The toughest struggle that any culture faces is the battle to preserve and promote the most basic ideals that identify one group from another. In a world that has seen centuries of turmoil, genocide, and ethnic cleansing, the regrettable loss of people and cultures has occurred time and again. Individuals can move to preserve and develop their culture for future generations, but sometimes activism needs a helping hand from willing governments with the resources to give such movement traction. On the Caribbean island nation of St.Lucia, the public and private sector have come together to do just that. Over a decade ago, the governor-general of St.Lucia signed into law the Cultural Development Foundation Act to help preserve, promote, and further develop the unique culture of the island so that it could be better understood and remain as a significant force in the lives of the nation’s younger generations. Recently, Petrus Compton sat down with Kreol Magazine for an interview to discuss the organization that was created by this act, its activities on St. Lucia, and its vision for the future.
Who is Petrus Compton?
Petrus Compton is a St. Lucian politician who has served as a senator in the national government, and also served as Foreign Minister from October 2004 until December 2006. Prior to serving in the Foreign Office, Mr. Compton held the posts of attorney general and Minister of Justice. His political background aside, Mr. Compton plays a critical role in the Cultural Development Foundation which was established as a part of the Cultural Development Foundation Act. He explained his role as the chairman of the board for the foundation to Kreol Magazine in the following words: “As a board, we provide general direction; we approve the programs and structures. In the organisation, there is a lot of creative thinking; the staff is very good, in practical terms on the ground but they are not as good in conceptualising new approaches to the traditional and regular work. I can myself function as executive chairman, being very hands-on.”
Foundation Structure and Roles
As the name suggests, the role of the Cultural Development Foundation is to assist younger generations develop and further the Kreol culture of the island. This can be done in a number of ways. The foundation works with and provides support to fashion designers who display a talent for designing and creating fashion reflective of St. Lucia. It is also ther esponsibility of the foundation to assist artists, sculptors, painters, and individuals with a myriad of other artistic talents core to the culture of St. Lucia. Mr. Compton explained the structure and roles of the foundation to Kreol Magazine: “We have a programming department which deals with the forms of art, with visual artists, painters, sculptors, designers. We deal with the literary artists, designers, theatre drama, dance, films and traditional arts that is the craft sector as well. We are moving into some of the new media animation and that kind of thing, video games animations. Our primary function is training and exposure so we provide training largely through workshops and so on and we provide exposure through exhibitions which support performances and visits overseas.” The foundation focuses its efforts on supporting the ideals, dreams, and visions of artists from St. Lucia in order to develop the culture at home and look at export opportunities. Artists can be assisted by the foundation in establishing overseas contacts for shows and exhibitions, as well as the funding travel and accommodation. Funding for the foundation’s projects comes directly from the government of St. Lucia.
Foundation Vision and Future Goals
In addition to developing the talents of artists, visual and theatrical, living in St. Lucia, achieving the foundation’s goals provides the added benefit of boosting the tourism industry in St. Lucia.With an economy that already relies heavily upon tourism and services, developing the kreol culture already present on the island can add greater depth and uniqueness to the cultural offerings tourists can enjoy when visiting the island. According to Mr. Compton, the key goal of the foundation is to recognize young, talented Kreol artists and nurture them for the long haul. It isn’t just a game of providing a one-time boost to talented artists, but rather seeing their cultural development through to the highest levels. Mr. Compton explains the foundation’s vision in the following terms: “I want to see the capacity to develop the highest quality artists in St. Lucia. We have the capacity to train and develop to a higher level. We are the ones creating the arts, identifying, nurturing, developing and raising the profiles of such artists. We enhance the Kreol culture in every way we can. We need to find just Kreol lives, talents and abilities in St. Lucia.” Going forward, the Cultural Development Foundation hopes to further embrace young St.Lucian artists from across the island and include them in the goals of the foundation. On top of continuing the development of the island’s culture and its talented individuals, the foundation hopes to build a sustainable financial platform to continue meeting its goals in the future. Mr. Compton hopes to see the foundation expand its connections with local private sector companies, gov ernmental or ganizations, and even foreign government agencies involved in island affairs. Private sector investment can expand the program’s reach at home while foreign government contacts can help facilitate the export of the island’s Kreol culture abroad.