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'Arts Are Alive, Well & Burgeoning In Bermuda'

“The arts are alive, well and burgeoning in Bermuda,” Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports Lovitta Foggo said in the House of Assembly today [March 1]

The Minister provided an update on the work being done at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs including the initiative to place Bermudian art in Government Buildings, the Bermuda Literary Awards, the visit by Dr. Margot Maddison- MacFadyen who is speaking in schools about Mary Prince, and the ‘Through a Glass Darkly: Black Bermudians in Media’ forum.

Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to rise today to provide this Honourable House with an update on the work being done at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs; and by so doing attest to the fact that the arts are alive, well and burgeoning in Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, you will recall that the Speech from the Throne, read on 9th November 2018, articulated this Government’s commitment to “…harness the creativity of Bermuda’s artists and expand the community’s appreciation of their work and its value…” My Ministry has made good on this promise through a number of initiatives and programmes which I shall now elaborate on and share with this honourable House and the people of Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, on the 18th February the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs launched Phase I of the Art in Public Buildings, a 2018 Throne Speech initiative. Artwork by artists Meredith Andrews, James Cooper, Graham Foster, Jayde Gibbons, Diana Higginbotham, Alan C. Smith, Dr. Edwin Smith and Sharon Wilson were hung in the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building on the second, third and fourth floors. The presence of these beautiful pieces of art, Mr. Speaker, can now be appreciated and admired by members of the public and public servants who make their way through these public areas daily. Art uplifts and moves the human spirit; and certainly these works of art will positively impact viewers.

Mr. Speaker, again I would like to express my gratitude to those artists who were eager to support this public art initiative. Each has expressed their gratitude for this opportunity and have subsequently shared the positive feedback that they are receiving. I am extremely proud of our talented Bermudian artists and the variety and quality of artistic talent that we have on this Island.

Mr. Speaker, and Honourable members it should be noted that the hanging of art in the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building is only the start of this initiative! The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has already issued an “Open Call” inviting interested Bermudian artists to submit two-dimensional works of art to be considered for other Government buildings. The deadline for artists to respond to this invitation is March 8th.

Mr. Speaker, the arts not only encompasses visual arts, but the literary arts as well. It has been said that “Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.”

Literary artistry demands talent, hard work, research, time, and dedication; and the writing of a novel, or a book of poetry, is born from a desire to tell a story about the world we inhabit, in a way that holds meaning for its inhabitants. The task for Bermudian literary artists is particularly important, given the indispensable role of literature in shining a light and providing a reflective surface upon which to view a society. For the Bermudian writer, constructing our stories is a labour of love; and for those who have taken the additional step of making those stories available to the community by going through the rigorous process of editing and publication, it is really the kind of work that serves as its own reward, given a typical lack of financial remuneration for their efforts.

Mr. Speaker, as the Minister responsible for Culture, I am therefore delighted to have a mechanism through which to reward excellence in this area and give public recognition to the writers. I am very pleased to stand before you today to recognize the winners of the 2018 Bermuda Literary Awards.

Mr. Speaker, the Bermuda Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Bermuda Government in 1999 to honour literary achievement by Bermuda’s writers. The competition runs once every five to six years, and books are eligible if they have been published subsequent to the previous award cycle. The purpose of offering these awards are:

To recognize significant contributions to the development of Bermudian culture;To honour creative works and uphold the writer’s role in society; andTo preserve and promote the highest standards of Bermudian literature.

Mr. Speaker, with these goals in mind, there have been six different categories of awards where writers could compete:

The Brian Burland Prize for Fiction, named after Bermuda’s most celebrated novelist;The Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Fiction;The Prize for Drama;The Cecile N. Musson Prize for Poetry, named after one of our trailblazing poets;The Prize for Non-Fiction; andThe Founder’s Award.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that for the first time, we have added a seventh category of competition; namely, the Prize for Cultural Merit. This new prize is offered for books or scripts that are notable for contributing to the preservation of Bermuda’s culture, heritage, folk-life or history. Another addition to this year’s competition stems from a recognition of the importance of film as storytelling tool in our society. As a result, the Prize for Drama is now the Prize for Drama and Screenwriting; and so in addition to theatre and radio scripts, eligibility for this category now includes screenplays that have been made into feature-length films.

Mr. Speaker, part of what makes the Bermuda Literary Awards so significant is that publication is part of the eligibility requirement for the awards. This is noteworthy because unpublished manuscripts, no matter how promising, are not considered. Every one of the books under consideration has already gone through an editing process, and made available to the general public. This requirement is part of the Bermuda Government’s insistence on “raising the bar” in terms of the expectation of excellence that we wish to see in the area of our literary arts.

