No Representation for Nevis at Carifesta XI!!

No Representation for Nevis at Carifesta XI!!
Minister of Culture Dropped the Ball!
by Halstead Sooty Byron

The 11th staging of the Caribbean Festival of Arts – Carifesta – is currently on going in Suriname over the period August 16 – 25, 2013, under the slogan “Culture for Development”. Carifesta is a demonstration and celebration of all aspects of Caribbean arts and culture encompassing folk arts, visual arts, literary arts, culinary arts, performing arts (music, dance, drama, poetry, storytelling etc), carnival/festival arts, film & animation, symposia & workshops, youth focus, community festivals, fashion, super concerts featuring regional and international mega stars etc. Carifesta XI is ‘celebrating our diversity and promoting the central role in economic, social and human development’. In short, Carifesta is the greatest and best of all things Caribbean.

All fifteen member states of CARICOM are represented at this potpourri of Caribbean arts and culture. Dutch, French, Spanish speaking Caribbean and Latin American countries as well as the Caribbean Diaspora in North America and Europe are also represented. Our masquerades and big drum music as well as cake walk/quadrille folk dances with string band music have long been a prominent feature at Carifesta over the years. At the last Carifesta in 2008 held in Guyana, the Nevisian Masquerades and Big Drum and the St. Kitts Okolo Tegremantine Arts Theatre complimented each other excellently. The exciting high energy performances of both groups commanded rapt attention of huge audiences at the Grand Market and at Community Festivals throughout Guyana. Many invitations from hotels and restaurants had to be turned down because of the tight schedule and high demand for performances by the contingent.

The Federation is represented at Carifesta XI by the Poinciana Theatre Productions of St. Kitts under the leadership of Mr Loughlin Tatem – prolific writer and highly accomplished performer, poet/storyteller, director and dramatist. Mr. Tatem was part of the Federation’s contingent to Carifesta IX in Trinidad & Tobago edutaining many audiences with his poetry and storytelling to rave reviews. I have no doubt that the Federation will be well represented by Mr. Tatem and his group of young talented theatre performers and that they will make us all proud.

Sadly, for the first time in its forty-one year history, there will no delegates from Nevis at Carifesta. This is a great disappointment and setback for all artistic and cultural enthusiasts in Nevis. All of the silly excuses citing lack of funds put forward by the powers that be must be utterly and totally rejected and condemned by all artistes and cultural practitioners in Nevis. Why is it that cultural and social development programs must always bear the brunt of the from the financial cut throats whenever there is a so called “scarcity of funds”? On the contrary, it is these human development programs that should be the critical areas to be addressed during times of financial difficulties.

Before leaving office, Mr. Joseph Parry as Minister of Culture had designated that, in keeping with the theme of Carifesta XI and to give exposure to more of the island’s performing artistes, the Kore Band with its pioneering sounds and wide variety of performances across numerous genres and its exciting and talented singers/performers would be invited to represent Nevis at this signature event and celebration. Formal discussions may not have commenced with the bands management at the change of government but there was sufficient time to do so to meet the February 28 registration deadline. Mr. Chesley Faro Davis communicated this information to the new NCDF Board Chairman and its new CEO as well as officials of the Federal Ministry of Culture, albeit informally, through which registration had to be done.

Of course, the new administration was not obligated to follow through with these plans. They had the right to choose whomsoever they wanted to represent the island. But why is it that even the smallest of contingents was not selected to represent Nevis at this premier Caribbean festival, which is said to be one of the biggest and most established regional festival in the world?

Certainly NCDF Board member Abdul Ahmed, a leading proponent of Caribbean film and one who had done much to promote the art form in recent times, would have made an excellent representative. Other members of the NCDF Board and staff as well as Culturama Committee members and officials could have benefitted from exposure as observers and participants at the many symposia and workshops on offer. Solo performances in Poetry and Storytelling by Tafari Ayinde and or Chesley Manners could have been considered. What about a display and live demonstrations by renowned Nevisian artist Mr. Vaughn Anslyn. The Minister of Culture himself or his representative should have grasped at the opportunity to attend Carifesta XI and interact with the major players in Caribbean arts and culture in an effort to attract a constant flow of top quality performers to NEPAC and perhaps to Culturama 40.

Mr. Minister, you dropped the ball on this one. While you headed north to mingle with the “stars” who care little or nothing about the cultural development of our small little known beautiful island and its artistically and culturally inclined people, you should have provided the wherewithal to send a small but significant contingent to Suriname, to share and exchange realistic ideas with our own Caribbean brothers and sisters involved in this plethora of arts and culture. Carifesta is a magnificent cultural phenomenon that can bring untold benefits to the development of our island and its youth and people. Culture is the root of all development. In going forward let us never forget this!

“A people without a knowledge of their history and culture is like a tree without roots!”
Marcus Mosiah Garvey

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