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HomeEditorialsPOLITICS BY OTHER MEANS: TIM HECTOR on Arts and Culture (Part III)

POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS: TIM HECTOR on Arts and Culture (Part III)

By Dorbrene E. O’Marde

Tim finds strong support for his espousal of a single purpose for both ‘the aesthetic’ and ‘the political’ in the remarkable essay – ‘The Emancipation – Jouvay Tradition and the Almost Loss of Pan’ whereEarl Lovelace explained ‘just as steelband was showing us the inventiveness, dedication and genius by which we were to be liberated, the badjohns who created it were displaying the violence we needed to confront if we were to lay claim to that liberation….. To claim the aesthetic you had to claim the political’[1]. Tim knew this and so felt that the aesthetic, the platform of the artists for the production of cultural products must address the political or he could lay no claim to it.

I am here reminded of the simple way of putting what I just said in English…’how the hell does anything advance without being part of a political agenda?’ one anonymous blogger asks.

Like Brother David Abdullah – who in his Q&A period last night admitted a possible serious omission in any analysis of Tim’s value if discussions on sports – cricket in particular – were not included, I found that I had not paid particular attention to that important aspect of Tim’s writing and thinking – especially in the context of the interpretation of culture that occurs elsewhere in his work. Tim sees sport as ‘a fundamental human activity – a means by which people express themselves, and therefore, their essential humanity.[2]

He sees cricket therefore as a means West Indian people used ‘to humanise ourselves’ as he also sees music and dance…as an integral part of the process that liberates from the physical and social shackles in which West Indian society was born and bound. Tim is sure that ‘cricket in the West Indies is more than a game, more than popular art. West Indian cricket is part of the process by which West Indians overcame or sought to overcome racism and the consequent sense of racial inferiority and racial self-contempt in which the majority of us were born. It is part and parcel of the nationalist movement West Indian cricket is part of the process of nation liberation in the Caribbean.’ [3]

So you understand David that anything which threatened West Indian Cricket (with a capital C) as he knew it, as he helped shape it from deep within its history, threatened national liberation – be it a ban on cricketers with apartheid South African connections on an English team in Guyana or the boycott of Packer in Trinbago. No such affront could be supported by Tim – much less tolerated.

It is one of the challenges in interpreting Tim – in that, in so many instances, he is his own evaluator…of the management of West Indies cricket, of the media, of the PLM, of ACLM, of UPP – of ALP. This evaluation of Tim by Tim is subject however for another panel – one that looks at Tim as ‘a maverick organisational man’ – that nearly oxymoronic thought…who understood the Leninist requirement for organisation but whose thinking could not be bound by organisation, certainly not unthinking organisation. He lasted extremely long in the UPP – I thought.

But back to cricket…and I think there you see evidence of Tim’s understanding of the similarity of the core values and roles of art and politics – theoretical politics that is.

Tim’s writing on cricket occurs during a period of commercialisation of sport; a period wherein which ‘sport as an elite practice reserved for amateurs became sport as a spectacle produced by professionals for consumption by the masses.’[4] No one is attacking cricket here…the writer says ‘sport’. But it is this transition in sport – gone horribly wrong for the Caribbean – that gives us twenty-twenty cricket, that horrible abomination, that severe aberration of a total sport. For when sport or art for that matter – and some do interpret sport as ‘performance art’ – when it fails to contribute to the humanising process, its relevance is devalued.

I do not think Tim would have loved this explosion of twenty-twenty cricket. That is my sane analytical mind at work, but something still lurks in the background – that for all I know Tim might have found reason to like the game – one, because it came out of cricket – his cricket and two, any resistance to it was resistance to the child of his cricket, notwithstanding its whoring with dehumanising capital and sponsorship money. Cricket fans however should not feel lonely – we are not the only ones suffering – out there in the land of commercial non-humanising sports is wrestling and beach volleyball and beach soccer and lingerie football and the X-games… among others!

Back to the issue of arts, culture and politics. Tim, in his analysis of Antigua calypso suggests that ‘As everyone here knows there is a concerted effort to drive the political out of the calypso art, either by force, namely, censorship, or by less crude coercion, rewarding the sugary in competition by placing them as high as possible’. It should therefore not surprise us that Tim in summary – wrote the following:

I want now to move to the politics of art, since there is a determined effort to make us believe that politics diminishes art, when art, in fact, is politics by other means. Politics is the means by which we regulate our relations, (economic, religious, legal and social relations) one with another, in society. It is the way we see the world and our place in it. Art is the effort to interpret the world and to make people see how their place in it is being either endangered or enhanced. All art either seeks to accommodate us to the world as it is, or to move us to change the world as it is, for the better. Therefore then, is all art, politics by other means. Those then who seek to take politics out of art are, in truth, taking art out of art.[5]

And if that were not strong and emphatic enough…Tim, later in the same article, paraphrases and repeats – Those who wish to hound the political out of art, be it calypso, poetry, psalms, sculpture, dance or painting, really wish to murder art, and therefore the creative capacities of the people, in which we have our very being.’[6]

‘Nuff said!

Thoughts and views expressed in guest opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Observer NewsCo, its management or staff.


[1] Ibid

[2] OUTLET: Fan the Flame; ‘How they could dance so?’ April 11, 1997

[3] Hector, Tim: ‘Cricket and Caribbean National and Political Integration’ in ‘An Area of Conquest: Popular Democracy and West Indian Cricket Supremacy’ Edited by Hilary Beckles; Ian Randall Publishers 1994

[4] Bourdieu, Pierre: ‘Sport and Social Class’ in ‘Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies’, edited by Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson’, University of California Press 1991

[5] OUTLET ‘Fan the Flame: ’The Art of Carnival and the Carnival of Art’ July 28, 2000

[6] Ibid

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