Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Lanisha Rolle gave a brief taste of the topic of Bahamian culture to the delegates and distinguished guests in attendance at the First United Arab Emirates Caribbean Cooperation Forum, in the city of Dubai.
“Excellencies, this event is not only timely but visionary,” Minister Rolle noted. “As the world transforms from the status of national states to a global village, each country’s culture above all is being impacted predominantly by the advancement of technology, and the desire of nations to work in unity to enhance our relationships, and build better nations for our people to work and our children to grow and play.”
“Indeed, it is essential that while we recognize all that we have in common, it is equally important that we preserve our individual cultures,” she added. “With this backdrop, I will attempt to share succinctly yet informatively with respect to the multiple facets of the Bahamian culture, in particular, our prominent industries, music, arts, cuisine, customary practices and religion as well as note factors that impact cultural trends and transformation.”
Minister Rolle also thanked the organizers for their invitation, warm hospitality, and for the opportunity to share with on the topic. She pointed out that it would be it would be remiss of her if she were not to boast of the thing that all Bahamians say, ‘identify us’ and brings everyone together: Junkanoo.
Minister Rolle began by giving a brief talk on Junkanoo and termed it “The Bahamas’ premier cultural festival”.
“The Junkanoo Parade is a collection of cultural expressions inclusive of fine arts, native music and the work of local artists,” she noted during her talk. “Every aspect of the parade is unique, from the creation of giant 30-foot costumes made from local card board and crepe paper, to the manufacturing of drums made from goat-skin harvested on our very islands, to the unique Afro-Caribbean dance and sounds that create a spirit that inspires Bahamian pride and an atmosphere of jubilance.
“Notably, the festival unites a cross-section of people from varying economic statuses, demographics and religious backgrounds. Junkanoo only speaks one language for the people of The Bahamas, and that’s ‘We Bahamian and Proud’.”
Minister Rolle pointed out that, worthy of mention, was the industry’s efforts to include Bahamian youth in the rich cultural experience.
“As a part of our strategic cultural succession plan, for 30 years we have developed a Junior Junkanoo Program as a feeder system and strategic tool to educate our school children regarding the value of our heritage and the culture of our ancestors,” she said.
She then gave a brief introduction to “good island food”, saying that The Bahamas is also known for its rich cuisine inclusive of the delicacies of native conch, lobster and fish, all organically grown in its waters.
“Our professional chefs and local house cooks have developed a rich combination of spices and unique food handling and preparation techniques; in addition to mouth-watering flavours that leave our natives and visitors alike returning for more,” Minister Rolle said. “While there are fast food restaurants mainly in the capital city of Nassau, there is a love for morning boil and stew fish with warm freshly-baked johnny bread, the famous conch burgers, cracked conch or famous ‘chicken-in-da-bag’ for lunch, and conch salad or fritters for appetizers, and our scrumptious green peas and rice, fresh fried grouper or snapper fish, broiled crawfish or lobster for dinner, and a variety of native fruit drinks such as the coconut sky-juice.”
She pointed out that it was customary to eat at least three meals per day, and prepare great feasts during Christmas holidays, and a spread for adult birthday celebrations. Indicative of the Caribbean and Latin American countries, foods prepared in The Bahamas are normally seasoned and spicy, she added.
“Demonstrating our ability to attain excellence in culinary arts, this year, The Bahamas National Culinary Team was selected as the region’s best in the ‘Taste of the Caribbean Competition’,” she said. “Indeed, this achievement speaks to the high standard of food preparation practiced within our jurisdiction to the satisfaction of the world.”
Minister Rolle stated that freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of The Bahamas and that citizens, visitors and residents are free to exercise their religious belief.
“Sports and developing professional athletes also play a significant role in our Bahamian culture,” she said. “Education is also a most important aspect of our culture and thus pre, primary and secondary education is provided free of charge.”
Minister Rolle noted that some forces that influence Bahamian cultural platform include climate change, irregular migration and poaching.
“While we recognize that these problems are not unique to The Bahamas, we appreciate the need for countries to work collaboratively to ensure the preservation of our cultural identity,” she said.
“Transformation of our cultural industry requires the development of facilities such as a Local Performing Arts Theatre and a state-of-the-art Music Recording Studio,” Minister Rolle added. “A formalized cultural education curriculum would also ensure the necessary further development of our cultural values and initiatives.”
Minister Rolle quoted Marcus Garvey, whom she termed a well-known Caribbean Politician, by saying, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
“Fellow Delegates, ironically and quite significantly, my Ministry’s theme for our 2018 National Cultural Month in December is: ‘The Root, The Tree, The Fruit’, a theme which speaks holistically to the essence of our Bahamian/Caribbean Culture,” she said. “On that note, on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas and in my capacity as the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, I wish to congratulate this honourable body on a successful cooperative forum, and look forward to the fruits that will bear from the seeds planted during this inaugural conference.
“I thank you once again for allowing The Bahamas to be a part of this ground-breaking experience and wish your country every success.”