WASHINGTON, DC — The Bahamas Embassy in Washington, D.C., convened its fifth edition of its “YOUNG BAHAMIANS CONVERSATION SERIES” on Friday, May 5, 2017, with speaker Mr. Dion Cunningham presenting an informative and interactive talk on the topic: “Investment in the Arts as crucial to national identity and morale”.
The “YOUNG BAHAMIANS CONVERSATION SERIES” is an initiative aimed at providing a forum for young Bahamians in the diaspora in the Washington, D.C. area “to present and dialogue on their research or work and cultivate ideas for the betterment of The Bahamas.” It is being presented under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Eugene Newry, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States.
Currently working to become the first Bahamian Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Maryland, Mr. Dion Cunningham was well qualified to discuss his topic as he has already performed at the highest level on the world stage, including the prestigious Carnegie Hall, and continues to invest in the education of Bahamian students through teaching and his signature Adventures in Western Art Music programme.
Mr. Cunningham began his talk by highlighting the history and influence of the culture of people of color on emergent western and mainstream culture, particularly highlighting instances of appropriation in Western culture. He suggested that over time, particularly as a result of appropriation, the culture of people of color had become divorced from the previous synergy and importance it had with systems of governance. He then chronicled the history of artistic expression in The Bahamas and surveyed the current state of the arts globally and in The Bahamas.
While lamenting a perceived lack of investment in the arts in The Bahamas, he suggested that as a consequence Bahamians are losing national identity and morale; forgetting heritage and history; increasingly loving all things outside of themselves and that the arts are devalued as simply entertainment.
Mr. Cunningham demonstrated that music in particular is a tool of social transformation and merits investment, as it could be used to solve many of the social ills, such as crime, that were plaguing the country because music cultivates: empathy; listening; discipline; commitment; community and celebration of differences.
He proposed that the Bahamian Government and relevant stakeholders should aim to support Bahamians who engage in artistic endeavors, celebrate our artistic heritage, reconnect to the past as a source of history, pride and inspiration, create spaces for performances and connect our islands through shared artistic experiences.
He further shared his vision for culture in the country where The Bahamas was the artistic hub of the region; there was the creation of a music industry; foreign artists performed Bahamian music; Bahamian artists presented on the world stages and a foundation for arts education and research was constituted.
Mr. Dion Cunningham (right), currently working to become the first Bahamian Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Maryland, is pictured with His Excellency Dr. Eugene Newry, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States, at the “Young Bahamians Conversation Series” at the Embassy of The Bahamas on Friday night.