This Culture and Tourism Month has been a great success, and we hope that such celebrations will continue and expand into a long-term renaissance of Virgin Islands heritage.
Events held so far this month include a Sankey singing night, art shows, culinary showcases, oral history classes, storytelling, a history film, and others.
We were particularly pleased that H. Lavity Stoutt Community College President Dr. Richard Georges was named the territory’s first poet laureate — a well-deserved honour for an artist who has made an international name for himself in recent years.
The Department of Culture and the BVI Tourist Board — which spearheaded the activities this month— should be commended, as should the many other residents who contributed.
In the future, we hope that the government and wider community alike will continue to celebrate VI culture year-round at every possible opportunity.
Events like the ones ongoing this month are a great start. But in an age when the internet facilitates the instantaneous spread of larger countries’ music, movies, styles and other cultural manifestations, a small territory like this one must make a conscious effort to preserve its own traditions.
This difficult work must start in the schools, where students should be taught about their history and culture from a very young age.
We therefore were glad to hear leaders recently promise to review the territory’s curriculums with VI culture in mind. Such a review — which has been promised for years with mixed results — can’t come soon enough. Hundreds of years of colonialism, after all, have meant that much of the territory’s history has been suppressed or airbrushed.
Scholars have done much good work recently, but in many respects they are only beginning to scratch the surface, and further study is urgently needed.
In this regard, the VI Studies Institute at HLSCC has helped lead the way in recent years. Because of its success, we believe the institute should be expanded into a much larger organisation with various responsibilities: helping to guide the VI culture and history curriculums for primary and secondary schools as well as the college; offering annual conferences designed to bring talent from across the region; encouraging local writers, storytellers and other artists; offering more VI-centred classes for students and the wider community; playing a role in planning the promised national archives; and many other related functions.
Such an expansion would cost money, of course, but we believe any sound investment in VI culture would pay off many times in the future.
As this month has showed, the territory’s traditions and heritage are rich, varied and inspiring. But all too often, they are overlooked or taken for granted.