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Bring back patriotic acts - Cultural ambassador

Published:Friday | August 6, 2021 | 12:05 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

Folklorist and cultural researcher Vivienne Morris is a true patriot who relishes any opportunity to speak about culture and the rich Jamaican heritage.

However, Morris is concerned that traditions that tell the story of our roots are becoming vague in memory and short in practice, as the years progress and calls are being made to accept overly modernised versions of cultural relics.

One such, she said, is the celebration centered around ‘Emancipendence’.

“Independence holidays were always associated with a whole lot of joy. It was almost like the Christmas-time excitement; the fervid, the music, the balloons. The music, the Festival Songs, had a particular sound. There was more of the mento effects in the music, and that is one of the things that is significantly different from what we have now.”

Making reference to the recently selected Festival Song, and those songs for the last two or more years, Morris said there has been a significant change in the representation.

“We have been moving away from the old-time Independence Day flavour, the mento flavour. Maybe some people will say that it is a good thing because we are hearing more of the popular music of the day. But when Christmas comes around, there is a particular type of music that evokes a certain response, and that is the same thing with the original mento type of music. Those songs resonated with you and had a ‘catchyness’ that made you want to sing along.”

She believes that the significant period of a country’s Independence celebration should not be relegated to hosting a moneymaking venture.

“I don’t think that some persons attach any significance to the time. To them, it is just a time to put on a party. Especially in these COVID times, where people have been in semi-lockdown mode, people just want to sell some liquor and ‘eat a food’... Not the pause to reflect on national pride or on what the people who have gone before us have done.”

Morris quickly pointed out that some citizens’ lack of interest may be as a result of the nation’s failure to operate as a truly independent country.

“We have not done everything right as a nation in terms of the economy, education system,[and] political and judicial systems. And those at the helm must take responsibility. We halted our own game.”

She said the number of persons who continue to support what is true to culture are few and exhausted, and need the full support to continue the work.

“In another two generations, a lot of what we hold dear will be forgotten by the young people coming up today, because that is not the focus. I don’t think we have done enough to elevate this in the minds of our young people.”

From teaching and learning cultural dances like the maypole and quadrille, to brightly decorating houses in the colours of the national flag, Morris believes these patriotic acts, which are seemingly being thrown out the window, can be revived.

“I think it can improve, but it takes some amount of sitting down and being very intentional and reworking the template and selling it again to ourselves, and supporting and encouraging our teachers in the creative arts.”

Morris said her hope is that Jamaica will become a proud country for the beauty that it is and what it stands for.

“Across the board, I wish that persons will appreciate who we are and what we have, the value of life. Jamaica is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. I want to see storytelling becoming a big thing. I want to see more events planned not just at Independence, [but] for people to revel in those traditions, and that the generations to come will know it, and be able to appreciate it when they see it,” she noted.