The art of advocacy

THIS YEAR, several arts organisations are marking milestones.

The Cropper Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary, the TT Film Festival (TTFF) its 15th and the Bocas Lit Fest its tenth.

The latter two organisations closed impressive programmes of events over the weekend, but the impact of the work done by all three extends well beyond the annual programming cycle.

These organisations demonstrate the tremendous scope of Caribbean creativity. Though they tackle the diverse fields of film, literature, and even visual art, they share something in common: advocacy.

The Cropper Foundation, a family organisation started by John and Angela Cropper, is famous for its work furthering environmental causes.

That work has continued long after the death of Angela Cropper, a former Independent senator, who succumbed to cancer in 2012. Her husband, John, was tragically murdered in 2001. Their son, Dev, had died years earlier.

Yet, the foundation’s work lives on not only through its environmental work but also in its fostering of a regional literary community through an annual writing workshop which has helped launch many Caribbean writers and poets.

The same can be said of Bocas, which has achieved international acclaim for the breadth of its annual showcase. It has featured Nobel laureates alongside fresh faces, balanced by events designed to inspire and provoke readers and writers alike.

Adopting a similar policy of nurturing talent while highlighting issues of global importance is the TTFF. Given the difficulties involved in raising production financing and securing distribution, it has been a key avenue for filmmakers to access grants and to engage local audiences.

While these anniversaries give us cause to celebrate, they nonetheless come in what is undoubtedly an annus horribilis for the arts.

Performance spaces are closed. As noted by Bocas founder and Newsday columnist Marina Salandy-Brown, writers have had tours cut short.

In these bleak circumstances, the reach of online media, however, has helped fan the flames of words, ideas and stories.

Sunday’s Bocas event featuring former Jamaican prime minister PJ Patterson, as well as Newsday’s publication of extracts from Godfrey Smith’s new account of the assassination of Maurice Bishop, shows that the need to grapple with our stories remains pressing.

And there is a lot to look forward to.

Yesterday, the University of the West Indies launched Littcon, a new conference focused on TT literature. It aims to show how writers have moved on from key figures of the past to tackle the contemporary moment.

The mere existence of all of these projects is a victory of sorts. That their survival, sometimes aided by the State, has been largely against the odds should make us reflect on how much further we have to go.


"The art of advocacy"

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