Friday, February 23, 2018

Making mas with Carnival

We always boast that our Carnival is the "Greatest Show on Earth"! Really? What do we have to show for it? Ninety million dollars spent this year and more than $100 million spent last year and every year we ask, did we get value for money?

We continue to beat our chests about our Carnival, whilst adopting a very myopic view of its value to us as a people and a country.

What is our claim to fame when China now produces Carnival costumes for us and other countries want to claim the pan as their own?

How serious is the Government regarding the value of our Carnival to our people, economy and pride? Where is the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism? What is the role of the Tourism Development Corporation? What is the value of the Master of Arts degree in Carnival Studies from the UTT? What really is the contribution of the National Carnival Commission? How do we harness the creativity of our people?

For quite a while now, we have been treating Carnival as a two-day bikini fashion show, the culmination of a few days of fetes, chutney, soca and calypso music. But Carnival is an industry and should be appreciated as such and managed as a business. It is therefore imperative that the National Carnival Commission (NCC) consist primarily of successful business people and not by subject-matter people whose value-add should really be their knowledge and expertise in their given artistic or cultural area. Greater emphasis must be placed on stakeholder input from the National Carnival Bandleaders Association (NCBA), Trinbago Unified Calypsonians' Organisation (TUCO), Pan Trinbago, Copyright Organisation (COTT) and other associated entities.

The solution is not the privatisation of Carnival as the Government seems bent on doing but the management of a business by businessmen under the auspices of the Government. Privatisation alludes to a profit motive, with possibly some element of corporate social responsibility. However, Carnival to us must be seen as a brand of Trinidad and Tobago to be made into a highly successful industry that focuses our people's talent so as to concretise our musical and design creativity but it requires the resources of the Government as primary stakeholder.

In this way, we will create more sustainable jobs for our designers, composers, seamstresses, wire benders, promoters, public relations, marketing and management personnel, to name a few.

Viewing Carnival as a production to be tendered is like the blind man holding the tail of the elephant and saying it is a snake.

The Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism must immediately review its perception of Carnival and treat it as an industry, which can spawn on a continued basis, several sustainable downstream industries and disciplines, including the harnessing and export of our expertise to other countries.

Alternatively, we can continue to talk about "The Greatest Show on Earth", whilst burying our head in the sand and forcing our talented people to seek greener pastures overseas.

Let us not make mas with Carnival or we will continue to have ole mas.

Harjoon Heeralal