Mr. Speaker, given this background explanation of the prestigious nature of the Bermuda Literary Awards, it is with great pleasure that I congratulate the winners of this year’s competition:

In the category of Non-Fiction, the winning entry is Island Flames by Jonathan Smith, a gripping account of the deaths and racial climate that led to the 1977 riots;In the Drama and Screenwriting category, we have our first winning screenplay: Me and Jezebel by talented filmmaker Lucinda Spurling;The winner of the Children’s and Young Adult Fiction Category is remarkable for the ways in which it makes an important historical event accessible to our young people learning about social injustice: the winner is Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell, a member of Bermuda’s Progressive Group that brought about desegregation;The winner of the Brian Burland Prize for Fiction is Dr. F. Colin Duerden for his novel about the antics of Bermudian boyhood, Fried White Grunts – an area rarely given focus in our literature that Dr. Duerden approaches with humour and relatability;Mr. Speaker, Dr. Paul Maddern has the enviable distinction of having been awarded the Cecile N. Musson Prize for Poetry twice in a row: in 2012 for his collection entitled The Beachcomber’s Report, and this year for his collection entitled Pilgrimage;Proving that talent often runs in families, the winner of the inaugural prize for Cultural Merit is Dr. Clarence V.H. Maxwell for Pembroke, part of “Bermuda’s Architectural Heritage Series” published by the Bermuda National Trust. Both Dr. Maxwell and the Trust should be commended for this fine contribution to the preservation of our heritage;And finally, the Founder’s Award, which is offered for books or scripts published prior to the establishment of the Bermuda Literary Awards in 1999, has been awarded posthumously to Cyril Outerbridge Packwood for his brave, invaluable text exploring slavery in Bermuda, Chained on the Rock. The National Museum of Bermuda is to be applauded for publishing a second edition of this seminal text in 2012, thus making it available again to our community.

Mr. Speaker, each winner is given a prize of two thousand dollars [$2,000] and was honoured in a special ceremony on February 24th.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to particularly thank the judges for this year’s competition: Mrs. Meredith Ebbin, Ms. Ellen Hollis, Mr. Michael Jones, Mr. Alan C. Smith, and Dr. Sajni Tolaram. Each of these judges spent a tremendous amount of time reading the entries – there were more than 60 works in total that were considered – and analyzing the strengths of the writing according to rubrics provided by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, in making these selections, the judges acknowledged that the quality of several submissions was quite high; so much so that the judges determined that they wanted to offer an Honorable Mention in each category as follows: Bermuda Maps by Mr. Jonathan Land Evans for Non-Fiction; Mr. Dale Butler for his plays Sinnerman and Second Last Supper; The Great Wave of Tamarind by Ms. Nadia Aguiar in Young Adult Fiction; What We Hold In Our Hands by Ms. Kim Aubrey in Fiction; Ms. Wendy Fulton Steginsky’s Let This Be Enough in Poetry; and Hands On! The Art of Traditional Crafts and Play in Bermuda by Mrs. Shirley Pearman, MBE.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again congratulate the winners and those receiving honourable mentions in the 2018 Bermuda Literary Awards. I hope that this will encourage other Bermudian writers to strive for excellence in the literary arts.

Mr. Speaker, February is often referenced as Education Month; and in keeping with this broad nomenclature, the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has collaborated with the Ministry of Education by having researcher Dr. Margot Maddison- MacFadyen to give talks in our public schools about one of our most esteemed national heroes – Mary Prince. Dr. Maddison-MacFadyen had recently been given a grant by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs to conduct research on Mary Prince.

As you know Mr. Speaker, Mary Prince is famous for her slave narrative The History of Mary Prince [1831] which was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom. This first-hand description of enslavement, released at a time when slavery was still legal in Bermuda and the British colonies, had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement. Mary Prince is not only a National Hero in Bermuda; she achieved international acclaim for her writings which helped to end slavery throughout the British Empire.

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Margot Maddison MacFayden has visited a number of our public schools including Harrington Sound, Clearwater Middle School, Paget Primary, Purvis Primary, Victor Scott School, Elliott Primary and Northlands Primary. Indeed we are most grateful to Dr. Margot for her research on Mary Prince and for sharing her information with our young people – Bermuda’s future. Dr. Maddison-MacFadyen will be giving a public lecture about her research findings on the latter days of Mary Prince to the general public in July as part of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs’ Emancipation programme.

Mr. Speaker, because February is “called” Education Month the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has chosen to highlight the impact of media on Black Bermudians and how the media helped shape and influence how we as black people viewed ourselves and were viewed by others. A forum entitled “Through a Glass Darkly: Black Bermudians in Media” took place on Thursday 28th February; and it was held in honour of Mr. Montague Egbert Sheppard – better known as Monty – for the pioneering role that he played in the arena of radio and television broadcasting. Mr. Sheppard established the Capital Broadcasting Company in 1961. This was a remarkable achievement given that the society at the time was dominated by racism and segregation. His broadcasting company was the first to introduce colour television to Bermuda; and was also the first to secure an affiliation with one of the three television networks in the United States – the ABC Network. Mr. Montague Sheppard paved the way for many journalists, especially blacks, to enter that field. Indeed he educated and provided a helping “hand up” for so many. Therefore it was most fitting to salute Montague Sheppard for all that he has done; and I was especially honoured to present Mr. Sheppard with a plaque as a token of our appreciation for all that he has done for Bermuda!

Mr. Speaker, we as a particular grouping of people continue to “… reflect on and express [our] historical … experience life through painting, storytelling [and] other art-forms [that] gives [us] as a people a sense of cohesiveness, a sense of having a particular irreplaceable value in the world… It is our culture that makes us one people” [Regional Cultural Policy of the Caribbean]. And as Maya Angelou said “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have”. The arts and creativity are flourishing in Bermuda; may they continue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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