THE READER: "It's amazing how much Jamaicans are in tune with the traditional."
"I think we are streets and lanes in terms of our creativity and putting our creative arts on stage," observes Lilieth Nelson, reflecting on the state of Jamaica's creative arts industry in an interview with TALLAWAH, following her presentation of the 2014 Philip Sherlock Lecture at UWI Mona on Tuesday. "And it's amazing how much we are in tune with the traditional as well as being creative in terms of taking it to the modern day."
Nelson, who chairs the Traditional Folk Forms Committee of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and is a University Singers living legend, says she opted to base her lecture on the concept of "Aesthetics Strengthening through the Creative Arts," a topic she knows all too well and one that is rooted in a piece of Caribbean history having to do with Sir Errol Hill recalling a famous quote by Sir Philip. "It's been 20 years since that Errol Hill moment, and I think it just goes to show how much the university has been strengthening students academically, aesthetically, and in their personal lives since then."
To wit, Nelson's lecture also drew on student perspectives concerning the arts, and particularly the ongoing work of the University Singers, who consistently excel "using space and the various musical forms to present choral theatre" while bringing their loyal audiences into the act. "Students who participate in the creative arts at the university," notes Nelson, "have been strengthened themselves, and in turn in the wider Caribbean."
Asked to share her view on present-day appreciation for the legacy of such late luminaries as Sherlock and Rex Nettleford, who launched her collection of poems, Angles of Reflection, in 2009, Nelson told TALLAWAH, "I think those of us who have spent a lot of our time working to preserve the creative arts in Jamaica have a special appreciation for their contributions. But I think the rank and file of students aren't cognizant of the importance of their work and integrating the arts with the academics."
Meantime, when it comes to her own creative life, lyrically setting her thoughts down on paper remains something for which she is immensely passionate. "Now and again I manage to get a new one done," she smilingly says of her poetry writing these days. "But I guess I should really work towards publishing another book."