Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Editorial | Fighting for our heritage

Published:Saturday | May 27, 2017 | 5:08 AM

We applaud the latest efforts to restore the Ward Theatre to its place of cultural prominence in the capital's landscape. Making the iconic Ward Theatre one of the national Labour Day projects for 2017 was a major step in reversing its decline and helping younger generations to appreciate that acting, dancing, music and storytelling are integral forms of the culture on which our national identity is built.

It is easy to trace Jamaica's lineage through the many performances that have been staged at the Ward throughout the years. A restored Ward will help to give a flavour of Jamaica's early theatre traditions by bringing to life the layers of history stored within that structure.

Peeling away those layers of history is especially salient, given the current Internet environment in which young people, in particular, are bombarded with scores of messages from different cultures. These young people need to be reminded of the once vibrant cultural parts of Kingston.

When we listen to the grand dame of Jamaican theatre, Louise Bennett Coverley, we understand that she is a living legend whose powerful talents render her relevant today, so much so that she can continue to shape the creativity of the minds of ordinary people.

It is admirable, too, that the Government has put money into this project, for it is the tradition that cultural projects are among the first to be chopped in any kind of austerity programme. And with so many worthy national infrastructural projects competing for funding, there are bound to be persons who feel that the money could be put to better use.

What is also encouraging is that Mayor Delroy Williams is charging ahead to fulfil his vision of returning Kingston to a place of prominence among the cities of the Caribbean and Latin America. As we have commented before, he has a mountain to traverse in fulfilling his ambitious dreams. In so far as he is successful in his efforts, it will augur well for Brand Jamaica.

 

Sustainability needed

 

Particularly for this restoration project, the Ward needs to be placed on a path of sustainability because it is inconceivable that the Government will be able to continue to pump money into such a project well into the future. We note the suggestions about establishing money-generating projects, and this is to be commended.

Even though politicians, their supporters and a few interested people showed up for some projects, the excitement and enthusiasm for putting work into Labour Day were absent in parts of Kingston and across the island.

The apathy of the majority of Jamaicans is a huge hindrance to development. It is this apathy that accounts for the presence of mounds of garbage in communities. It is this apathy that causes citizens to turn a blind eye to the activities of criminals instead of sharing information with the police. It is indeed this apathy that creates silence when a child is being abused.

We understand that apathy often results from the difficulties faced by people who just cannot put effort into any project that will not place food in their bellies. In an effort to change this pessimism, Mayor Williams and the political leadership could do well to provide a framework in which persons can embrace the history and evolution of their communities. The restoration of the Ward is a great place to begin this process.

Whether we think of the creative genius of Bob Marley or the boldness of Louise Bennett Coverley, who embraced the natural dialect long before it was popular to do so, it is clear that our cultural heritage is worth fighting for.