Dynamic Donna – I run a tight ship
There is a spring in her step and a sharp clip in her walk. Dr Donna Hunte-Cox says, “It is the dancer in me.”
The woman who now occupies the CEO’s chair at the National Cultural Foundation is a natural artiste.
In fact, when asked to describe herself she responded : “I would say that I am a creative being.”
Hunte has a passion for the arts, coupled with a passion for personal development. “I always think that we should train the child in the way he should go, not only in terms of values but in other aspects of his personality and developing his craft.”
She believes in honing in on children’s artistic skills and developing them.
Taking over the helm at the NCF at the height of a Crop-Over season, the CEO is still relatively new on the job and is pursuing her own vision for culture in Barbados.
Sitting in her West Terrace office recently, she told Easy Magazine: “I think that we need to have a national template as to where we hope to see Barbados in the near future and working backwards, that all aspects of community – whether it be education, arts development, cultural development – we should do a strategic plan to realise these goals for national development”.
Hunte-Cox honed her creative dance skills while a student at the Alleyne School in the early 1970s. She distinguished herself as a dancer of note among her peers and was soon taking a lead part with the school’s dance group, even winning gold awards in the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts.
Choreography followed naturally. Donna Hunte’s choreographies became a hit at the community level, being performed at tea parties, fairs and such social events in the northern part of the island. Youngsters were Kung Fu Dancing to her choreography.
She speaks slowly and deliberately, the teacher in her manifesting itself. Hunte-Cox entered the teaching profession on leaving school, taught at Luther Thorne Memorial and St George Primary schools. Children at both schools were exposed to the artistic talent of this teacher, who took them to winning heights in national dance competitions.
She also taught at the Barbados Community College, utilising the information gleaned during studies. The winner of a National Development Scholarship for dance went off to City University of New York’s, Brooklyn College, to pursue a degree in dance and also capitalised on the opportunity to do a Master’s degree in education with a minor in theatre arts administration.
She holds a doctorate in human resource development. “I see myself as a nation-builder. I wanted to help to make a meaningful contribution towards changing people’s lives, not only in the arts but across the board.”
By her own admission, the job of CEO presents myriad challenges. But she is up to the task. She recalls that when the job opening came up, she jumped at the opportunity. She runs a tight ship, and is a firm believer in team building, hence her tendency to meet regularly with NCF staff, on whom she confesses she relies heavily for support.
This country girl is proud of her roots and talks animatedly about childhood days in Belleplaine, St Andrew, picking fat porks, roaming the sand dunes, and simply enjoying life in that part of Barbados that others seek after.
Married to Martin Cox, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, they have a daughter, Saran, an auditor who has inherited the dance genes from her mother.
When she finds the time to take a break from the hectic life of directing the affairs of the NCF, Hunte-Cox busies herself in the kitchen, often preoccupied with creating another novel dish from the variety of locally grown produce: “I love to cook”.
She loves it even more when she is creating a new yam dish for her husband. The two lead busy lives, but getting together is a tradition in the Hunte family. To them, food is fellowship.
Hunte-Cox counts herself lucky to have a husband who also “cooks well”, often taking over in the kitchen when his wife’s schedule keeps her away from it.
These days, the CEO is sporting a natural look, coming up with unique hairstyles and not shy to admit “I am a little daring”. She puts it down to artistic experimentation. “I am an artist, and my hairstylist is an artist as well. She uses me as her canvas.”
The locks which Hunte-Cox has grown for the past two years are another example that she has found her own unique style. She grew tired of the chemically-processed hair one day and decided locks was the look she would adopt, and locks it has been for a while now.
The daily heavy schedule that sees her arriving at the office early in the morning, working through the day and often heading off to a social event in the evening, demands a versatile wardrobe. The artist in Donna Hunte-Cox inspires her choices.
She favours Barbadian craft, and makes a distinctive fashion statement with her choice of jewellery very often selected from Bajan crafts people.
Growing up with a dressmaker mother, Hunte-Cox taught herself to sew and she says without apology, “I like fashion.”
To this career woman, always juggling the roles of wife and mother, life is a dynamic which draws on her creative abilities to enable her to manage.