Johnson: Ministry focusing on future of Junkanoo from youth development to rebranding

Dr. Daniel Johnson – Minister of Youth

Placing strategic focus on the future of Junkanoo from youth involvement to rebranding is one of the primary goals of Dr. Daniel Johnson, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, who in a recent interview with The Freeport News revealed steady progress continues to be made in regard to modernizing and repackaging the cultural phenomenon to benefit The Bahamas.


Annually, $1,000,000.00 plus is spent on Junkanoo festivals and parades held throughout The Bahamas however, a modernistic and commercially appealing rebranding must occur in order for The Bahamas to reap the most benefit from the enriching Bahamian cultural identifier on all aspects, in particular, financially, to sustain future growth and success revealed Dr. Johnson, who noted statistical data has been collected on Junkanoo’s untapped earning potential.


“The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is continuing with its thrust towards extending the Junkanoo season between six and eight weeks annually, thereby providing multiple opportunities on several islands within The Bahamas.


“The parades held on Grand Bahama continue to improve and based on all that I have seen thus far at the Annual GB Senior Junkanoo Parade certainly is of top quality standard.


“As a matter of fact, Grand Bahama has one of a few Junkanoo Museums in The Bahamas that chronicles the historic evolution of the cultural parade hence the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture does its best to assist the young men and women in this endeavor and we have increased seed funding for all Junkanoo groups across the country.


“Meanwhile, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture continues to work diligently to ensure that all private partners and sponsors of Junkanoo parades throughout the nation also increase their financial support, which is evidenced right here along the parade route thanks to our corporate sponsors (BTC) setting the right ambiance inclusive of bleacher seating,” Dr. Johnson said.


Thousands of man-hours go into coordinating the Junkanoo parades by Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture officials, Bahamas National Junkanoo Committee (BNJC) members and most importantly participating Junkanoo groups.


The artistic aspect of Junkanoo is totally predicated upon the leaders of the groups and although the Junior Junkanoo Programme continues to grow stronger, revealed Dr. Johnson, he fervently believes more must be done to inspire and assist The Bahamas’ youth in honing and harnessing their love and creativity in skills development, as it relates to this cultural phenomenon.


“Junior Junkanoo serves as a farm for the future of the parade in The Bahamas and once we are able to utilize the skills of group leaders who have been a part of this for decades and are committed to excellence, they can help to ensure we reap the maximum potential from it by teaching our youth the discipline in all aspects.


“Now more than ever, I am tracking the 14-18 year-olds, who love Junkanoo and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is providing unwavering support to them, as truly they represent our future.


“Those teenagers are learning to paste, construct, choreograph, put together musical compositions and develop themes correctly and I believe they can take it to another level, which is exactly what the arts do for people and Junkanoo encompasses it all.


“Exporting Junkanoo on the international scene is very important and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism has found ways to do just that.


“In fact Junkanoo Groups attached to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture traveled last year to Santiago de Cuba to participate in the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ Landfall.


“Santiago de Cuba is the cultural capital of the country and is where the late President Fidel Castro was buried, while there we put on a massive performance that was loved by all in attendance.


“Additionally, two years ago our Junkanoo group performed in cities throughout the United States of America (USA), including at the Washington DC on the Mall Parade, we also traveled to New York along with our Rake ‘n’ Scrape Group at the United Nations Ambassador College, which was a magnificent hit, as well as at the Nottinghill Festival in London, England and the Edinburgh Festival that is the largest cultural festival in the western world,” revealed the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.


The exportation of Junkanoo is occurring worldwide thanks to Dr. Johnson’s avocation and insight as well as his partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and other Bahamian cultural enthusiasts and sponsors however, he notes to commercialize it would require rebranding and repackaging, as it is difficult to finance the travel of groups to various cultural festivals around the world.


History dictates that Junkanoo must evolve further through mutual respect and the collective creative genius of Junkanooers true to its historical roots and the art form on all accounts.


“Commercially it is difficult to send a thousand Junkanooers to these destinations to perform for a few hours especially as it involves costuming and other equipment powered in a large part to handmade music.


“There is no acoustic or electronic accompaniment or engineering behind it hence to package Junkanoo and export it would have to take another generation to fight to take it to the world but it has to go as can music and the costumes would have to be weather-proofed.


“This is because Junkanoo is considered an extreme outdoor sport, beautiful, inspiring and culturally unique akin to football or baseball which does not necessarily stop due to a little rain, sprinkle or spry in fact in most cases it simply has to go on no matter what, especially if people have paid $100.00 plus for tickets to view it in an open air stadium or arena.


“That is why the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism attempted to help Junkanoo transition through the implementation of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and, we remain focused on doing just that incorporating even more Junkanoo features as time goes on.


“Particularly to help some of these men and women with incredible artistic skills in Junkanoo, who do not receive a paycheck for all the work that they do by upgrading it commercialization that can be packaged and sold and have ownership over their work,” revealed Dr. Johnson.


The potential for Junkanoo is limitless however, a strategic plan and thought process must go into its development as Dr. Johnson pointed out no one owns the Saxons, Valley Boys, Music Makers, Roots, One Family, New Life Classic Dancers, Super Star Rockers, Platinum Knights and the Swingers Division ‘A’ groups.


The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture suggests that a proper company structure and accounting mechanism must be put in place and new entities coming on stream must be used to test the same music and art form but it must be repackaged put onto CDs, DVDs in other musical arrangements, performances in smaller settings on a consistent basis would allow for a faster, more compact and richer earning potential.


“Definitely the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is seeking out persons who are interested and able to carry this art form forward.


“Minister of Tourism Obediah Wilchcombe and I are working closely together to realize this and we have many great plans underway, which include Sports Tourism, bringing “Sports in Paradise” to the world including events like the Popeye’s Bowl, Tiger Woods Golfing Classic, IAAF World Relays, FIFA World Cup Beach Soccer, Commonwealth Games and the list goes on and on.


“We now have a year round sporting calendar, which is the purpose of our tourism product so that every time we have visitors to our islands they have something to do if it is sports that they are coming for and the same is going to be done for culture and arts inclusive of Junkanoo hence the move now is to take these events and festivals and have one occurring somewhere in The Bahamas boosting Cultural Tourism, which can be done,” Dr. Johnson declared.


Published  Wednesday, January 4, 2017 


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