National Arts Festival Should Be ‘Household Name’ in Bahamas

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SNUG CORNER, Acklins, The Bahamas – Comedy is the order of the day for Acklins Central High School student Dienzo Louis, during the E. Clement National Arts Festival Adjudications held last year in Snug Corner, Acklins.

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Organising Secretary of the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Keva Cartwright said recently that the Festival should be a “household name” in The Bahamas because of the range of islands and genres of the performing arts it covers annually.

“This Festival is truly a National Festival,” Ms. Cartwright said at the recent announcement of the 53rd annual run of the Festival.  “It is the only festival of its type in the entire country, something that I think we should be so proud of.”

Ms. Cartwright added that she spoke to a regional cultural stakeholder who was “dumbfounded” at how long the Festival movement has endured.

She added that the Festival is not just for seasoned artists, but gives opportunities to those new in the Arts.

“It is to sharpen the skills of young artists,” Ms. Cartwright said.

“It is also nothing for you to play at,” she added, pointing to its national reach.  “To be a national winner is really something big.  You can use this on your resume when you go off to college, even at the workplace or on certain jobs.  It is a big deal.”

Ms. Cartwright explained that if a singer enters a class, such as gospel singing, they are competing against every singer in the country who enters that heavily contested class.

“If you win that, you are the best in the nation at that age level,” she said.

“People believe that everything is happening in New Providence; but some of our best people come from the more remote islands,” Ms. Cartwright added.  “In drama, for instance, Inagua is ‘off the chain’.  Then there are islands like Long Island and the like … Grand Bahama and New Providence sometime seem like they believe they are the only ones on the map and they are not.”

Ms. Cartwright said the Festival could average as many as 30,000 entrants per year, is free to the public for viewing during adjudications and is open to adults for entries in the community classes.

“I hope that the day comes when we can bring them all together to New Providence so that we all can see that the rest of the country is there (culturally),” Ms. Cartwright said.  “It is just that they do not have that exposure.”

The 2012 E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival is slated to begin adjudications March 5 on New Providence, March 6 on Grand Bahama and then nationwide.