In 2020 the status quo of life as we knew, it came to a halt. The world found itself in a new paradigm shift with little warning. The life rhythms that we had built and grown accustomed to would have to be reassessed and revisited against the swift currents of changes that was sweeping across the planet. For the creative individual, as well as the community at large, COVID-19 meant a complete reinventing of the self.
In addition, in 2020, St. Maarten celebrated its tenth Anniversary of country status as a nation in disquietude, actively engaged with defining itself as a growing nation finding footing for the country it aims to become. A country struggling with identity crisis in the ever-evolving legacies as a colonial stepchild, determined to assert its own path to self-determination.
Throughout those 10 years, St. Maarten, a nascent country in a constant state of political upheaval, with several government collapses changes, new political party alignment and alliances. All with different variations of reinventing itself, with the goal to economic, political, social, and creative freedom.
In the face of the effects of the pandemic, this political restlessness, and superseding political machinations, the mandate of what drives the Department of Culture, is the lived experiences of the people of St. Maarten. “S’Maatin Cultcha” and to erect the infrastructure that will:
the expression of the people. With that mandate, the Department embarked on a journey to introduce and set up the infrastructure for the Culture Creative Industries / Economy, which has been extolled as the new economic viability for developing nations as outlined below.
Culture is the summation of thoughts, feelings, ideas, life rhythms manifested in embodied experience that give cohesion to a group, a people, a nation. Culture is the vehicle that propels a society forward. It is the story of their lived experiences, their past. Culture beholds the vision, the dreams, the aspirations, and the hopes for their future. Culture vibrates their state of their being in the now, their Present. Applied with integrity and reverence, harnessing the power and role of culture, brought from the margins to center has beneficial spill over to other economic sectors.
Director General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay, in her foreword of the Calendar for UNESCO 2030 agenda, states, and I quote, “It is the first international agenda to acknowledge the power of culture for creating decent work and economic growth, reducing inequalities, protecting the environment, promoting gender equality and building peaceful and inclusive societies.” Culture is thus at the core of the sustainable development as it connects People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.
In his thesis The Orange Economy (2001), Felipe Buitrago Restrepo even more clearly expressed the link between culture and economy by giving a blue print for economic success totally and wholly derived from the cultural traditions and artistic expressions of a people, as the economic catalyst for sustainability for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Orange Economy, and I quote, “encompasses the immense wealth of talent intellectual property interconnectedness and of course cultural heritage of Latin America and the Caribbean region and indeed every region”. The four main sectors distinguished in the creative economy are:
- Media, and
- Creative Services.
Furthermore, in ‘Unlocking the Cultural and Creative Industries’ Symbolic Value’ (2001) Jacobs Sofie, Guiette Alain, Loots Ellen, Schramme Annick & Vandenbempt Koen, give a definition of creative industries. Although hard to define by its very amorphous nature, the creative industries are defined as “those sectors and activities relying on the input of human creativity to produce economic, societal and symbolic value - throughout the links of creation, production, dissemination and consumption in the value (…).” Based upon this demarcation, the creative industries have been divided into 12 separate sectors:
- Audiovisual Industry,
- Communication & Advertising,
- Cultural heritage,
- New Media,
- Performing Arts,
- Publishing, and
- Visual Arts
On the foundation of these theories, the department has concluded that this is the trajectory to bring more definition and clarity for our mission as a department of culture. Thus, our year plan is dedicated to creating the infrastructure for development and growth that will support the creative and cultural traditions of this country using the vehicle of the culture and creative economy.