By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname — As Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse, backed by several of his cabinet ministers and members of parliament, performed a farewell song on stage, the eleventh edition of the Caribbean Festival of Arts and Culture (CARIFESTA XI) came to a close in Paramaribo on Sunday night.
Just minutes earlier during a brief ceremony, Bouterse handed over the torch of the region’s most prominent arts and culture festival to his colleague Michel Martelly from Haiti. Haiti will host the festival in 2015, as agreed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government during their annual meeting in July 2012 in Castries, St Lucia.
Bouterse noted that “with great pride and joy” Suriname concluded the festivities, which were filled “with passionate movements, rhythmic beats, stunning images, moving storytelling, and exquisite tastes”. He further stressed the call of the youth, who called upon the leaders of the region to build environmentally responsible communities, which the youngsters of the several countries demonstrated by building “their own green Youth Village”.
“The celebration of culture has indeed shown us who we are and what we have. In this festival of cultural extravaganza, we are once again reminded that nurturing our cultural heritage is key to our development. It is only when we know ourselves, respect ourselves and feel deep pride for our cultural wealth, that we can charter with confidence our path in the world,” Bouterse said during the closing ceremony.
The president further argued that connecting the peoples in the region through their “mutual passions will help us focus on the South American and Caribbean reality and strengthen us in achieving true development for our nations.”
The Caribbean should learn from the drawbacks during CARIFESTA XI, Bouterse pointed out.
“But from the lessons learned we can bring the festival to a higher level in the future,” he said before passing the baton, a mahogany woodcarving, to Martelly.
“It is only through events like this one that we can get to know each other. It is only through events like this one that we can get in one movement,” Martelly said in accepting the responsibility of organising the next CARIFESTA event in his country.
Martelly, Bouterse and Haitian-born American hip hop star Wyclef Jean subsequently performed Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ and ‘No woman, no cry’ to launch CARIFESTA XII.
Speaking on behalf of CARICOM, assistant secretary Colin Granderson noted, “This has been a very vibrant and exciting ten days of sharing and showcasing the many dimensions of our rich Caribbean culture, and that of our many visiting contingents of artists from UNASUR and other friends from outside our region.”
He added that, during the festivities, participants celebrated the Caribbean’s diversity in all art forms, from the performing to the visual, literary, culinary and many other art forms, including film, fashion and craft.
Suriname also implemented some bold and important new initiatives in CARIFESTA XI, which should be commended, Granderson added.
“The Caribbean Marketplace for the Arts where international booking agents and art promoters attended the Festival to see Caribbean artistes was an important initiative to take Caribbean culture to the world and to give professional support to our artistes. This is an initiative that should continue in all CARIFESTAs,” he said, applauding the initiative.
Also the inclusion of the mass choir presentations, animation and Anansi were events that celebrate youth and present new opportunities for young artistes to develop while, according to the CARICOM official, safeguarding Caribbean heritage and identity.
Haiti’s national motto “L’Union fait la Force” (Unity is our strength) will now be the guiding force, Granderson said, as they receive the cultural baton of responsibility for hosting CARIFESTA, a “shining example of Caribbean integration and togetherness, and advancing the Community’s vision to ‘promote cultural and artistic excellence, realise economic benefits, unite the region and excite all peoples’”.
With Bouterse as lead vocal, assisted by the vice-president, legislators and several ministers, including foreign affairs minister Winston Lackin on drums and minister Stanley Betterson of regional development on keyboard, the government thanked the Surinamese people and visitors for their support and participation.
As a prelude to what the region can expect in 2015, the Haitian delegation showcased some of what Haiti has to offer and eventually the curtain came down on the festival with a spectacular fireworks show at Independence Square.