Carifesta 13 wound up with a massive party at Kensington Oval last weekend but the jollification for the finale might have served to hide areas of discontent at its shortcomings that some cultural performers and would-be viewers felt.
Barbados’ plans, laid out by the Ministry of Culture suffered a broadside when Tropical Storm Harvey bore down on the island hours before the scheduled opening night and set arrangements back by two days, and this served to compound the challenge of hosting performers from 26 countries, getting them to their respective venues, and ensuring that the viewing public knew what was happening, when and where.
Getting information to the public proved to be perhaps the area of the most telling complaints with artistes of some countries reportedly putting on shows to little or no audience because no one knew of the re-arranged schedule.
Some on social media branded it ‘Carifiasco.’
This moved Opposition Leader Mia Mottley to charge that the just concluded week-long Carifesta, which ended last Sunday, was ‘absolute logistical madness’ characterised by poor attendance to many events.
As an example she spoke of St. Vincent and the Grenadines sending, “a wonderful delegation here and puts on a performance on ‘St Vincent Country Night’ second to none, including a half-hour performance by Skinny Fabulous, and no more than 70 – 80 of us in the car park to watch it … Skinny Fabulous, and artiste that would pack out any arena.”
Mottley accused the government of ‘paying lip service to Carifesta’ and charged that there is discord among the Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley and his Cabinet colleagues, who she claims are jostling for leadership of the ruling Democratic Labour Party when current leader and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart steps down.
“This government is so mired in feudal and inter-ministerial wrangling that what ought to have been an exercise in excellence, a cultural Olympiad has become nothing more than an outing for a few people who had the fortune to know about the good artistes and arts that were available.”
Mottley contended that the alleged feud among DLP leaders was obvious in the fact that they had scheduled their party’s annual conference to clash with the weekend opening of Carifesta, and said this timing could be no coincidence.
“How do you have Carifesta that you committed to more than two years ago creep up on your annual conference?,” she asked, noting that Barbados was named since 2015 as the next destination for the festival.
Pointing to what she said was another example of clash of dates, Mottley spoke of the opening of a football tournament in the constituency of Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy, scheduled for the same evening of Carifesta’s grand finale at Kensington Oval.
But Lashley retorted by describing Mottley’s charges as ‘totally off base.’
“We have had the CARICOM assistant secretary general speaking about Carifesta in very positive terms regarding what Barbados has achieved. I believe that may have been difficult for the Leader of the Opposition to swallow, particularly seeing that we are just a few months away from an election,” Lashley said.
“I describe Miss Mottley’s comments as being a national disgrace because they really don’t have any place within what the context of Carifesta did. I feel very proud of the performance of organizers in very difficult circumstances because they were affected by difficult circumstances such as the storm [Tropical Storm Harvey], which caused us to have to recalibrate our programming … I hope that in quiet reflection Miss Mottley would regret her words and she should apologize,” he added.