CULTURE CLINIC: ICEBERGs in the Caribbean?

Cultural Identity and the State of our Creative Economy

Cultural identity refers to beliefs, ideals, roles, norms, concepts, myths and various institutions. These traits help describe symptoms we encounter. As we celebrate our cultural identity, these signs offer us clues and insights. They help us explore what our assumptions, attitudes, desires, tastes and values mean. These meanings appear in our customs, rituals, mannerisms, practices and traditions. They are produced and reflected in our fashion, food, film, language, performing arts, photography, visual arts, religions, writing, ways of life. Our institutions and organizations usually uphold these meanings. (

I came across a link on that discusses the psychological contract between employer and employee. Since we are involved in peering “beneath the surface” of our culture, we should embrace this human, psychological dimension as creatives. The ‘iceberg’ model provides an accurate representation of how we see creativity and culture. Consumers respond to products and services. These are about 10% of what happens. About 90% goes into development and production. This is necessary to assure quality. However, these processes are often invisible and silent, making creativity and culture more complicated to explain or understand. Further, creatives sometimes test cultural assumptions and values, especially when those expressions fall outside mainstream conservative customs and traditions.

The iceberg model (below) might be adapted to begin a discussion of the state of our creative economy. How can we move towards making it healthy in achievable and tangible ways? We need to be honest and transparent. As we analyse ourselves, we risk feeling exposed and uncomfortable. Be reminded that healing begins with an admission that something is wrong. We may also have contributed to the situation by ignoring, masking or pretending that there is no issue. Change can occur once we “understand relationship management, collaborative working and conflict management” (

Lack of respect often stems from a breakdown in communication between “employer and employees” specifically with regard to “mutual expectations of inputs and outcomes” ( Using this model to address our specific realities could provide useful information to add to our creative environment mapping. We can assess ourselves, applying age, gender and other forms of representation as we collect and analyse data.  

We can ask ourselves, our sector and the economy two key questions. Is this economy “lop-sided? Does it favour the artist-employee or the state/institution-employer?

Note that the “iceberg” concept has limits. First, icebergs form as a result of destabilization, breaking away from a major “ice-cap”. Second, icebergs melt eventually depending on conditions. Our cultural economy design and implementation strategic plan should also bear this in mind as well.

For a good explanation on the Culture and its complexity watch/listen to the links below:

A brief introduction to The Cultural Iceberg

Click here for the The Psychological Contract.

Dr. John Hunte PHD
Cultural Studies
UWI Cave Hill

Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte. Photography by Adrian Richards.

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