Jamaican creators barely benefitting – Hope

February 01, 2023
Dancers doing their thing at a party in Kingston.
Dancers doing their thing at a party in Kingston.
Japanese dancer Cornbread.
Japanese dancer Cornbread.

With social media apps bringing the world closer together, and several trends and challenges emerging daily, creators can become extremely successful.

However, according to Professor Donna Hope, when the Jamaican culture is imitated by those in regions with stronger social and economic power, Jamaican creators are hardly able to reap as many rewards. Hope was speaking following a review of the viral video by Japanese dancer Cornbread.

"The issue arises when the benefits are shared up. Who gets the lion's share of the benefits from a cultural product that is Jamaican that is coming out of the belly of the inner city? There are dancers coming from Ocho Rios, from St Catherine and all over. But the heart of it is from the inner city of Kingston, but are they seeing the benefit? Barely. I mean except that they get to travel, but they still end up living where they are from. [There are] some other material benefits like they can buy a car, but in terms of real transformation, not really," she shared.

"Even what is happening here with music videos, where white foreigners and Asians are taking over the music videos a lot more than even locals. Cornbread is just one of the non-Jamaicans that have come to Jamaica and fallen in love with the culture and realised that in that subculture there [in Japan], it makes them very special, very cool. We are not benefiting much. And because many of them have got enough where they can do the moves and have the connection and the network, they are almost standalone without too much support from the Jamaicans," Hope continued.

Cornbread's video currently has over 1.6 million views on TikTok while other videos created by Jamaicans trend significantly lower. Hope noted that while Cornbread always gives credit to Jamaican creators, not many others do.

"A lot of people learned about these things from off the Internet so they can continue that phase of learning off the Internet and then building themselves up from there. Remember a lot of our dancers put themselves up on the Internet. So, they are there on Instagram, partying, they put themselves up, so it is not like they have to search very hard for it. I think since TikTok took off, we are putting up a lot more dance videos and things out of the culture like our language and a lot of things are there for them to just study," she disclosed.

Hope cautioned that if we do not take our cultural product seriously then we will be stuck at the agrarian stages of it and face significant loss.

"They are profiting more than the creators of the culture and that is why it inches a little closer to appropriation and it is a challenge we have to overcome. We are always going to be at the place where we are the creators, or the extractors. We pick the things out of the earth and then other people take it, turn it into a product, and monetise it... We really have to look into that, " Hope said.

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