Monday, August 5, 2013

Cultural Nevis

Cultural Nevis

For the past week we have had a large noisy culture festival here on Nevis called "Culturama".  In fact, I just found out that it is a huge holiday throughout the Caribbean. It has gone on all week but today and tomorrow businesses, banks, etc, are closed.  The purpose is to celebrate Emancipation Day, the day in 1834 that Great Britain freed all slaves in her territories.  Some have said that it was perhaps more motivated by economic reasons than moral reasons, but it happened.  The slaves had become expensive to maintain and the profit margin on the sugar trade was declining.  The Europeans gave the land to the slaves and left, leaving the freed Africans with the land and the problem of figuring out how to stay alive.  It took the US another 30 years and the bloodiest war in our history to effect the same social change.  Some learn quicker and earlier than others I guess.

The week has been marked by daily celebrations in the small town square down by the ferry terminal.  There have been musical presentations and speeches and poetry readings.  I thought (all by myself, actually) that it would be a good gift for Gaye to get some Chinese food to take home from the little place right above the town square. As I was waiting for my food to be prepared I saw a large group of teens and ‘tweens setting up a steel drum band right below me.  Thinking that would be a great Caribbean cultural event, I called Gaye (who stayed in the apartment) to see if she wanted to walk the 1/4 mile to town to share the lunch and the cultural enlightenment with me.  She came right down.
American sports teams have big following here.  Yankees is the most popular brand.
The first hour, as the kids were setting up their band, was a series of local poets, mostly women, who seemed to really enjoy the power a microphone in the hand gave them.  The first poem was entitled “Who Is Your Man?” and was a long and loud rant about the low performance of Caribbean men in things like staying home and caring for their families.  It really was pointed and actually hit one of the main social problems of this area right on the head.  Men need to step up and act like men, take up the role of provider and protector, and stop acting like drive-by sperm donors.  Women also have a role in correcting this huge social problem, she said.  In fact, the title was addressed to the women as a challenge for the women to take responsibility for their choice of the men in their lives.  The second poem, however, was entitled “Why Do You Kill Me?” and was a loud complaint of the Trayvon Martin situation.  It was a rant against violence and injustice, but it was racially focused. We have never felt unsafe, though.

There were three more “poets” who read their works, mostly of a similar political/social theme.  “I Am Woman!” was one. “They Will Figure It Out” was another.  Race is a huge topic and I won’t go there in this episode, but it is sometimes an excuse used by every segment of our society to try to take advantage of the other segments.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer that will ever work.  People need to hear it and accept it and live it.  There is no other way.

Finally after an hour of political ranting and raving the band got to play, and they were really cranking it out.  We could hear just fine from the balcony, but we finished our food and decided to go down on the street to be closer to the band. 

The bald guy is the leader of the band
It was fun to see the kids play and the audience get into the music, but boy was it LOUD!  
These kids will all need hearing aids in a few years!
Sorry, I don't know how to post a video.  
Taken with my iPhone from 150 feet.
There was also a clump of kids dressed in some sort of native costume that danced to African rhythms, moving right out into the street.  No problem.  There was a policeman there to stop the traffic as needed so the young people could safely perform.  That same band of kids came marching right past our apartment later in the afternoon.  As I stepped out to take a photo one of the marchers came right over with a box for a donation, and I happily contributed.

The people here are African in appearance and in many of their cultural remnants, but they are very different from Africans in many ways.  
Local License Plate
One of our mission leaders said he expected the locals to take in the Gospel like what happened in Central Africa 30 years ago.  In some ways, however, the similarities between the locals and the Nigerians for example end with the color of their skin.  They sometimes have as much in common as Idahoans and Germans.  They are all good people, though; children of the same Heavenly Father and recipients of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  That is the one thing, and the most important thing, that all inhabitants of this planet have in common with each other.  When we learn to acknowledge that common element, then all the differences will not matter at all.  That is what I am learning here, and it is a sweet lesson.

Stay tuned.

Almost noon.  At noon this week there was no shadow.

Some strange local fruit.

The vine is growing into and onto the van

No idea what this is, but it is pretty

Local star fruit and avocados

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