Among the first order of business of the recently appointed Acting Chief Cultural Officer, Earlson Matthew, is to find ways of greater integrating Dominica’s youth in the country’s culture.
Matthew has replaced Raymond Lawrence who worked with the Division of Culture for several decades. He believes that while there is a disinterest in a large percent of our younger generation, more needs to be done from all levels to make culture more appealing to them to ensure that it preserved.
“That is something I definitely want to work on,” he told Dominica News Online (DNO). “I see myself as connected to a few generations, both ahead of me, my generation and the one after me, because of my teaching career…so what I see myself and my team doing moving forward is using social media, or even jargon and things that they can relate to, making the events more interesting and appealing to the youths, so they can develop the interest.”
Matthew fears that if serious action isn’t taken forthwith, in the foreseeable decade, Dominica’s vibrant culture will be a thing of the past.
“The younger generation now has access to a lot of the things we didn’t have growing up and they have a lot going on. So if we are to push them away simply because they’re not responsive to how we do things at this moment, it doesn’t help our cause. What we will end up doing if we alienate that generation is to kill the culture we’re trying to protect. And that is a problem in itself,” the Acting Chief Cultural Officer stated.
He added, “So I mean, we have to be tolerant of the youth and, you know, their way of operating now but I expect evolution; I think our role is to guide evolution. So yes, there is going to be change. But if we can guide those changes, I think that would be, that would help.”
Matthew says that at present he’s trying to not be overly ambitious and is working to keep everything steady, however, he says he is confident that he and his staff members will, in the long term, leave a good impression on the culture.
“I think we will have some creative ideas. We will do some new things, maybe some unconventional things in some cases, but we will be doing some stuff and we will make an impression,” he vowed. “We know that we’ll have successes with some and others we may fail at, but we will certainly try our best.”
One of those creative ideas is the inclusion of some of the contemporary artists in this year’s emancipation celebrations.
“Not saying that we haven’t been doing it, but we’re going to give that a harder push to see if we can get the numbers and the audience there and probably if we have them as a captive audience, then they will be exposed to other things that they might have or develop an appreciation for overtime,” the new Cultural Division Head stated.
Matthew also intends to forge a greater partnership with the Ministry of Education to develop or improve on the structure of the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) programmes in the schools as well as to further enhance the pilot project launched in 2019 to teach the Creole Language in 19 primary schools in Dominica.
The former teacher joined the culture division in 2014 as a cultural officer. Five years later, in 2019, he was promoted to senior cultural officer. He has a rich history in music which he started professionally at the age of 17 with Raw Riddim and then with the WCK band who he worked with for 14 years.
He says while he never envisioned being in this position, he has pledged to do his best whether he’s permanently appointed or not, to ensure the greater promotion of Dominica’s culture and sounded a call to the public to work with the cultural division to ensure its continuation.
“The culture on a whole is not only the work of the cultural division, I mean, but the division also doesn’t determine the culture, the people do. So if there’s going to be a shift, it is most likely the people [who] will bring about the shift and not the division, so let us all play our part,” Matthew said.