Garifuna Summit 2017 kicks off with informative discussion
March 10, 2017
Garifuna Summit 2017 kicks off with informative discussion

The fourth International Garifuna Summit began last Tuesday with an informative comparison of the histories of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Dominica.

Under the theme: “Celebrating Our Indigenous History, Heritage and Cultures – From Mainland to Islands and Return: Strengthening links, forging networks, claiming ancestral space,” the opening ceremony heard its keynote address from Dominican historian and author Dr Lennox Honychurch.

During his address, Honychurch explored and compared the history, geography and agriculture of the two island-states.

Honychurch said the understanding of the islands’ history is “very thin” and there is a need for the new generation to use oral history and the knowledge of the Garifuna descendants to put together the “jigsaw puzzle” of how things were done, using the natural resources available.

“As the world gets more and more polluted and as the world gets more and more desperate for its resources and its rainfall and its water, it is important for us to think again about the way we live on this land and think again about the Garifuna, the Kalinago and the respect that they had for the islands on which we live.”

Honychurch noted that historians are working towards influencing a new rediscovery and respect for indigenous knowledge and indigenous natural life.

Also speaking at the ceremony, president of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation (TGHF) David “Darkie” Williams noted that the Garifuna heritage is proudly practised and displayed in North and Central America and now Vincentians must look to the diaspora to assist in the repatriation of the lost culture.

According to Williams there are well over 120,000 Garifuna people living in New York and the connection being made with the diaspora is done in an effort to retrieve, reclaim and possibly practice the heritage, which is an important aspect of the island’s historic landscape.

The opening ceremony also heard remarks from chairperson on the conference’s committee Vanessa Demirciyan, Minister of Culture Cecil Mckie and head of the UWI Open Campus Deborah Dalrymple.

Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne and members of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance at the Summit’s opening. On Wednesday, the public was invited to the Summit’s main event, the International Garifuna Conference, which was held at the Peace Memorial Hall.

Documentaries and full-length films on the history, lives and times of the Garifuna were screened on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and a Garifuna Village and Craft Market Centre has been set up on the grounds of the old Public Library.

Celebrations continue today, Friday, March 10, with the third national school’s Garifuna folk festival, which would be held under the theme “Children of Chatoyer; Fruits of Heritage.”

This festival would be held with the single objective of informing students of the island’s history. It will see students from various primary and secondary schools in attendance. This year, each participating student would contribute one item that emphasizes the theme, whether in the form of dance, skits, folk songs, monologues, storytelling or instrumentals.

Additionally, from Friday, March 10 to Sunday, March 12, the Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York, and the Garifuna music band ‘Generation X’ will showcase modern Garifuna dance and music at the Peace Memorial Hall, Heritage Square and at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC), as part of the International Music, Dance and Cultural Festival.

All activities culminate with the wreath laying ceremony and journey to Greiggs for the annual Heroes’ Day Festival on March 14.