Saturday, January 20, 2024
I was talking to my friend J.C. Arzu, about the articles I write, and he was kind enough to tell me that I was getting good at it. My catalyst for this newly discovered vocation was Covid. I was stuck in my apartment with books and music and my old guitar and Zoom and take-outs. When you live alone and isolated because of the plague, you have to do something to take your mind off more depressing thoughts. So, I started to put my thoughts into words, unsure of where it would lead; but I write, and now it’s like an addiction — I can’t stop. I don’t know if it’s vanity, or satisfaction or revenge, but I’m addicted. Plus, after reading the Publisher’s columns for so many years, I was inspired, not to try to imitate, that’s impossible, but to share my truths.
I was watching a show on PBS about the Greeks and their relationship with the arts. They built these outdoor theatres that seated up to 10,000; and they were built in a very acoustic-friendly setting, usually on a hillside for maximum acoustical effect. The actor could speak in a normal tone, and everyone could hear the speech. This was around the 6th century BCE, and their temples and sculptures began to blossom between the 9th and 6th century BCE. The Romans were a little later, but the government — city, state, town or village — realized the importance of art to the wellbeing of their citizens. Theatres, amphitheaters, temples and writings, or in Homer’s case, storytelling. He was Greek, by the way.
When I was growing up in Belize, there was always a play to be seen, at the Bliss Institute, in schools and churches, and we can’t forget the Festival of Arts, ably run by the late Vernon Leslie. In primary and secondary schools, I was always participating in some play, local or international, as in Shakespeare. Evan X Hyde’s plays were later on, when I had already gone out into this uncertain world, but I carried that love of reading and theatre and art and music with me, forever! It makes a difference, in a young child’s mind and imagination, if they’re exposed as early as possible to fine arts in school. Sometimes it can even determine their trajectory throughout their lives and careers.
JC blames the politicians for not supporting the arts and artists in the Jewel. He believes that Belize politicians were furious about the ambiguity of art; in other words, they were, and are, thin-skinned and project a little too much, and are killing arts in the process. It is rumored that politicians removed tax deductions that business owners could claim for supporting sports and the arts. Krem is a good example of this, if it’s true. That is petty and not forward looking, but the government alone cannot be blamed for the artistic desert we live in currently. Businesses and corporations, in spite of restrictions, and the educational institutions themselves, seem not to value the positive impact art has on a society, especially in times of despair and crime and economic hardships. The Romans gave us gladiators and Michelangelo and DaVinci; the British, which patterned everything after their ancient Roman colonizers, continued by drowning us in the riches of English literature!
The Image Factory is doing its best to promote arts and artistic excellence and education, and should be commended. But the interest in most forms of art has been substantially reduced, hardly noticeable. Where’s the Belize symphony? Where are all the parks and museums and poets and writers and composers and comedians? I’m not saying that there aren’t any, but not enough. Where are the George Gabbs, the Bob Reneaus, Miss Floss Cassasola? The Colville Youngs, the Andy Palacios? Oh, Raymond Barrow, where are you? Where are the philanthropists? Art depends on the kindness of strangers, also.
I believe that the student, the professional, the person in the street, anyone, can, and should put their thoughts on paper. If you believe in what you are writing, if it comes from your heart, and even if you’re the only one who ever reads it, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe you will be brave enough to share with family and friends and be doubly rewarded. It’s never too late to try something new, nor is it impossible to fulfill your dreams. And even if they’re not fulfilled, at least you tried; there’s much comfort in knowing that. The same applies to any form of art; that attempt to accomplish a goal or dream is one of the greatest rewards in life! There’s nothing that says that the less fortunate aren’t entitled to lose themselves in their imaginations, lessen the ever-present burden of their state. Art helps to lessen the pain and angst, I would assume.
I believe that we all deserve a respite from the violence and insecurity and social media bombardment, which could be replaced by locally produced art and artists. Demand it of ourselves, of our communities, of our governments, of our educational institutions! Just don’t accept what you are fed; ask for more, always more, never less. We have already turned our backs on our athletes; let’s turn around and face those who are hungry for something more. Feed us, satisfy and expand our horizons, through poetry and paintings and authors and workshops and music, and sculptures, art, in all its forms!
And you, JC, get off your butt and show off your talents, which are so many!