Some 30 people met on the afternoon of the 1st of May, Labour Day at the Maison des Reveurs in Belle Rose to debate and share analyses on the state of the arts.
From the very beginning, there was lively debate on what is an artist? Isn't a gardener an artist too? Why do we have to demand special treatment (private sponsors, State funding/backing) for “artists”, that other art workers like gardeners do not have? The artist who made this point reminded everyone present that the word “art” comes from the word “skill”. A writer present posed the question of the need for people to have enough time to write, paint, compose music and how sponsorship allows for artists to get such time. Others in the meeting explained how they used their skill to make a living as workers, but that this has little to do with their creative work.
There was debate on who do we create art for? Is it to create a product for export? Is it to satisfy our own selves, or do we not also write, paint, dance, perform, compose for people around us?
There was also debate on the whole “cultural industry” concept – with some questioning the need for it and pointing out the dangers of companies that operating like “job contractors”. And if ever there was a need for organisational skills, why should managers get more money than artists who create?
Someone voiced out how she had actually volunteered to work in the music festival Mamajaz without pay as a way to support the festival.
The Ministry, someone said, had organised to produce a 600-page report on Sega in Mauritius to send to UNESCO to get it “recognised” worldwide. How come people here do not have access to the report? Does sega need recognition at the UN to get it recognised here?
There was also discussion about the need for more positive criticism in the media instead of engaging in “promotion” of “artistic products”.
The meeting ended with agreement that the government should open up all its halls in schools in all villages and towns to artists after school hours, and adapt the halls so that the lighting and sound is good for different art forms. This would allow people in all areas to get access to artistic production here. This is a demand that LALIT's art and culture commission, with participation of other artists and art lovers, has already proposed for artists to take up. (See http://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1803/the-state-of-the-arts-2015-16-as-seen-by-lalit-cultural-commission/)
by LALIT member, Rajni Lallah who was present at the forum.