Twenty-six nations participate in Carifesta

A Guyanese tiger leads a rainforest display during the opening of the Caribbean Festival of the Arts in Barbados.
Photo by George Alleyne

A Trinidadian Red Devil, a marauding Guyanese tiger, flouncing Bermudians, and Barbadian stilt walkers were among the 1,500 artists and performers who pranced and danced their way from Queen’s Park to Kensington Oval Sunday to declare open the 13th Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts.

A total of 26 nations, from Guyana and Venezuela in the south to Bermuda in the north, invaded Barbados for this 11-day cultural extravaganza that promises to showcase all the Caribbean has to offer in traditional practices and beliefs.

Among those nations is for the first time a Diaspora group from Canada representing the many people of the Caribbean who have made that North American country home.

The colourful Sunday opening that climaxed at the Oval with each nation announcing its presence in song and dance, was two days late owing to the passage of Tropical Storm Harvey that damaged some Barbadian households Friday on its way to put discomfort in the Windward Islands.

But the energy displayed on the Bridgeton roadways Sunday as the teams tramped to the Oval showed the typical resilience of a Caribbean people whose lives are affected for six months of every year by Hurricanes or threats of storms.

With the opening festivities aside, countries will now have individual platforms to not only display their unique twist to Caribbean culture, but also there will be joint theatrical productions of dance, mime, and expressive acting, nation markets, along with a number of symposia discussing the life and significance of cultural icons from Marcus Garvey to Derek Walcott.

Speaking at Kensington Oval Sunday night Barbadian Culture Minister, Stephen Lashley noted that Carifesta as a Festival “was birthed in the imaginations of our Caribbean Literary Artists as far back as 1967 at a Writers’ Conference at the University of Kent, in England. Those great sons of the Caribbean soil, among them George Lamming, C. L. R. James, Andrew Salkey and Samuel Selvon, were inspired to advocate for the staging of a major arts festival within the Caribbean which would bring Caribbean Artistes together.

“The vision of those bold cultural ambassadors was realized when their resolution for the staging of a Caribbean Arts Festival was favorably considered by the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference and the first edition of Carifesta held in Guyana in 1972.”

Financial constraints among the nations of the region caused a temporary halt of this form of collective Caribbean expression until a revival of the cultural party in 1992.

Lashley noted, “we have found the strength within ourselves to survive, a practice adopted during enslavement and colonization. Our cultural moorings were always our anchors of sanity and stability. Carifesta therefore remains the best opportunity for the region to respond to these threats, as it challenges us to look within ourselves and to our special traditions.

“It ought to remind us that we need now more than ever to work even harder towards full regional integration, by our presence here this evening we must as a proud Caribbean people rededicate ourselves to the dream of our forefathers of a united Caribbean, politically, economically and socially.”

Caribbean lifestyle is alive in Carifesta and promises to have Barbados bubbling in this cultural melting pot over the next week and a half.

A Trinidadian Red Devil was among the Trinidad delegation participating in the opening of Carifesta in Barbados.
Photo by George Alleyne

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