes, Director of Culture Dr. Linda Moxey-Brown, Executive Director of the National Musical Heritage and Research and Director of the Bahamas National Youth Choir, Assistant Director of Culture Eddie Dames, Organising Secretary of The Festival Keva Cartwright and Founding Directors of the Bahamas National Children’s Choir Patricia Bazard and Audrey Wright.
Minister Maynard added that the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival 2011 has also hosted works in exhibitions of visual artists such as Amos Ferguson, Brent Malone, Kendal Hanna, Sonia Isaacs, Maxwell Taylor and Jackson Burnside.
Also connected to the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival, he added, were special advance training session hosted by the Washington Jazz Institute for outstanding festival winners.
“Through a partnership with Global Ivory Promotions, these music sessions previously took place in Washington, D. C.; but for the last two years they were hosted here in New Providence and were quite successfully, I may add,’ Minister Maynard said.
“We also give two winners an opportunity to record music demo in Nashville Tennessee this year. By a partnership with Paul and Tanya Hanna’s Prodigy Foundation, more winners will have similar exposure early next year.”
Minister Maynard said that this years’ arts and crafts exhibition by the schools was successfully opened on September 30, at the UBS Trust Building, at Montague.
“There were 134 art pieces, which was quite an improvement from last years’ 53 pieces,” he said. “These came from Islands such as New Providence, Freeport, Inagua, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, and Harbour Island. The Exhibition consisted of paintings, mosaics and craft works.”
Minister Maynard said that the Festival’s first director had a vision of an instrumental movement in the midst of a predominantly choral society in the 1980’s.
“This vision has been actualized as we have witnessed marching bands at the primary and secondary school levels participating in many different classes in all sections of the festival,” he said.
The National Arts Festival also serves to focus the energies of the youth into viable pursuits in such spheres as music, dance, drama, arts and crafts, he added. It has been proven, Minister Maynard said, that when young people are involved in such ventures, they tend to be less disposed to anti-social behaviour.
“It is also discovered that when they are into music and dance, there is an enhancement in verbal reasoning and mathematical ability,” Minister Maynard said. “It is already known that academic performance improves when music features heavily in a kids development.”
This National event also brings indigenous artists to the forefront that would otherwise remain obscure, he added. Further, he touted that the advice participants retrieved from adjudication helps them to develop their full potential.
“The E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival ensures that the individual develops the other side of their personality,” Minister Maynard pointed out. “So often in our society the linguistic and mathematical skills are heavily emphasized. An institution of this nature makes sure that the artistic faculties are not ignored.
“We seek to aid the development of a well-rounded, educated person that not only appreciates the arts, but at times is called upon to make valuable assessments in this area.”
Minister Maynard added that his Ministry is “happy” to continue the growth of this event and must ensure that it is sustained growth, because it has produced many of the leading practitioners in the arts.
“In the future we are also anticipating that many more of our notable artists will come out of the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival and that society will more appreciate the intrinsic value of the arts,” Minister Maynard said.
By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services