Message by Hon. Myron V. Walwyn, Minister for Education and Culture to Officially Open Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week 2017
Good day, I am Myron V. Walwyn, Minister for Education and Culture and I extend warm greetings to everyone as we move forward with celebrating another Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week. This year’s celebration will be observed from the 20th to the 24thof November.
As a reminder, the celebration of this week began in 1994 under the title of Culture Week and this year marks the 23rd year this activity has been staged. The title was changed last year in an effort to place emphasis on our Virgin Islands heritage. The objectives of the week are:
- To take some time to focus on the cultural heritage of the Virgin Islands
- To pass on relevant information to the younger generation
- To increase the awareness of residents on the history and culture of the Virgin Islands
- And to create opportunities to link various aspects of life to culture through the selected theme for the week; particularly through the post-hurricane experiences
You may ask, why not cancel the week of events due to the devastation which occurred as a result of the floods and hurricanes. My simple answer would be that culture is significant in our daily lives; no matter the situation. More importantly, our present situation affords us the opportunity to highlight and emphasise the examples of how our culture has evolved over the years. Finally, it gives us, the older folks, the chance to explain our traditions and the way of life of long ago and it gives the younger generation the opportunity to see and live firsthand how our fore parents lived in years past as we have had to revert to many of those things.
The week of activities has evolved over the years and has made great strides in promoting and preserving the cultural heritage of these islands. Each year, the week is observed under a theme and this year’s theme is: “Reflections of Our Virgin Islands Culture: Then and Now”, with the sub-theme, Living the Culture. It is interesting to note that this theme was selected before the flood on the 7th of August and hurricanes Irma and Maria which followed. Ironically, it has turned out to be a most fitting theme for this year given what we have experienced. As we reflect with our students, we hope that they will be able to make the connection with what they have been taught about their cultural heritage over the years. As conversations are had and stories told, our rich heritage will unfold.
I can just imagine the stories of what it was like then when there was no electricity and we depended on lanterns (and that was not so long ago). While our lanterns today are a little more sophisticated, we have been thrown back into yesteryear. Or, what it was like with no refrigerator or washing machines – using our hands to wash and then to hang our clothes on the lines and I could go on.
I am certain you have many other examples of comparison of life in the Virgin Islands, then and now. But what is more important, is that our children and all of us as citizens and residents understand the resilience of our forefathers and that they overcame whatever hard times there were experiencing and continued to build this Territory. And so, today, having experienced tremendous setbacks as a result of the recent disasters, we must stand strong and together to rebuild even better than before. Our children, with this experience, will be able to develop an appreciation of what it takes to build their country.
This year’s week of activities, even though scaled down in comparison to our usual highly packed schedule of activities, is nevertheless a week which promises to be impactful and successful. Cultural presentations and exhibitions at the various schools throughout the Territory will be conducted on specific days throughout the week; a Virgin Islands storytelling series with Mr. Elmore Stoutt will air on the radio waves on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the annual Territorial Dress-up Day will conclude the week’s activities on Friday. I am very pleased with the continued interest and participation of the schools throughout the Territory; both public and private and the wider community. I thank all our schools for ensuring the full participation of the students.
I take this opportunity to encourage everyone to participate wherever possible in the activities; visit your child’s school during the week; share your stories and take advantage of opportunities as they arise to teach your child/children about their culture and heritage, then and now. I also want to challenge our students from primary schools to college to write down your stories of this period as it is important to record what we have experienced over the last three and a half months and have our history recorded for future generations.
Despite some challenges to organise this year’s Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week, I wish to commend the Director of Culture and her staff for going the extra mile to pull off this week of events. I also extend thanks and appreciation to all who contributed in any way to the organisation of the week; large or small, including principals, teachers, students, parents and other supporters.
As the Minister responsible for the preservation of our Virgin Islands culture, I therefore declare Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Week 2017 officially open.
Thank you and God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.