July-August holiday period can be the best time to organise cultural events across the country. Right now, there is not much going on which offers the public a break from the daily routine of work, home entertainment, TV, browsing the Internet, Facebook, private tuition, sleep and work again. We have gone a long way as far as education, economic progress and material comfort are concerned. By now, it should be hoped that the wild habits of consumerism are behind us. We got it all: the euphoria of prosperity, a craze for everything that is imported, overspending on the latest gadgets, a variety of brand cars, junk food, diabetes, obesity and all. The time has come to invest more energy in culture and all forms of arts. The Ministry of Arts and Culture is surely aware that it can embark on more ambitious projects to get the population involved in cultural activities. After a long energy-draining summer we all complain about, July-August appears as the most propitious period to go out and appreciate artistic creativity and cultural production of all kinds. Every village and town can be made to contribute to the elaboration of a programme stretching over a month.
1/ Under the aegis of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, drama clubs should be given the incentive to put up plays in different languages, Hindi and sister languages, Bhojpuri, Creole, local Chinese languages. Foreign productions, plays or short stories for children and adults can be adapted if local production proves to be insufficient. Apart from well-known plays, legends, myths and stories of African, Asian or European origin can be produced on the stage.
2/ Similarly, a lot can be done in the field of music and songs, classical and modern. Spot talents, encourage those who are gifted to improve and participate in live shows.
3/ Poetry in all the languages Mauritians are acquainted with — Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Creole, etc., — should be promoted and public recitals organised.
4/ We can also consider holding exhibitions on different topics: art, history, science, technology and a myriad of subjects. Under the guidance of teachers, it would be most creative for students to do research work on particular topics and put up exhibitions which will benefit the public at large.
5/ Painting and sculpture and various aspects of handicraft can be encouraged.
These are only a few suggestions. It is the responsibility of the Ministry to put in place a dynamic stimulating policy that will promote culture and cater to a wider public’s need for healthy entertainment. Life is not only about working, earning a living, competing with one another and accumulating wealth. The single-minded pursuit of money impoverishes the mind, shrivels the imagination and desiccates the heart. It is the duty of those who are in charge of the destiny of the country to come out with viable cultural projects to arouse the interest of people in cultural matters and refine the mind and the heart of the people.
Does the Minister of Education know what percentage of our youngsters have ever set foot in a theatre, attended a concert or gone to an exhibition over the whole period of school years? Is education only about rote memorisation? Young and elder members of society who are talented in whatever art form should be encouraged to improve and perform within a well-defined structure.
Not only will it create opportunities for one and all to get away from routine work, TV, internet, solitary pleasures of Youtube, SMS, Facebook, private tuition etc., it will enhance interaction with others and make life more interesting. Social gatherings during such cultural events will help counteract increasing individualism. Currently, a few theatres and exhibition halls are located only in towns. The urban bias has to be addressed so that villages benefit from such facilities. No need either to copy the existing architectural style of imposing concrete buildings in villages, other original styles may be more appropriate. A wide range of cultural events will benefit locals and visitors as well.
By the way, tourism is still and will remain a key industry in the economy of the country. There is no need to increase the number of 4-5 star hotels, there are too many of them already. Let us face it: Mauritius is not the only place blessed with beautiful beaches in the world. And beaches only cannot draw crowds of visitors, we can bet that the category of visitors who travel just to relax on beaches will be fast receding in the future. The July-August period is an average tourist season, and when it is rainy and windy for days, visitors should have other options than excursions and water sports. Currently, there is not much alternative for locals and visitors. As Lord Desai stated in this paper, Mauritians will never be allowed to relax. The positive aspects of a wide project of cultural and artistic programmes on a national basis and the impact on human development and economic gains on a national basis are worth considering.