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Columns : Letters to The Editor Last Updated: Sep 27, 2021 - 7:54:17 PM

Michael Brooks: A look at Bahamian culture
Sep 27, 2021 - 11:54:57 AM

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Michael Brooks
Andros, Bahamas
Email: embeeunlimited@gmail.com

September 25, 2021

Dear Editor,


When we look at Bahamian culture, are we seeing straight, or cross-eyed? We seem to tenaciously refuse to let go of some things, while simultaneously engaging in importing and adopting other things with reckless abandon. It goes without saying that culture, of course, is not static, but always changing ... ever so slightly sometimes. Still, when we look at Bahamian culture, are we seeing straight, or crossed-eyed?

Some say that it's never too late to do the right thing, although the longer it takes to correct some things, the more difficult it becomes to do so. It's also said that learning some things might be difficult, but unlearning some things can be many times more difficult. And so it is with culture; especially our Bahamian culture.

A random survey on just about any street will elicit "Junkanoo" as a response to the question "What is Bahamian culture?" Accordingly, many middle-age and younger Bahamians cannot imagine Junkanoo without that dominant brass section, so akin to the marching band culture of 'over so'.

At this point, it seems fair to say that the primary difficulty, no doubt, is identifying Bahamian culture for wider agreement. Then, the monumental task would naturally be getting the majority of Bahamians to accept and embrace these cultural mores and make them a part of their everyday lives.

When we appreciate our own culture, there is less room for us to be swayed by the culture of others. Additionally, when we genuinely celebrate our own culture, visitors to The Bahamas can better appreciate being here to experience an 'exotic' treat. To "see what ya lookin' at" is somethin' else. When we look at Bahamian culture, are we seeing straight, or crossed-eyed?

Recently, there has been quite a buzz about how the Government ought to designate a Ministry or more prominent place for emphasizing Bahamian culture. On the face of it, I disagree because I feel that Government need not lead the charge for bringing about the requisite appreciation for the various aspects of Bahamian culture. There is, nevertheless, much that the Government can and should do to promote Bahamian culture.

However, local people and local communities can, and should lead the way in celebrating Bahamian culture. For example, you or I could organize a kite-flying contest in our community. At some point when a number of communities do likewise, Government might lend support to an island-wide or national kite-flying contest. Such an event might even go international.

So, we need not wait for Government to direct us in lovin' ourselves or we own tings. "Respect yourself, celebrate yourselves" is a good mantra that could be applied in every aspect of our lives -- Government or no-Government. When we look at Bahamian culture, are we seeing straight or crossed-eyed?

Could it be that the threads of government are so deeply woven into the fabric of Bahamian culture that to remove them will result in everything falling apart? On the one hand, it could be an interesting exercise to go through each Government Ministry and discover how our culture might be applied in the context of their mandate and responsibilities.

On the other hand, a few related but random references might suffice. How about changing the names of all the ‘Queen's Highways’ throughout the family of islands to more relatable Bahamian names (especially since National Heroes Day is approaching)? How about adjusting the ‘suit and tie’ dress codes to respond to our tropical climate, especially when it comes to those wigs and gowns of the Judiciary? Is it possible to establish a day (maybe Fridays) for the wearing of locally-printed fabrics and the national flag colours? What objections could there be to having our indigenous plants and flowers adorning the interior and exterior of our public buildings, with the propagation of such flora providing income for students or rehabilitative activities for inmates?

With a little insight and foresight, we could develop any number of win/win outcomes to propel Bahamian culture forward, as well as our national identity and ideals that sometimes appear to be simply lofty concepts that are unrelated to Bahamians and their daily lives.

Is it any wonder that school-age youngsters and their parents do not pay any real allegiance to the spirit of nationalism during Independence in July, or other national events, which are hardly celebrated with proper pride and respect nowadays? When we look at Bahamian culture, are we seeing straight, or crossed-eyed?

Perhaps next time, if there is a next time, I will touch on aspects of Bahamian culture that relate to locally-grown fruits and berries that seem to be "goin' out of style", especially with each descending generation. In like manner, traditional foods like johnny cake and potato bread (among others), seem to be transforming into something my grandparents would not recognize as such.

I might even give my vote for making sloop sailing our national sport, and encouraging it’s development with the introduction of model-sailboat making, or mini one-person sailboats for students, and such. When it comes to the music of The Bahamas, I could rightfully write volumes. As far as labeling it, my humble offering would be "Native Music". Goombay, Rake 'N Scrape, Junkanoo, along with other styles and fusions might all fit under such an umbrella, as long as Bahamians are genuinely expressing their feelings rather than imitating ‘other people tings’.

Oh, and yes, please don't let me be misunderstood. The Government can and should play a vital part in defining as well as supporting every aspect of Bahamian culture, because, after all, the Government is not some abstract entity sitting somewhere in lofty halls of power. The Government is actually us. Culture is actually us.

So when we look at Bahamian culture, are we seeing straight, or crossed-eyed?

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of TheBahamasWeekly.com

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