August 13, 2013

Vincentian contingent off to Carifesta

Tue Aug 13, 2013

On Friday of this week, the gala opening of the 11th CARIFESTA, the Caribbean’s premier cultural festival, will take place in Paramaribo, the capital of CARICOM’s most southerly member-state, Suriname. It will be the second time that Suriname will host the event, having done so 10 years ago, and the multi-cultural event is expected to run until August 25.{{more}}

CARIFESTA itself was initiated by CARICOM heads of Government in 1972, after calls by prominent cultural icons throughout the region. The aim was “to foster a vision of Caribbean unity to positively advocate Caribbean culture, regionally and internationally”. The first ever festival in this series took place in Guyana and that country, a neighbour to Suriname, also hosted the one previous to this year’s events, in 2008. Other host nations include Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Kitts/Nevis and Cuba, the only non-CARICOM nation to host the festival, in the memorable year of 1979.

The 2013 version is being held under the theme “Culture for diversity: celebrating our diversity and promoting the central role of culture in economic, social and human development.” There are ambitious plans for the participation of countries far beyond the Caribbean area to include eight South American countries, China, South Korea and, reflecting Suriname’s historical connections, Curacao and Indonesia. All the major language groups in the Caribbean area will therefore showcase their cultural heritage and the multi-ethnic host nation will no doubt emphasize its diverse cultural roots.

When CARIFESTA was initiated, hopes were high that it could become not only a pre-eminent regional cultural festival, but, given the history of the Caribbean and its diversity, a global event of much significance. There is clearly much potential in that regard. Over the years, however, the vacillation of Caribbean governments, their lacklustre approach to cultural development, and weaknesses and lack of unity among the cultural community in the region have retarded the development and flourishing of the festival. There was even a period of 11 years, between 1981 and 1992, when there was no CARIFESTA held.

Our country’s own participation in the festival has not been as consistent as it ought to be. Time and time again, it is only on the eve of the festival that there is word about whether a Vincentian contingent is to participate. There have been problems in securing funding and the selection process of artistes to perform has not always been clear. This has left some bitterness among many of our artistes and performers and only weakens the sense of commitment to the process that ought to be present.

It is heartening to hear that at least there will be some Vincentian presence this year, but once more there is a lack of publicity, a failure to galvanize our people to show interest in and to support the festival. We wish the Vincentian contingent well and can only hope that post-CARIFESTA XI, some stock-taking will be made of the festival, our participation in it and in mobilising our people in that effort.