Basseterre, St. Kitts – Cultural preservationist Winston ‘Zack’ Nisbett is stressing the importance of preserving the culture of St. Kitts and Nevis and has noted that neglect of culture shows a lack of love.
Nisbett, in an exclusive interview with the Observer, said the cultures that are unique to the federation are essential and need to be preserved.
“When visitors come to our shores,” he said, “they come to see what we have to offer. They get fed up when they come to our island and see the same monotonous trend they are accustomed to. So, we need to create something of a more indigenous nature and related to our culture. We want them to appreciate what we have to offer, which is a blend and something different.”
He further stated that showcasing the types of food that form parts of the culture of St. Kitts and Nevis is also important. “The more indigenous-type food rather than the metropolitan dishes, [such as] our own roast potato,[and] cassava bread – that is the sort of thing we want to emphasize. It should be a collective approach to our cultural development.”
Nisbett also spoke to the importance of instilling these cultural values to children at an early age: “Culture is a lifestyle and we want to inoculate those values into children at an early stage and try to inoculate as well the moral and ethical values that were bestowed on us in the early days. The trend right now [is] we must keep them in line and if we don’t, they will divert into drugs and guns and that sort of thing.”
He was further questioned as to what more can be done to keep youth interested in the cultures of St. Kitts and Nevis as opposed to other influences to which they might be exposed.
“Teach it in the schools at a very early age and that is what I am assigned to do,” he said. “We are trying to revive the culture through the schools.”
He added that it was only recently that he went to teach some maypole dancing in St. Pauls and also lectured to them on the history of culture.
“In the schools, we have the mummies,” he said. “I was the one who created the clothing for that and the Department of Culture paid for it and the bull in Cayon – I taught them the lesson and designed the clothing.” Nisbett added that the mock jumbie in Sandy Point have gone back to the traditional wear of the skirt and kan kan.
Nisbett spoke to the role carnival can play in ensuring that these cultures do not die: “It is significant and I am going to do my best to see what I can do in terms of cultural aspect rather than the flair of like Trinidad; we want to stick to the basic art forms we once enjoyed. Hopefully, they will be successful as long as we have a whole emphasis and implement them at an early stage. They are historical; some came out of biblical aspect as well as from our own sugar lands and are relevant to our historical values. We need to have them preserved for the prosperity of our children.”
Nisbett also opined that teaching cultural pastimes to children may also help to curb the crippling crime situation in the federation. “It finds something for them to do and gives them impetus to come out [to do it],” he said. “Education, in a sense, [can] steer them away from jumping through somebody’s window or pulling away their bag.”