From The Archives of Judy C Deterville – A Toast to 21 Years of M&C Fine Arts

I took a trip to the Castries Central Library and found the original posting as sent to The Voice Newspaper and The Star Newspaper. 

First published in The Voice Newspaper – Thursday February 03 2000 – So the year 2000 is finally here, on the heels of intense international hype. This was the new century; the dawning of the new millennium; the end of the old-world (order) as we knew it. Economists were forecasting; social theorists were positing; believers were performing religious rites, some assuming that the world was surely going to end.

In Saint Lucia we waited with bated breath like the rest of the world. Surely there would be some sort of mass separation of the good from the evil and with little time to prepare  (having spent the last 100 years in labour) most of us would be caught in this quagmire. And perhaps while some of our souls would be ripped from our chests, others would be carried away on a band of glory.

Movie-makers went right along with the rest of us. Night after night, surely as there was day, there was a movie predicting that the end was near. All the signs were there. Babies were having babies; world leaders continued to posture about peace when realistically guns and heavy artillery were claiming more lives – after all the last 100 years had been spent perfecting the art of war.

In Saint Lucia each of the last 100 years has brought us closer to our defining moments as a people rich in creative, cultural, and academic juices. We have been blessed with the highest intellectual capacity in many spheres, among them – Sir  William Arthur Lewis, Nobel Laureate Economics, 1979; Sir Derek Alton Walcott, Nobel Laureate Literature, 1992; Roderick Walcott, Artist and Play-write; Ms. Euralis Booty, Cultural and Carnival Enthusiast;  Sir The Honourable Dunstan St. Omer, Visual and Performing Artist; Sir John Compton, Sir Allan Fitzgerald Louisy, Sir George Charles and George Odlum, Political Adversaries; Sir Vincent Floissac and Justice Suzie D’Auvergne, legal luminaries; and surely as I live and breathe, the list goes on…

Our countrymen and women have paid great homage to this land of ours. Many lives have been dedicated to this “Land of Beaches, Hills and Valleys, Fairest Isle of all the Earth!”

Today many of us stand at the portal of another time when we can barely remember the words “gone the time when nations battled for this ‘Helen of the West’! Gone the days when strife and discord dimmed her children’s toil and rest!” Rich lyrical content. True to a fault – that today, “dawns at last a brighter day; stretches out a glad new way.” This is the legacy that is ours to protect, in the development of our economies, in the presentation of the arts, in the future of politics and religion, and in the parenting of tomorrow’s children.

For some of us, tomorrow is today. And at the 1999 staging of the Minvielle & Chastenet (M&C) Fine Arts Awards held in January 2000, the legacy has been well-preserved. Our sons and daughters who were born into the 1950s are no less artistic than those who preceded us in the 1920s and 1930s. The difference, those of us coming subsequently, have emerged richer for the immersion in thoughts and experiences of a more constrained, but some may say of a more liberated time.

Constrained because technology had not yet been born. We were innocent then. There was no computer. The pen was certainly mightier than the machine then. Thoughts had to be loud enough to be heard and expressed eloquently, and rehearsed and remembered diligently – for the love of art. Raw creativity had to be transformed into words and delivered with the simplicity of props (that might almost be laughable then, had they not undergone a major metamorphosis today).

And the liberation – well it is all there expressed in the art – of the simple days when there were real neighbours who looked after each others children; when the sun would rise and set on open doors and windows; and stories were told under the pale moonlight.

There shouldn’t be surprise that the team organizing the 1999 M & C Fine Arts Awards would choose a contrary format for the production. After all, art is a contrary thing that is purely subjective. With the revolutionary thoughts and events that have characterized the last 100 years, transition for us should be a natural consequence.  So this idea must be applauded. The perpetrators of this new thing must be commended. The rest of us will be forced to devise new mechanisms if we want to compete and remain successful in this society of ours that is burgeoning outwards with fresh talent.

Hurray for the 21st Minvielle & Chastenet Fine Arts Awards team.  Let’s see you top this level next year. And to Minie and Chas “wasn’t it just a most delightful evening – well anyway I think all the fellas had a really good time“.

2017 Update: M&C had for many years been associated with the Arts here in Saint Lucia and specifically in 1979, when the Fine Arts Awards was established as a special Independence gift from the company to the government and people of Saint Lucia.

In 2000, at the staging of the 21st M&C Fine Arts Awards, the characters Minie and Chas were purely allegorical, representing on one level, the company that had presented the M&C Fine Arts Awards for the last 21 years. M&C would continue to organize and present these awards until our 25th Independence anniversary in 2004.

In 2004, on the auspicious  celebration of our country’s 25th Independence Anniversary, Minvielle and Chastenet (M&C), handed over The M&C Fine Arts Awards to the Cultural Development Foundation. M&C had consistently organized the event for the 25 years before it was handed over to us.

Since that auspicious handing over, I think I have been confused. There has been a morphing into what is now called the National Art Festival – Artreach, and as seen on the Cultural Development Foundation website – “Today’s Festival has grown and adapted to the demands of the artists, now encompassing communities island-wide, celebrating a rich variety of cultural expression, traditional and contemporary.” The newer elements of the Festival include Community Festivals; Training Workshops; and Feature nights. “In Visual Arts, the host communities now incorporate a mini-exhibition within their activities and the inclusion of a national Arts Market now brings to Saint Lucia, the opportunity to meet the artists, purchase their goods, and patrons can enjoy a selection of demonstrations or take mini-classes“.

The late Athanasius LaBorde, Master Drummer, was a fixture at every M&C Fine Arts Award event for as long as I can remember – Him and his bell. He would ring that signature bell and his voice would fill the National Cultural Centre as he would say – “Good Night Mr. Devaux.” Then the evening would begin.  It was beautiful. I wonder where he would choose to ring the bell now – if he were still with us.

“They” mean well I am sure, but “they” lost me at the point of taking the Festival to the communities.


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