On Monday, April 20 the SICA representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize met online to discuss the Effects of COVID-19 on the Region’s Cultural Sector. Sapna Budhrani, President of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), attended the meeting. In speaking with her, she explained that the cultural sector in Belize has been impacted significantly by COVID-19. She noted that many artists can no longer earn revenue due to the regulations set by countries in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Sapna Budrani, President, National Institute of Culture and History: “When we look at what COVID-19 has done to the cultural sector our entertainers are affected, our artists are affected, our indigenous people are affected even the cultural practitioners are affected because they can’t necessarily practice everything that their culture tells them to do. Take for instance if you’re going to do a funeral you can’t have more than ten people a a funeral while in the past you would have many people going to it and that is also part of our culture. It has affected us drastically when it comes to financing, many don’t understand that NICH has been affected the most. Our revenues from March decreased by 78% and since then we are at a standstill at zero, there is no revenue generated from I think around Mach 20th or 23rd , no revenue generated from then to now for NICH. I do know of many artists that have not received any gigs because they can’t perform and they want to know how to get help. Our response to them has been please fill out the relief fund or go through the pantry program you should get assistance from either programs. We have advocated for them to the separate committees and let them know that these people are informal many of them don’t have a Social Security Card or a bank account please see how best you can help them. We’ve asked them to modify the forms or at least provide pantry, I think the basic necessities is what should provide or at least try our best to provide. So COVID-19 on a whole has affected culture drastically but we should always remember we’ve been strong individuals, each one of our cultures have survived even worse if we really think about it what the Garifuna went through, what the Indians went through they’ve all went through different areas in life and different situations so I think we need to figure out how we’re going to solve this one. I would like to encourage them to develop professionally. There are many online sites that you can get free education from, the Government of Australia has done an excellent job to support cultural stakeholders, artists in providing webinars every night or every other night three times for the week. The Government of Israel had also provided a free course on museums and curation and there are many of these courses that are available. I think now is the time to develop your skills and see how best you can transform to a digital platform. It is not an easy road for any one of us.”
Sapna Budhrani also explained that she believes the cultural sector will bounce back from this pandemic. As it is, they are advocating for online platforms for artists to showcase their work.
Sapna Budrani, President, National Institute of Culture and History: “I do believe culture will bounce back once we start working from now. If we develop our skills, if we try to see how to move to a digital platform then we would bounce back without a doubt because who doesn’t need entertainment? I mean seriously everyone’s at home, what are you doing at home? If it’s not watching the news it’s trying to find something to entertain yourself and that’s why we should give them more value and respect for their work in my view because we stay home and we watch then but what do we give them in return and my fight has been at least provide the basic necessities to our cultural stakeholders so we can move to the second level and I want to encourage everyone to professionally develop and there would be a bounce back immediately. COVID-19 is not here to stay, COVID-19 is not going to kill all of us hunger can. We only have 18 persons infected in Belize according to the last statistics from the Ministry of Health but we have over 70,000 people unemployed and that doesn’t even include the small business owners so really and truly we need to strategize and plan moving forward considering all our informal businesses including the stakeholders. I think once we’re able to provide them a digital platform or provide them education on how to get that done it would be a bounce back, of course not an easy one but I don’t see it as that difficult one. It’s not going to be the same as before, some artists would charge about $2,000 for a concert now they may not be able to do so but hey maybe we need to look at how do you get viewership and get paid for that viewership. We now need to move faster than we did before in moving into that digital platform and I’m sure we will get there.”
Executive Secretary of the CECC/SICA shared plans that include the intervention of UNESCO and the General Secretariat of the SICA. With the goal of achieving the aforementioned objectives, the Council of Ministers agreed on the implementation of a developing Strategy of Collaborative Response.