Bajans a hit at CARIFESTA

In a melting pot of diverse Caribbean culture, Barbados is fully on show as it shares its unique traditions with its regional neighbours and the thousands converged in Haiti for the 12th edition of CARIFESTA.

Under the theme Our Roots, Our Culture, Our Common Future, teams from the 20 plus nations registered have been interchanging their dance, cuisine, fashion, cinema, visual arts, literature, music, theatre, arts and craft.

Barbados contingent arriving at La Plaza hotel in Port au Prince Bare accompanied by protocol agents and security detail.
Barbados contingent arriving at La Plaza hotel in Port au Prince Bare accompanied by protocol agents and security detail.

Five cities across Haiti –– Port au Prince, Jacmel, Cap Haiten, Gonaives and Cayes –– are bursting with the colour, sounds and smell of all things Caribbean.

“The Haitian people have made us feel very welcome with their hospitality and warmth,” says Andrea Wells, chief cultural officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).

The premiere was held on Friday with its explosion of creativity and exotic colour in a grand parade through the Haitian capital. Crowds lined the street, dancing in excitement as they witnessed Barbados’ Mother Sally and tuk band; Guyana’s masqueraders parade; the red, white and black-clad contingent from Trinidad and Tobago; as well as fully costumed teams from Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, St Lucia and others showing off their distinctive offerings. This would all culiminate in a grand concert, which could not be stopped even by the showers –– that were considered a blessing.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley was among key speakers at the event. Delivering a written address by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, he stressed that culture was the link that bound the region together. “Our Caribbean identity exists by virtue of the values, practices, conventions, and habits that we share . . . . CARIFESTA expresses both the striving for and articulation of our regional identity which, of necessity, can only be achieved collectively.”

Chief cultural officer and delegation leader Andrea Wells (at left) and cultural officer for the visual arts Rodney IfIll (at right) speaking to Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley about the work of Barbadian artisans in the Barbados booth.
Chief cultural officer and delegation leader Andrea Wells (at left) and cultural officer for the visual arts Rodney IfIll (at right) speaking to Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley about the work of Barbadian artisans in the Barbados booth.

The nine-day festival has been continuing with a range of activities, including the Grand Market in Champs de Mar, a giant space for exhibitions under a variety of artistic categories, as well as a centre of activities for the youth.

Wells admits there have been some logistical hiccups, but the chief cultural officer is pleased with the response to Barbados’ offerings. The Barbados team comprises stilt-walkers, musicians, spoken word artists, as well as various representatives of the Barbados Landship, the literary and culinary arts, and other performers and artists.

Geoffrey Biggie Irie Cordle (at right) was a hit on the main stage during Country Night at the Grand Market. He is accompanied here by Aisha Butcher and Brandi Browne on vocals.
Geoffrey Biggie Irie Cordle (at right) was a hit on the main stage during Country Night at the Grand Market. He is accompanied here by Aisha Butcher and Brandi Browne on vocals.

“The responses to Barbados’ presentations have been overwhelmingly positive, especially that at the opening ceremony where the comparatively small group made a big impact.

“Our fine art, literary, craft and culinary exhibits are also gaining positive reviews with our artistes’ creativity and quality of product being repeatedly commended,” Wells said.

In another two years, it will be Barbados’ turn to roll out the red carpet for its Caribbean neighbours when it hosts the 13th edition of CARIFESTA.

At the closing ceremony Minister Lashley will formally accept the baton from Haiti to signal the start of preparations for CARIFESTA in Barbados.

Chief cultural officer and delegation leader Andrea Wells (at left) and cultural officer for the visual arts Rodney IfIll (at right) speaking to Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley about the work of Barbadian artisans in the Barbados booth.
Chief cultural officer and delegation leader Andrea Wells (at left) and cultural officer for the visual arts Rodney IfIll (at right) speaking to Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley about the work of Barbadian artisans in the Barbados booth.

Wells said Barbados was soaking in all it could in Haiti to be ready for its own big event.

“There are many lessons being learned, and full recommendations will be made to Barbados’ Ministry of Culture after our experiences in Haiti to inform our planning for 2017.”

(Photos provided by NCF/Shango Films) 

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