High hopes for CARIFESTA

CARIFESTA XIII, which comes off in Barbados later this year, will be the best to date.

That’s what local organizers are promising as the island prepares to host hundreds of its regional neighbours and international friends at the region’s premier festival from August 17-22.

Through the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, recently gave a sneak peak of the island’s plans which are already in full train for the summer event.

Chief Cultural Officer and delegation leader Andrea Wells (left) and Cultural Officer for the visual arts Rodney IfIll (right) speaking to Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley about the work of Barbadian artisans in the Barbados booth at CARIFESTA XII.
Former Haitian President Michel Martelly (left) passes the baton to Culture Minister Stephen Lashley at CARIFESTA XII.

CARIFESTA, which was first held in Guyana in 1972, was intended to celebrate Caribbean artists and provide them with a platform to share their creativity and culture.

Lashley says more than four decades later, the festival remains a powerful unifying force and is more than just an event. He stressed that it should be utilized to strengthen the region’s development.

According to Lashley, CARIFESTA is “no longer a festival where artistes meet and just have a show or display a few cultural performances”. Rather, he said it must now connect with the vision of Caribbean governments to use their cultural industries sectors to “propel us to new vistas of economic growth and development”.

“Our hosting of CARIFESTA at this time is certainly key to our strategic platforming for economic growth, and using creativity is a key plank of that . . . ,” he said. “We expect that CARIFESTA will attract a significant number of visitors; this will also translate into heightened economic activity. Barbados has a great opportunity in terms of the impact that CARIFESTA can have on the economy.”

Tantalizing the imagination, Lashley touted big plans for the usual spectacular opening and closing ceremonies, the super concerts featuring some of the region’s top artistes, and sultry country nights.

But more than that, patrons will be treated to a fresh and improved Grand Market, the centrepiece of the two-week show case.

The Grand Market at CARIFESTA is one of the major events.

Lashley says the Grand Market will this time around include a Buyer’s Shopping Mall. He explained that this was intended to give buyers the opportunity to visit an exhibition of cultural goods and services in a market place environment, which exclusively features Caribbean creative products.

Lashley also noted that one of the main goals was for CARIFESTA to reflect the region’s move to fast track the development of the cultural industries.

“Since 1981, so much has happened in terms of the cultural landscape of the region . . . . Several countries, including Barbados, have gone the route of placing a lot of emphasis on the creative sector, and the cultural industries today loom large as being a new frontier for economic development, ” Lashley said.

“CARIFESTA, within the context of 2017 and going forward, would have to reflect the realities of what is happening within the region,” he added.

This is the second time Barbados will host the regional festival; the first time being in 1981. This year’s theme is: Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves.

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