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UNESCO launches the first ResiliArt discussion in the Caribbean within the framework of Transculture Project to discuss resilient art responses to Covid-19

26/05/2020
La Habana, Cuba

On May 21, World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, the first ResiliArt - Transculture debate in the Caribbean region was carried out, promoted by UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean in Havana and the Cluster Office for the Caribbean in Kingston.

ResiliArt, a movement launched by UNESCO, proposes to hold a series of virtual discussions with leading professionals from the cultural industry and artists, both established and emerging, seeking to raise awareness on the impact of the pandemic in the cultural sector, as well as on the importance of cultural and creative industries for economic development and social cohesion.

Musicians, visual artists, producers and entrepreneurs from the creative industries in Barbados, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago exchanged on the challenges that Covid-19 imposes on the creation world, and particularly those they face as artists in the Caribbean.

The discussion was moderated by Katherine Müller-Marin, Director of UNESCO Office in Havana, and Tatiana Villegas, Specialist of the Culture Program, who brought up questions about the impact of the pandemic and the resulting social distancing on cultural industries and on the life of artists, as well as the possible opportunities and spaces for growing that are opening up in the face of current conditions, which will create new patterns of interaction among people.

Also representing UNESCO were Pilar Álvarez-Laso, Director of Port-au-Prince Office, and Yuri Peshkov, Culture Specialist from Kingston Office, who contributed to consolidating the participation of artists from the countries under their respective offices, and to develop this event.

Participants approached a wide range of key issues, from the need for artists to contribute actively to decision-making process in the design and implementation of policies, the importance of improving the status of cultural professionals, the need to create conditions to support artists in all creative processes such as production, distribution and access to cultural goods and services. It was highlighted the importance of promoting education as a pillar for the future, in a regional context where there are strong differences in access to internet and social networks, stressing that this should be a universal right.

Solidarity, assumed through the implementation of collaborative resources, emerged in several remarks. In that sense, participants explained how the new situation conditions how to think about work beyond borders and conceive it with a global perspective, where the connection with artists who are in the Diaspora is essential. “The future is now, we are already living it,” added one of them. “We must already start thinking how to design future live performances, with the necessary social distancing, to solve the artists' need to interact with the audience.”

Several artists explained how this new situation has made them discover new digital audiences and, in this sense, they emphasized the need to count on the support of both public and private institutions for a greater opening of international markets to cultural products from the Caribbean.

While most artists have found ways to keep connected with their usual audiences through digital media, the discussion highlighted the need to find mechanisms and new formulas that allow artists to receive payment for their online work.

Another of the issues that generated greater exchange was the extent to which the digital space is the response to the changes generated by current circumstances. With regard to this matter, the South-South group stressed the importance of “thinking what is like to be a digital citizen in the Caribbean”. During the discussion, creators went from that global space conditioned by the digital world, to the inner spaces of the countries and the relevance of making alliances with community projects, training centers and private initiatives aimed at preserving the identity of Caribbean peoples.

The virtual event concluded that the current situation is similar to other moments in which art has been greatly affected by cataclysms of various kinds, where the responses that were generated in each moment were evidence of the resilience of artistic creation.

Panelists

• Yosvany Terry, saxophone player and composer who masterfully combines the traditional sounds of his native Cuba. Full Professor and Director of Jazz Ensembles at the Music Department of Harvard University.

• Joël Widmaier, percussionist, founder of Haiti Jazz Foundation in 2007, President of Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival.

• Julia Castillo, renowned plastic artist, Director of Perelló Cultural Center in the Dominican Republic.

• Seretse Small, composer and guitarist, founder and Director of Avant Academy of Music in Jamaica.

• Andre Wood Vine, jazz saxophonist, composer and educator from Barbados. He has been playing on stages throughout the Caribbean, North America and Europe for over 35 years.

• Barbara Cadet, vocalist, musical arranger and songwriter from Saint Lucia. Producer and music arranger for the group Sisterhood.

• Dennis de Caires, plastic artist from Guyana. He combines the European influences and his Caribbean roots in colorful compositions and has a special interest in Tertiary Art Education in the Caribbean.

• Jason Lindsay, cultural promoter and managing director of Full Circle Animation Studio in Trinidad and Tobago.

• Eme Alfonso, she is one of the leading voices in Cuban musical scenario. She was part of the emblematic band "Síntesis", a pioneer in the fusion of Afro-Cuban music with rock and jazz.

• Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, a strategist in cultural development, in charge of social innovation and transformation. She is the founder of the South-South Network and vice-president of Women Entrepreneurs Advocacy Network of the Caribbean.