Three hundred and forty Surinamese youth and 10 Chinese Shaolin Monks stole the show at the opening ceremony of CARIFESTA XI in Paramaribo, Suriname on Friday night, Aug. 16.
As if to give living testimony to Surinamese President Desi Bouterse’s assertion that culture “strengthens ties of people across borders”, the rolling, flying and skipping monks and the intricate, athletic movements of the youths brought resounding cheers from the 10,000-strong crowd packed into and around Independence Square, Paramaribo. With the façade of the Presidential Palace providing the canvas for innovative lighting and images, the stage was illuminated by a dynamic, fast-paced presentation punctuated by three speeches delivered by President Bouterse, the Honourable Ashwin Adhin, Minister of Education and Community Development of Suriname and Ambassador Irwin LaRocque Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
In launching the 10-day festival, which is being staged under the theme “Culture for Development,”,President Bouterse emphasised that without culture there could be no development in the long term. Culture, he said, united the Region and must be harnessed to deliver economic benefits.
It was a theme which had earlier been touched upon by Secretary-General LaRocque. “CARIFESTA is undergoing a transformation to position it as a space where Caribbean culture and the arts can be promoted to help to improve the economic viability of our Member States,” he said.
The Secretary-General’s statement revolved around three critical aspects of culture’s role and by extension CARIFESTA’S. These were: “Prosperity as our Mission; Integration as our Visions and Culture as our Passion.” He noted that CARIFESTA XI was one of the highlights of celebrations marking the 40th Anniversary of CARICOM and that the Festival was loved by all “because culture is our passion.”
Minister Adhin, in welcoming the more than 30 countries form CARICOM, the rest of the Caribbean, South and Central America and as far afield as Indonesia, India, South Korea and China participating in the festival, pointed out that creativity and cultural expression were driving forces for development. Economic, social and human development could not happen without a cultural engine, he stated.
The festival, which began in 1972 is being held for the second time in Suriname and will feature the visual, performing, literary and culinary arts among others as well as several symposia and workshops. A new feature is the Caribbean Market Place for the Arts which seeks to provide opportunities for young artists from the Region to meet with booking agents, promoters and cultural industry executives to generate business and further their development. CARIFESTA XI ends on Aug. 25.