Are we a superstate?


July 18, 2018
Fans cheering on their favourite contestant at the Jamaica Festival Song 2018 Grand Finals on Sunday.

Hey, unnu know seh Jamaica actually has a national cultural policy on paper and the expressed vision of the 58-page document is to establish this little piece of rock as a cultural superstate?

That sound big, don't it? Fi real, peeps. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, the term 'superstate' generally speaks to a large and powerful state, usually formed when several smaller countries unite.

Superstate designation suggests the presence of tangible resources, indicating significant structural, economic and industrial power. Yeah, a superstate is a powerful entity.

Now, I know that we is di original 'lickle but tallawah'. And our unquestionable status as a powerhouse in arts and sports is well established.

But are we really tallawah enough to claim superstatehood, either now or anywhere in the near future?

In terms of passion, popularity and presence, the global impact and influence of Jamaica's cultural and creative output are unquestionable.


However, this vision expressed in the policy document, while resonant with stirring philosophy and appeals to passion, seems lacking in terms of actionable application and identification of resources.

Can we be a cultural superstate when we merely 'perform for the camera'? What's the value of the magic of our glistening bodies as dancers under a video light, if we have no control over the resources and never get to own the light?

How do we move from the power of philosophy inherent in a document, to the power of practice inna real life?

As cultural studies guru Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah asserts, "the investment in the preservation and development of this musical wealth is in direct opposition to the way in which Jamaica has stamped its creative work in music on a global scale. There are serious challenges therefore, and Jamaica cannot truly say it has creative industries. Rather, it has creative sectors which have at various points competed on an international scale. These include film, fashion and music. But there is much more to be done".

She adds that the way forward has to be engineered through partnerships including JAMPRO, the UWI, JaRIA and the Government of Jamaica more broadly.

Given the range of meanings of the term, the idea of Jamaica as a 'cultural superstate' is a charmingly aspirational concept.

To borrow from Marley's musical articulation of Haile Selassie's take on the dream of lasting world peace though, it could "remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained".

What you think?

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