Prime Minister Perry G. Christie along with Minister of Tourism Obediah Wilchcombe; Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson and executives of the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) travelled to Grand Bahama on Thursday, August 28 to introduce Junkanoo leaders and corporate Grand Bahama to and solicit support for Bahamas Carnival 2015.
A collage of Bahamian culture, Bahamas Carnival is the brainchild of Prime Minister Christie and is expected to stimulate sustainable economic opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the creative sector of The Bahamas, providing year round employment while positively and significantly impacting the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Bahamas Carnival scheduled to begin May 7 and run through May 9, 2015 is a festive weeklong celebration in which natives and guests from around the world will be immersed in all things Bahamian.
According to Prime Minister Christie, Bahamas Carnival is more than just another venue for Junkanoo to be showcased, but it will transform Junkanoo and Bahamian arts and culture into a profitable industry from which all Bahamians can benefit.
" People who have an idea of business, fun and what young people want will be attracted to this and I can tell you if you hesitate they will leave you behind.
" For me, as I am able to begin the process as prime minister, I want to be able to go to the Grand Bahama Port Authority and tell them they must be an integral part of what comes out of Grand Bahama for the first time with Bahamas Carnival.
" This is a national major event and I want Grand Bahama as a major participant.
" The Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville will examine the structure of the Junkanoo groups ensuring business persons are involved as well as best practices," he said.
Noting that Bahamas Carnival will breathe new life into Grand Bahama especially in the tourism market, Prime Minister Christie urged Junkanoo leaders, business owners and those possessing a creative entrepreneurial savvy to support this initiative.
BNFC chairman Paul Major noted Grand Bahama has a major role to play in Bahamas Carnival and explained the benefits of it to the island and country's economy. Bahamas Carnival will showcase Junkanoo, Rake "n" Scrape, arts and crafts, Bahamian cuisine, visual arts, music and dance among other indigenous cultural expressions Major explained and while it aims to support the Junkanoo tradition, one of its goals is to make Junkanoo a profitable skill and market.
" Bahamas Carnival is an economically-based cultural initiative and is simply the largest investment that any government has ever made in the cultural sector, for which in my view they ought to be commended.
" Personally, I believe that any of you (Junkanoo leaders and Corporate Grand Bahama), who does not take advantage of this opportunity is doing yourself an injustice as this is all about you.
" The Bahamas Carnival is not geared at decorating The Bahamas or building a road but instead it is about making a direct investment in culture and the arts, which includes Junkanoo, the performing arts, visual arts, cuisine and everything you do that can make money in and around it," said Major.
With more than $9.5 million being spent on this initiative, Major said the question now remains, who is going to benefit from it?
The BNFC chairman noted all Bahamians who take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities Bahamas Carnival is expected to provide could benefit hence he urged Junkanoo leaders and Corporate Grand Bahama to lend their support to the initiative.
" Bahamas Carnival is a catalyst for creating year round cultural activity that would stimulate small and medium sized businesses and create jobs while simultaneously improving our tourism product so it is more than just carnival.
" Leaders you are being asked to please begin to shift your mind from the old Junkanoo model, embrace what is being generated by taking advantage of it as it would create a Junkanoo industry, which is all about you.
" It is very easy to sit on the sidelines complaining however, once everything is said and done you will see some people that would have been enriched by this process and unfortunately you will still be there complaining.
" We have to find a way to keep people working year round not only in Junkanoo but in every art and culture form in the country and this could be possible with Bahamas Carnival," Major lamented.
Since the official campaign launch of Bahamas Carnival, many persons have questioned why the decision was made to use the word "carnival" as generally the average Bahamian felt it would give a false identity of The Bahamas' culture.
Minister Johnson noted that the word "carnival" is an international term for a cultural festival and it is among the largest income generating festivals in the world contributing significantly to increased tourism and economic growth in over 200 cities worldwide. Essentially, The Bahamas is joining the circuit at a late stage however Bahamas Carnival will help to build cultural sustainability as it has several competitive strengths and advantages, Johnson revealed.
" We know what we had years ago and people continue to talk about the night clubs we use to have along with various scenarios in art and culture but we also have to be honest with ourselves as the fact is we have lost ground.
" The generation of the Ronnie Butler's, Count Bernardino's and King Eric's have done their work and are now moving on and the question for fellows of my generation is, how do we replace them, keep what we have at least and improve on it in the 21st century?"
Pointing to Bahamas Carnival and its anticipated success as a possible answer to that question Minister Johnson said, "Everywhere in the world the national cultural showcase attracts now worldwide attention and for us in The Bahamas we have not been able to place our art and culture on the world scene in a consistent way.
" The brand that goes on tour is called "carnival" and we are adding our flavor to it including our most dominant art form Junkanoo along with Goombay and Rake "n" Scrape.
" We are going on a worldwide music tour and this (Bahamas Carnival) is how we are going to have a renaissance of Bahamian art and culture.
" Over 45 years ago Marcus Garvey said, â The Bahamas will always be the last to come to the table because they are conservative but when they arrive they will bring the best of what the world has to offer," and that is what we are trying to do as a late entry into this world music and heritage game.
" We have collected nearly 50 years of artistic experience in everything we have done, seen and can do and are now bringing all of this together at one place at one time.
" Art takes care of itself but it is our responsibility as a government to make sure we have the platform for this to occur and I invite you (Junkanoo leaders and corporate Grand Bahama) to participate in what is happening, do not miss this boat.â
Agreeing with the sentiments expressed by both Prime Minister Christie, Major and Minister Johnson, tourism chief, Min. Wilchcombe urged Junkanoo leaders and Corporate Grand Bahama to give their support to the initiative as it will not only provide them with an incredible opportunity but also open doors for every island of The Bahamas.
" Junkanoo is the beat that gives the Bahamas its rhythm and we are seeking to cause people to understand that we want to share with them what makes us who we are.
" We are a country 41 years old and look where we are at after that time in comparison to many other countries.
" Yes we have had our ups and down and changes, we have a democracy that works not withstanding any difficulty rise as a people.
" Junkanoo reflects that and when you see the people of The Bahamas you see more than just sea and sand, you Bay Street and our creativity, yes you see who we are as a people.
" So with this initiative we are going to cause the world to come to The Bahamas to see and to feel and want to know what happens in the rest of the islands.
" We are going on a roadshow next year taking our arts and culture to the world and as a part of my marketing plan for tourism I intend to use who we are.
" To sum it up our Bahamas Carnival will be a major celebration and it is important that everyone is involved and you as the Junkanoo leaders and the business community cannot sit back as it will hurt this country's growth
" We have to march forth together and work hard not only as a government but collectively," Minister Wilchcombe stated.
To learn more about Bahamas Carnival and what it means for The Bahamas visit www.thebahamascarnival.com.