Collette Jones-Chin: using the arts as a vehicle for change
So driven is she to create, that there is never a waking moment when Collette Jones-Chin is not writing, telling stories, acting, drawing or painting. She is a dramatist, writer, producer, director, costume designer, set designer and an interior decorator.
Collette is also Director of Drama for the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport and Artistic Director of the National Cultural Centre. Her most recent contribution to the arts is putting together the National School of Drama and Theatre Arts that will be housed at the Cultural Centre from January 28.
Collette, who is Sagittarius-born, lost her mother to a vehicular accident, before she was quite two years old. She resided with her grandparents until the age of 14 in the small remote community of Riverview Housing Scheme in Mahaica, a predominantly Indian village. Collette believes that this grounding, along with her mixed heritage, has helped her understand Guyanese culture. After both her grandparents died, she moved to be with her dad in Georgetown, which caused a massive “culture shock”. She recalled that everything was different; the buildings were numerous and bigger, people spoke differently, everyone and everything was busy.
“All country people were dead poor but we never knew it, because we were all poor on the same level,” she said of her humble beginnings. To her, poverty was unrecognisable until she came to the city. “When you knew you were poor is when you came to town.”
Collette always knew she was born talented but it was the city that brought out her art. At the age of 16, she was encouraged by her school friend to join the Theatre Guild, her father warned her that if she chose arts she would be poor; he preferred her to be a lawyer.