Culturama Speaks to the Cultural Heritage of Nevis Says Executive Director of the Culturama Secretariat

CHARLESTOWN (JULY 05, 2016) “Year after year, I’ve received anonymous letters from persons basically ‘cursing out’ the Culturama Committee for organizing the queen pageants” said Executive Director of the Culturama Secretariat, Mr. Antonio Liburd.

The disclosure was made in an interview conducted by local writer, Lorna Smithen- Bussue in the Culturama Secretariat at the Cotton Ginnery Mall, Charlestown, on July 05, 2016.

According to Mr. Liburd, Culturama, Nevis’ cultural festival, was designed by the Nevis Dramatic and Cultural Society (NEDACS) with the aim of “preserving and promoting the country’s cultural traditions”, many of which seemingly were on the verge of extinction.

“It was felt that Nevis was losing its cultural traditions and a lot of the things that were being regarded as the culture of Nevis were becoming extinct. Masquerade, Johnny Walker, Cowboys and Indians, folk music, folk dancing and all the other cultural dances were no longer being practiced.”

Preoccupation with safeguarding society’s cultural heritage is not innovative to NEDACS but can be traced to the world’s first cities as early as 4000 to 3500 BC. These early societies saw the need to promote the cultural identities of their people through festivals, ceremonies and traditions.

Furthermore, research has shown that the beliefs of today’s societies arose from dominant cultural impacts made in earlier periods. It is through these cultural beliefs that national consciousness, based on history is developed.

In light of this, Liburd thinks that the socio-religious structure of Nevisian society has led to the development of problems faced by the Culturama Committee such as inability to source contestants for the pageant, talented youths and the troupes; ‘contestants lock down’ and the effects of cultural diversity.

“I know there is one community in Nevis that is very religious and there is a primary school in that area and we have faced some difficulties in getting that school to participate in Culturama” he said

He went on to state that despite the criterion used for the selection of contestants who must be Nevisian or have resided on the island for a period of not less than 12 months, the closely knit and somewhat religious nature of the community has nonetheless negatively impacted the selection process

“There were times when we faced some difficulties in terms of sourcing Nevisians or persons who were residents of Nevis to enter the Ms Culture Queen Pageant and so we opened it up to participation from St. Kitts” he said.

Furthermore, the popular grapevine method of ‘news circulation’ enhanced by the closely knitted nature of the Nevisian society has also negatively influenced the decisions of the Committee

“There are times too when we have contestants ‘lock down’, when persons get to know a person is going in for the Queen show, swimwear or even Mr. Kool. Persons in the community will meet them and discourage them from entering and then you know we have to go on a mission to source contestants, as the persons who already signed up, get cold feet and withdraw” he said.

Evidence has shown that there is a movement in Caribbean countries away from monoculture societies to more pluralistic societies. This has resulted in competition between the traditional practices of Nevisians and non –nationals living on the island.

“You’ll find that a lot of roti’s are now on the menu of Nevis, a lot of jerk pork and Jamaican spices, Ackee and salt fish and so our culture has changed and so too has Culturama” Liburd said.

In his view, this is an indication of the dynamism of culture and the Committee has to make decisions that are abreast with these cultural changes especially as Ms. Culturama Queen also competes in Ms. Caribbean Culture Queen Pageant

“When Culturama started, the costumes were basically made of indigenous materials. However, with the competition faced from other regional carnivals we have to compete. Persons no longer see the flour bag, the crocus bag and the jumbie beads attractive so we have had to change to keep up with the competition. Hence you’ll see a queen contestant in an evening wear that is of a carnival nature” he said

Liburd concurred, however, that despite the diversification of our culture, Nevisians are expected to withstand some of these changes in order to maintain their national identity.

“I think that Culturama is unique to Nevis and it speaks to the cultural heritage of Nevis. I strongly feel that if our culture is to survive, that it has to be done through Culturama annually so that these traditions could be practiced, promoted and showcased so that the culture lives on” Mr. Liburd said.

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