Remarks by the Minister for Education and Culture
Honourable Myron V. Walwyn
On the Occasion of the 2016 Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week
Monday, 14th November, 2016
“We are reminded that through our culture and heritage we maintain our identity”
I acknowledge that the appropriate recognitions have already been made, and simply wish to say, a warm Virgin Islands good afternoon to one and all.
For years we have celebrated Culture Week in our Territory. However, this year's activities will be carried out under the new title, Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week. I have asked for this change because as we celebrate, our activities should be two-fold: the promotion of our culture as well as the preservation of our heritage as Virgin Islanders.
Culture in any society is dynamic and it evolves as time marches on. Our culture in the 70s was very different from what it is today or what it was even in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. With each new generation and influences on our islands in the age of globalization, our culture will continue to evolve and we must embrace the new that is found in bands like VIBE and Razor Blades, just as we did with bands of yesteryear, like Caribbean Ecstasy and Lashing Dogs.
Our Heritage on the other hand is a constant reminder of who we are as a people. Our sayings, cuisine, way of life, art, music and sense of self comes from a deep experience born from the struggles of our ancestors in Africa, during slavery and the post slavery decades. Our heritage is our expression of ways of living, developed by our people that has been passed on from generation to generation, including our customs, our practices, our artistic expressions, our music, our writings and most importantly our values.
Under the theme, “Embracing Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage through the Arts, Literacy and Language”, this week we will once again strive to educate, increase awareness and promote the culture and heritage of our islands. We are reminded that through our culture and heritage we maintain our identity. This is important to us as a people. Heading the wise words of our fellow Caribbean brother Marcus Garvey, we are reminded that - “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the many activities centered around culture during this month of November. I am particularly pleased that our churches, all different denominations, continue to lead our community in such important events. The Road Town Seventh Day Adventist Church held its 7th Annual Culture and Heritage Celebrations on the 5th and 6th November under the theme: “United Forever through Our Heritage and Culture”; Cane Garden Bay Baptiste Church held its 4th Annual International Culture Day on 6th November, under the theme: “Sancocho”, a Spanish word which means, a mixture of food and culture. The Upper Room Victory Church will hold its 2nd Annual Cultural Day on Saturday, 26th November, under the theme: “Presenting God in a Big Way, Through Culture”.
Churches throughout the Territory are on the final leg of staging Harvest Festivals during this month; the BVI Tourist Board through its Tourism Month activities is staging a number of events which feature Virgin Islands cuisine and finally, though not staged during this month but is still worthy of mention, the Premier’s Office will have its 4th Annual Christmas Around the World Programme on December, 19th. These activities and the many more held earlier in the year, are indications that the celebration of culture in the Virgin Islands is on the rise, it’s alive and is being recognized for the important role it plays in helping us to maintain our identity, foster cohesion in our society and celebrate our heritage.
It is my understanding that this year’s theme: “Embracing Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage through the Arts, Literacy and Language”, was created by members of the Virgin Islands Schools Cultural Committee. I extend congratulations to those members for a job well done. In taking a thorough look at the theme and what it means to the celebration and preservation of Virgin Islands culture and heritage through the arts, literacy and language; I will first look at the arts.
The arts is a very important part of our culture. It is said that the arts enhance quality of life. They cause personal enjoyment, enriching perspectives and varied opportunities for community involvement. The arts can also help to build communities by engaging people in neighborhood revitalization; a perfect example of such is the various murals found throughout our community which tells a great story of our history. Our music is an important part of the arts as well and a study of this can show us how it has evolved over the years from the original fungi bands with the use of very creative instruments, to what obtains today with the advent of technology and the like.
I pause to invite everyone to view the Arts and Crafts Exhibition which is mounted in the East Atrium of this complex. The artistic creativity of various new and not so well known artists will be on display until the end of the month. The work of a few students will also be on display.
We also have a history of cultural expression through literacy. Through this week of activities, students in particular will be exposed to the works of the many local authors. Local authors will be invited to the schools to read to students and students will increase their ability to read and at the same time learn about their culture and heritage. A myriad of stories, poems and prose are available to maintain our students’ interest.
I also would like to personally invite all of you to the book launch ceremony for “Where I See the Sun”, a collection of poems by 25 poets and the inclusion of the poems by the late, prolific Virgin Islands poet, Osarius Norman. The Ceremony will be held here on these grounds on Friday, 18th November, beginning at 5:15 p.m. Such written work is important for the posterity of our heritage, for the introduction of our culture to new residents and visitors, but also for us to usher in a new generation of Virgin Islands voices, sharing their experiences and helping to add to the body of written work that's born of the experiences and the times of our people.
In closing I would like to remind us that we have the collective responsibility to preserve and safeguard the culture and heritage of these beautiful Virgin Islands. Cultural heritage implies a shared bond, our belonging to a community. It represents our history and our identity; it connects us to the past, bonds us to the present and secures the future for generations to come.
Over the recent years we have worked extremely hard to awaken in all Virgin Islanders a sense of real and tangible pride. We have developed institutions such as our Territorial song, wear, signs and symbols, as well as our flag raising ceremony and making strategic monetary investment in cultural activities. We hope to create a society where as Virgin Islanders we have sound confidence in who we are and we appreciate and live our most sacred values, respect for God, hard work, honesty, humility and devotion to this Territory.
Activities such as Culture and Heritage week add to development of such national pride and that is why under my Ministry, we will be setting up a committee with the objective to find a greater opportunity to support and promote this week next year. While we will continue to use the week to highlight our culture, history and heritage to the young people in our schools, next year we look forward to celebrating on a greater scale, by asking more private sector partners and government departments to join us as we celebrate.
Our hope is on each Friday of Culture and Heritage Week, see our town with residents beautifully dressed in our Territorial wear and the restaurants and shops selling more Virgin Islands food and craft items. As we are also at the beginning of our tourism season, this can also serve as an opportunity to open the season in style, showcasing Virgin Islands pride.
Particularly for our young people, I wish to state the importance of understanding that culture is not static – our culture is always evolving but there are some fundamental things our forefathers have left us – our heritage - such as our mores and values, our tenacity and willingness to work hard for what we have, to find solutions and move forward for the development of our country – these we must hold dear and never lose. This is what has made us the people we are and the foundation on which we must continue to build.
Thanks and appreciation are extended to the Director and staff of the Department of Culture and the members of the Virgin Islands Schools Cultural Committee for a job well done in planning and executing this year’s Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week. As Minister for Education and Culture, I now declare the 2016 Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week officially open. Thank you.