Remembering cultural icon Alwin Bully one year after his death
Remembering cultural icon Alwin Bully one year after his death

March 10, 2024, marked one year since the death of Dominica's cultural icon and visionary artist, Alwin Bully.

Bully left an indelible mark on the development of Dominica's culture and had a similar impact around the Caribbean through his work as UNESCO's Cultural Advisor for the region, while based in Jamaica, from 1986 to 2008.

The 1985 Sisserou Award of Honour awardee had given so much to the country, including its Cultural Division, National Flag, Carnival, and Independence celebrations improvements. How has the country, in turn, immortalized his memory?

Two months after his death, the Alwin Bully Foundation was created -by a group of family members and like-minded peers- as an institution that can carry on with the work Bully started and help inspire this and future generations of artists and cultural workers to action.

Former Chief Cultural Officer Raymond Lawrence believes a rehabilitated Arawak House of Culture would be an ideal gesture to honour the late Alwin Bully. He laments that the House of Culture has yet to open its doors to the public so many years after Hurricane Maria.

"My heart is a little heavy now because the Arawak House of Culture has not been repaired, rehabilitated, or put back on its feet. Groups in Dominica—especially to stage a play or dance production—need a proper theatre. It saddens me that six years after the hurricane that devastated Dominica and damaged the Arawak as well, the building has not been repaired, or a new structure replaced the Arawak, or whatever the case may be," Lawrence said.

Many lent their voice to remember his life-changing influence on the first anniversary of Bully's passing.

His brother, Colin Bully, who is five years old, says the culture bug bit Alwin at a young age. He made it his life's work for culture to get greater societal recognition.

"Alwin wanted governments to include art and culture in their development strategy. He would write, express his views, and try to influence the views of governments and society. He created the Cultural Division; he physically developed the site of the Old Mill and got programmes going at the schools," Collin Bully said.

Dale Elliott, a St. Lucian journalist and Communications Specialist, is also the Founder and Manager of the Independent Film Company. He describes Alwin as his mentor during his playwright courses.

"I remember how gentle his brain was and how powerful his pen was," said Elliott. "He would never change your script but offer suggestions on how to improve it. The man's impact shall forever remain with me, and I thank Dominica for him."

Humanitarian and past U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Robert 'Bob' Maguire, who penned the song 'Dominica, Land of Such Beauty,' remembers his introduction to theatre and the arts thanks to Alwin Bully.

"I met Alwin in 1969 when I joined Dominica as a Peace Corps volunteer," Maguire said. "I had no experience in dance or theatre. Yet, he got me involved in the first iteration of the People's Action Theater, PAT. He was very welcoming, and I have stayed in touch with him for over fifty years. Whenever I visited Dominica, he made me feel like I was returning home."

Lawrence, who also worked with Alwin Bully at the Cultural Division during its formative years, firmly believes that more needs to be done to develop culture in Dominica to pay homage to Alwin's work and keep his vision alive and vibrant for future generations.

"I would like to see a brand-new theatre, more than one, in different parts of Dominica so that plays, dance productions and musicals can be performed in proper spaces that are well lit, with proper acoustics, etc. That is one thing I am hoping for because I know Alwin would have wanted some wonderful theatre spaces in Dominica so that you could stage productions. Infrastructure to stage performances is also very, very important," Lawrence said.