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CARIFESTA XIII – An opportunity for Regional economic progress

Asserting our future, celebrating ourselves is the theme for the thirteenth  Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA XIII), which  takes place in Barbados on August 17-27, 2017.

CARIFESTA has been the Caribbean Community’s premier art and culture festival since 1972. This roving event attracts artists and culture professionals from over 30 countries in the Region and has been held 12 times across eight Member States. The thirteenth staging of this mega cultural showcase will see performers, artists and a range of cultural ambassadors from the CARICOM Region converging in a medley of sounds and sights that are sure to capture the true essence of Regional Integration.

I would encourage everyone to come and experience CARIFESTA XIII in Barbados. It is an exciting celebration of Caribbean arts and culture where you can enjoy the artistic presentations of artists from 27 countries in our region in a wide range of disciplines over 10 days. There will be over 500 performances and events to choose from, so there will never be a dull moment” says Dr. Hillary Brown, Programme Manager Culture and Community Development at the CARICOM Secretariat.


The main purpose of CARIFESTA,  a mandate of the CARICOM Heads of Government, is to celebrate the arts and foster a vision of Caribbean unity while advancing Caribbean culture regionally and internationally. In its original design, the festival was to be held every four years, however it is now hosted every two years, with the responsibility for doing so traditionally being shared by the Caribbean Community, its Secretariat and the host country.

Barbados is hosting this event for the second time; the first being in 1981. Other Member States that have hosted this Community iconic event are: Guyana (1972, 2008), