By Joanne C. Hillhouse*
Our creative sector remains a largely untapped arena in spite of the abundant talent in the region, largely because it sinks or swims on the efforts of individuals without foundational support or synergies.
This was a point made by visiting author Kris Rampersad during a
recent presentation at the Museum surrounding her book LiTTscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.
The Caribbean, she said, is a “goldmine in terms of our literary products (and our) experiences talk to all the cultures of the world.” So why aren’t more of those stories out there? Well, here’s where the need for synergy, collaborations, connections, comes in. And, harsh truth, she said the creators of the work need to learn to let go. If a book is being transitioned into film, as books are, then it’s no longer the writer’s vision but the director’s, but often, we, writers, have a hard time letting go. “You have to let go of your work and I think it’s been very hard for people to do,” Rampersad said. Of course, there’s also the need for a fair deal and she makes clear she’s not suggesting creators “sign away their legacy”. Glad to hear that as artistes’ rights are undervalued enough as it is in our region, but she makes a good point about finding creative ways to collaborate, in an effort to bring our stories to different mediums. “The creative sector needs to work in tandem,” she said, “if we can’t, we’re not going to get anywhere.” She didn’t however touch on the elephant in the room; capital. We may be idea rich but we’re still money poor and even with technological advances, which has made the process more doable, transitioning a children’s story to animation, for instance, still takes money for production and distribution.
Beyond what artistes can do together or in support of each other, there’s the need for institutional and corporate support that is lacking. Individual effort remains the driver of creative successes in the region, Rampersad noted. The support system that would underpin an industry driven by the creative potential of our people is lacking. “While we’re talking the value of the knowledge economy, nobody’s acting on it,” Rampersad said. She gave a very specific, if unexpected, example. Authors who self publish and/or sell via Amazon, for instance, she noted pay U.S. taxes on those sales that could be eliminated with a bilateral trade agreement, but that has to be done at the government level. This is something some countries have done, she said.
*This was one of two pieces I did some months ago when the author cited visited the island and did a presentation at the Museum. I came across the pictures, decided to post them and the article with them. Do not repost without my permission. I’m serious about that as this piece in particular, ironically enough, is one of a handful of pieces I got burned on; a situation about which I will only say, who don’t pay the just will pay the unjust.
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