Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we have heard unceasingly that culture is experiencing unprecedented difficulties. And for good reason : all over the world, cultural venues were the first to close their doors, and some have never reopened for a year because they are considered to be spaces that favour the spread of the disease. In Guadeloupe, some places, notably for painting, sculpting and photography exhibitions, have reopened respecting strict health rules, while others have remained closed for many and various reasons. Artists and event organizers have to deal with this rather gloomy and uncertain atmosphere in order to keep culture alive.
In Guadeloupe’s local authorities, cultural services have been slowed down or are at a standstill for a year, so why not take this opportunity to set up training sessions for certain agents or employees who need them? Why not use this downtime to come back stronger and offer a quality service to the public when Covid-19 gives men a break?
Over the years, we have realized that the cultural department has become a kind of catch-all for people who do not belong there. Last month, we told you about our misadventure with an employee of L’Artchipel in Basse-Terre, a major venue in Guadeloupe that has the “Scène Nationale” label, a guarantee of the quality of the shows offered and a guarantee of the quality of the staff who work there, but apparently this is not the case. “Koukoune a manman-w!” this employee has dared to say, the most extreme of Guadeloupean insults, a behaviour that deserves a sanction because it constitutes a very serious professional misconduct but is there really a captain in the ship called L’Artchipel to make such a decision? Moreover, do some employees not impose their laws?
This is just one illustration of the poor or non-existent state of training of some staff members working in the field of culture within these public services. Indeed, while some employees have a place there because they have a level of education or adequate training, or an interest in culture coupled with interpersonal skills and a basic education that has acquired within the family from a young age (say good morning, goodbye, thank you, please etc.), qualities that make visitors want to attend these cultural places assiduously, others are real scarecrows, and the word is not too strong.
Often, when you go to these cultural places, you see employees sitting there chatting and laughing, playing on their mobile phones or looking outside as if they were taking down the number plates of cars passing by on the street, some do not respect working hours, etc. You say “hello”, it’s hardly if they answer you or you are looked at from head to toe before moving their lips to reply to your questions ; you ask for information, you are not even allowed to speak, you are interrupted and they give you the wrong answer. In fact, you are disturbing…
If you get angry and say : “I’ll talk to your superior, the mayor or the president”, you are told : “And what will he do?” Yes, what will the Director, the Mayor, the President do?
This brings us back to the employee of L’Artchipel, Scène Nationale de Guadeloupe in Basse-Terre, who thought he had the right to hurl insults, he knows that this serious professional misconduct would not be punished for various and varied reasons. This feeling of impunity makes that many citizens do not complain to those in charge and no longer attend these cultural venues.
But where do these agents come from? How did they get into these cultural spaces when they have no skills to be in this position? Are these jobs of convenience?
In Guadeloupe, at the moment, a workers’ union is conducting an unlimited strike to demand more money for certain public employees…money that will be taken out of the pockets of the citizens by raising taxes. As a result, town halls and other administrations are closed, schools and school restaurants are heavily impacted. It is often said that it was the elected representative who promised these people a job in exchange for votes in past elections.
Of course, this type of recruitment has existed in the past and still exists, but there are also people who went to beg the elected representative to hire them : “a few hours would be enough”, they said at the time, and today, 20 or 30 years later, these are also these people who are on strike because their professional situation has never changed and often the elected representative who hired them is no longer in power…
Some of them went to ask the elected representative to hire their children, wives, mistresses, husbands, lovers, friends, neighbours etc.
Some women would also have arrived there after having “sold their favours” or “fè piès épi kò a yo”, as we say in Creole, “si Mè-la mandé mwen sa, an ké bay sa” (if the Mayor asks for “that”, I’ll give him “that”), I heard once when I was working in a local authority…
Some people were great supporters during the elections, putting up posters, going door-to-door for example, and have demanded a job in return.
In a big city, some who were cleaners or maintenance workers were placed in the offices of the cultural department to replace colleagues who had retired because the bloodless community no longer hires… This change of job, which is sometimes considered as an “advancement”, does not always encourage them to improve and to involve themselves, which is a pity because even without a diploma they can have a great knowledge of the Guadeloupean culture.
It is clear that when culture will operate normally, the public, which is currently deprived of concerts, plays, exhibitions, conferences, festivals and other shows, will no longer accept this lack of professionalism especially since it is increasingly aware that its taxes are also used to pay these employees.
Training is therefore required for certain employees of these cultural services, particularly in the public reception.