Carifesta XII ready and waiting Four Haitian cities in the spotlight

Boukman Eksperyans, one of Haiti's best known music bands, had guests on their feet as Carifesta XII was launched in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince last Tuesday.

The band's rousing performance capped a week of location tours and planning meetings by culture officials and artistic directors from across the Caribbean. It was the final regional-level meeting before the opening of the Caribbean's largest art and performance festival in just over a month's time. Senior Haitian officials at the final night's gala dinner and performance included the Minister of Culture, Joan Dithny Raton; ambassador to Caricom, Peterson Noel and Elsa Baussan Noel, chairperson of Carifesta XII.

Carifesta XII will run for ten days, from August 21 to 30. The Festival will be decentralised over four cities, Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Gonaives and Cap Haitien. As the central location, Port-au-Prince will carry a full schedule of events running for the ten days of Carifesta at 16 different locations. Artistic director is Philippe Dodard, one of Haiti's most respected artists.

In line with tradition, all participating countries will be on parade at the official opening ceremony on August 21. At the finale event on August 30, the baton will be passed to Barbados as the host of Carifesta XIII in 2017.

Most of the Carifesta activity will be in Port-au-Prince. These include performances by visiting contingents, art exhibitions, artisanal art, dance, nightly concerts by special acts, food, fashion, film, animation, story-telling and special programmes for young people.

On August 23, the northern city of Cap Haitien joins the action with a beach concert at Place Gelee.

From August 24-26, events at the town of Gonaives will kick in with a series of tours for those interested in seeing traditional voudou ceremonies and visiting the area's historical sites.

The city of Jacmel, famous for its papier mache masks, will add additional momentum to Carifesta with activities from August 28 to 30. These include the inauguration of the Jacmel Centre for Carnival, animated films including a musical on carnival, light shows, a carnival parade of masks and its finale event, the Festival de Musique on August 30.

Addressing the gathering at Hotel Ibo Lele at the launch, Dr Hilary Brown, programme manager for Culture and Development at the Caricom Secretariat, described Haiti's hosting of Carifesta as a “homecoming event”. Noting the theme of “Our roots, our culture, our common future”, Dr Brown said the region is looking to Haiti to present “a high quality event” that brings it a step closer to realising the new vision of Carifesta as a “world-renowned mega festival of Caribbean cultural and artistic excellence that brings economic benefits, unites the region and excites all peoples”.

The Carifesta Committee is currently in talks with several airlines in the region regarding special packages for visitors to Carifesta XII in Haiti.

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