Promoting Creativity In The Bahamas
The Bahamas needs to concentrate on promoting and building the country and its people from the “inside out” by showcasing its rich arts and cultural heritage, said Pamela Burnside, manger of Doongalik Studios and wife of the late cultural icon Jackson Burnside.
Burnside said the spotlight needs to shine on the “better” parts of what is going on in The Bahamas, “instead of giving prime news coverage to the criminals.”
“We just need to be ourselves, ‘be who you is and not who you ain’t, cos if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t’,” she told business leaders at the annual Bahamas Business Outlook conference.
“For far too long we have taken our creative expressions for granted, ignored their importance and their value, and relied on an ‘outside in’ concept to sustain our development, when we only need to drop our bucket where we stand – ‘tell story’ – look inside for our own ‘true, true’ resources, good old Bahamian art, culture and heritage.”
One of the ways Burnside hopes to spotlight and nurture what The Bahamas has to offer is through the Creative Nassau venture.
Creative Nassau was formed in 2008 by Jackson Burnside after he and Pam attended a UNESCO Creative Cities Conference on Creative Tourism in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Creative Cities Network is structured around the seven specific fields of literature, cinema, music, design, craft and folk art, media arts and gastronomy. It seeks to develop international cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable development, in the frame work of partnerships including the public and private sectors, professional organizations, communities, civil society and cultural institutions. The network also facilitates the sharing of experiences, knowledge and resources among the member cities as a means to promote the development of local creative industries and to foster worldwide cooperation for sustainable urban development.
The Creative Cities Network, according to Burnside, aims to strengthen the creation, production, distribution and enjoyment of cultural goods and services at the local level; promote creativity and creative expressions, especially among vulnerable groups, including women and youth; enhance access to and participation in cultural life as well as enjoyment of cultural goods; and integrate cultural and creative industries into local development plans.
Recognizing the benefits of becoming a part of this network, on their return from Santa Fe, the Burnsides invited a group of committed Bahamians to join them in working towards applying for membership as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art.
The Bahamas will be the first small island state to do so. Creative Nassau is in the process of preparing the application for submission, focusing on the two unique Bahamian elements of the country’s straw culture and Junkanoo tradition.
Creative Nassau believes that focus should be placed on building Bahamians first, by encouraging an awareness and appreciation for who we are as a people because cultural self identity builds pride, self esteem and self worth, which leads to stronger social cohesion and economic empowerment, she said.
Burnside said that Creative Nassau is convinced that “creative tourism” is the way forward.
“Creative Nassau believes that everything we need is right here is our hands, staring us in the face, if we can only truly ‘see what we lookin’ at’,” she said.
Burnside pointed to straw and Junkanoo traditions that have proved through the decades to be thriving and viable forms of expression and livelihood among many Bahamians throughout the Family Islands.
Creative Nassau plans to act as an umbrella organization to promote creativity, make connections from collaborations, develop design skills, encourage research and education, inspire excellence and celebrate success, Burnside explained.
“Let us take a closer look at them to truly see their value,” she said.
Burnside said that this year Creative Nassau will launch its website and hold other publicity events. Plans are also underway to tell its story in “true, true” Bahamian style using creative educational programs to develop greater public awareness of art, culture and heritage throughout the country.
“This must be a collaborative effort,” Burnside urged. “We look forward to support and partnerships with the government, public and private sectors as well as international entities to make Creative Nassau a success. Obtaining membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network will afford The Bahamas enormous opportunities in this regard.”
The Nassau Guardian