Jamaica Can Become an Animation Hub If……

 ABC international reported “Jamaican and World Bank officials believe that the international animation industry can create thousands of jobs for young hopefuls in Jamaica, where the economy has sputtered for more than 30 years and good jobs are scarce. Because animation skills are transportable, they say capable individuals in Jamaica can serve international clients outsourcing work while also developing their own creative production. Read more at Toonboon blog 

Times are very rough in Jamaica, worse than any other time in it’s history  and writers, visual & performing artists suffer silently. Well not so silently, check out Toni Blair Jamaican performing artist emotional rant on You Tube. The economy of Jamaica has been stagnant for decades and the 2008 global financial meltdown has pushed arts and culture  further into the recesses of the Jamaican peoples minds. Neo-colonialist mentality and framework regarding education, absence of action by the government on the cultural front and an economy which is “bleeding on the curb”.  Jamaica must have a plan to develop, build,  support and encourage those who choose creativity as an occupation. The capable individuals must come through a reformed education system, where they are prepared to face the challenges of the information age or they will be on the periphery of the hub.

How will Jamaica become a centre for animation when a good percentage of children which leave school, are functional illiterates? Jamaica still suffers from the colonialist mentality around education, parents want their children to become doctors, lawyers or teachers. It is by exception that the average person encourages their child into the arts. Those who are encouraged into the arts are supported by parents who have the finances to pay fees at private schools. Contrary to what we would like to believe Jamaica is still stratified by race and class. Jamaica has not taken the time to weave arts in the psyche of the people and build a culture ready for the 21st century.

[quote by  = “Definition of Culture, UNESCO 2001″]”The set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.” [/quote]

Arts and culture is used around the world to invest in people, build capacity and institute change. It is very difficult to find evidence of the basic arts and cultural building blocks in Jamaica, not even a smoking gun of government sponsorship, public art policies or new cultural museums or galleries. In fact the majority of private Kingston galleries have closed their doors, the latest victim being the Mutual Gallery. The only evidence I could find of  a government sponsored visual arts event, was About Face, an exhibition held in Germany in 1964.

The only affirmation of arts and cultural consideration is the plethora of symposiums, conferences and speeches hosted by “Ministers of Culture” from both political parties. Read Tamara Scott Williams article in the Jamaican gleaner to follow the trails and oodles of  commissions and ministries talking about building the arts and cultural sector to develop the economy of Jamaica. From my perspective there has been plenty of chat by both political parties, but certainly no movement towards a cultural  and information technology sector which could help prepare artists young and old to become members of a global animation economy .

To compete for animation jobs at the international level, a Jamaican artist requires income to obtain  the necesary tools to practice and become competent. About  $2000.00 CND worth of Apple products  and $3600.00CDN worth of animation software. Currently, I don’ t think you can purchase a Wacom digital drawing pad or it’s stylus on the island. Court’s furniture stores are the only stores in Jamaica which sells Apple products and the prices are double the amount you would pay in Canada.

By comparison lets take a look at average annual earnings of a Canadian visual artist, according to Stats Canada it is $14,000 per year. An artist living in Toronto can apply for arts grants at essentially three levels of government, not to mention participate in any number of private or government sponsored arts festivals. When times get  rough for artists in the Canadian economy, they can be eligible for social benefits such as unemployment insurance and welfare. The Canadian artists are hardly starving in  comparison to the Jamaican artist, who is missing the social and cultural safety  net to cocoon and buttress their growth and prosperity.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Jamaica should aim for the sky, but Jamaica better have a new plan to get there. Listen to Ken Robinson answer the question “How do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st Century?” All countries around the world must look at how education framework must be reformed to support propelling our youth into the future.

An effective strategy is required to facilitate a shift in the way in which Jamaican people behave, think, interact with the arts, culture and education. The current education system has an emphasis on standardized testing and teacher centred instruction. Cultivating youth for the information age requires bold steps of governance and letting go of old concepts. To produce generations of animators, the model of education and learning would need to embrace creativity at a early age  and shift to collaborative student centred learning with information technology at their finger tips and foster the development of divergent thinking skills required to innovate.

[quote by=”Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader, Jamaica Labour Party” ]”There is so much being said about how we are going to grow the economy and get out of the economic doldrums in which we find ourselves. A large part of that growth equation is education. You may be able to solve some of the short-term problems by managing your fiscal account, by becoming more efficient in your bureaucracy and the administration of the country; but, the real long-term solution to growth is actually education.” Read more:[/quote]

If Jamaica is to become an animation hub, it will need to shift it’s focus to building it’s people through education, embracing the arts and preparing Jamaican people to meet the challenges of the information age and globalization.