First installed within the general school curriculum almost two years ago, the Heritage Arts programme is now reaching more young people than ever before, thanks to the efforts of organisers Cayman Traditional Arts and funding from three highly supportive government ministries: the Ministry of District Admin, Tourism and Transport, the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Culture, each of which have recognised the importance of the programme for Cayman’s young people.
Chris Christian, who runs Cayman Traditional Arts, said he is grateful to the three government ministries for appreciating the value of the Heritage Arts programme.
“Starting out as a programme to educate year six students across all government primary schools, the Heritage Arts programme has expanded to include high school students, as well as students on Cayman Brac and also at the Lighthouse School,” he advised. “In addition, we have been extremely active within the local community, partnering with Cayman International School, Cayman Prepand High School and other private schools on projects such as heritage days. We also enjoy bringing local culture and heritage to the Sunrise Adult Learning Centre. Our camps for kids are another way in which we can reach out to the local community.”
The Heritage Arts programme has helped to bring alive Caymanian culture, traditions and arts for students by engaging local crafts people to come and work alongside students, teaching them skills that would otherwise be in danger of being lost forever. Students are taught a variety of art and craft techniques, such as the art of rope making, as well as traditional Caymanian recipes including making delicious cassava cake and peppermint candies. They then go on to apply their knowledge at various public demonstrations, including art shows and food events, interacting with the public and sharing what they have learnt.
Cayman’s premier and minister of culture, Alden McLaughlin, is a big supporter of the Heritage Arts programme.
“It is vital that we continue to educate our younger generations about our vast and colourful heritage arts so that the ways of our foreparents will not be forgotten. As we as a people and a country age and mature it is vitally important to ensure that our younger generations are aware of and appreciate from where and whence we came,” he said.
Minister Tara Rivers, with the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs saidher Ministry has been supportive of the Heritage Arts programme because it successfully educates young people and provides employment at the same time.
“We believe it is very important to have a curriculum that manages to keep local heritage alive,” she stated. “It is very exciting for students to appreciate Caymanian culture and heritage and it is equally exciting for Government that young people have the opportunity to learn about traditional crafts and heritage. We are particularly pleased that the programme has extended to the high schools and we look forward to seeing the programme’s continued success.”
Minister Rivers went on to say that the Heritage Arts programme also offers valuable employment opportunities for local people.
“It provides employment for our older generation, who play such an integral role in keeping our heritage and culture alive. It’s very important that it doesn’t die out with that generation,” she said.