Sat | Oct 19, 2019

Humanities in Action - Creating opportunities in Antigua and Barbuda

Published:Sunday | October 6, 2019 | 12:22 AM
Panoramic view of English Harbour from Shirley Heights in Antigua.
Cris Warner
1
2

Somewhere along my life’s journey, I came across the saying “it’s never too late to be who you might have been”. It quietly resonated with me while I worked a series of entry to mid-level jobs in Antigua and Barbuda’s offshore financial sector. It poked and prodded at the part of me that knew that I was not living my life’s purpose.

As a child, I had a love affair with words and harboured dreams of one day earning a living from them. However, residing in a society that had little regard for the humanities and education, I opted for the ‘sensible’ route of finance.

I was content, but never fulfilled, so I decided to become ‘who I might have been’ and pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) and a minor in Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management (ECEM) at The University of the West Indies Mona, Western Jamaica Campus. Since graduating with first-class honours in 2017, I’ve never looked back and have had not one single regret. I believe that the humanities not only enriched the quality of my life, but has the potential to have long-lasting socio-cultural and socio-economic benefits for Antigua and Barbuda.

Studying the humanities and pursuing a career in it inarguably increased the quality of my life. In learning the arts of IMC and ECEM, I found personal fulfilment. I took courses such as Introduction to IMC and Research Methods administered by the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) and Introduction to the Study of Culture offered by the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS).

These courses provided the theoretical cornerstones upon which my career was built. These courses paved the way for more advanced courses such as, Producing Culture, Communication and Analysis Planning, Implementation and Evaluation and Principles of Public Relations. They had practical components that required me to demonstrate my understanding of theory by producing events as well as planning and implementing communication campaigns. The work was taxing, but there was nothing else that I’d rather have done.

Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Pursuing an education in the humanities paved the way for me to get paid to do what I love! Since graduation, I’ve enjoyed working as an advertising administrator, and most recently, as an event manager in the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Expo (M.I.C.E.) sector in the North America, United Kingdom and Antiguan markets.

Overall, the greatest gift that the humanities gave me was the confidence to know that I could do what I always dreamt of doing. Recently, I registered a business, Meraki Communication and Events, providing communication and event-management services. Stepping into the unknown is always intimidating, but I am not scared. I believe I am primed to play an integral role in the development of the cultural and creative industries in Antigua and Barbuda and live my wildest dreams while doing so.

Answer to unemployment

What does my story have to do with Antigua and Barbuda? Turning to the humanities, particularly the cultural and creative industries, could be the answer to the youth unemployment issue that we currently face.

According to a 2016 Caribbean Human Development Report produced by the United Nations Development Programme, the youth unemployment rate in Antigua and Barbuda is 50 per cent, while the country’s 2015 Labour Force Survey Report indicates that the nation’s overall unemployment rate is 13.7 per cent. We have hundreds of graduates returning to our shores each year. Many of them remain unemployed for months at a time, while others are underemployed, unable to secure jobs in their desired fields. The public and private sectors are hard-pressed to absorb all the unemployed residents. As such, I recommend empowering our creatives to employ themselves and others.

A study on the cultural industries in CARICOM by Keith Nurse said the sector grew, globally churning out revenues from $39 billion in 1994 to $50 billion in 2002.

It stands to reason that with such immense home-grown talent in Antigua and Barbuda, and a revitalised carnival season, nurturing the creative and cultural industries could lead to a reduction of unemployment and an increase in economic activity.

Some of the career opportunities as identified by Ramesh Chaitoo in his publication entitled The Entertainment Sector in CARICOM include stage managers, set designers, publicists, band leaders, wire benders, booking agents, make-up artists, and the like.

In addition to the benefits outlined above, there are socio-cultural benefits to be derived as well. Putting a microscope on Antigua and Barbuda’s soca industry, there is a recurring argument about what our unique sound is and whether we pander to external audiences.

The prominence of King Low Rider’s Fish Dance song and King Hard Knaxs’ Kentucky song are catalysts for this discourse. Many believe that these songs, though hugely infused with the nuances of the Antiguan and Barbudan way of life, were somehow lesser than music produced by our counterparts in the wider Caribbean. Investing in the creative and cultural industries will help us develop a greater sense of ‘self’. According to Chaitoo “They [the industries] also reinforce the heritage and cultural fabric of a society since the underlying skills in any cultural industry are derived from the art, culture, and heritage of the country.”

Moreover, the creative and cultural industries can also bring us together through cultural exchanges brought about by inter-regional cultural exchanges and travel. Already, we see this taking place regionally, with various concierge companies offering carnival hopping tours.

This isn’t the end of my story, but, hopefully, it is the continuation of a conversation in Antigua and Barbuda and the wider Caribbean about examining the societal benefits of exploring the humanities and education for our collective benefit.

This article is one in a series that seeks to promote and highlight the impact of the arts and humanities on the individual’s personal development and career path. Please send feedback to fhe@uwimona.edu.jm.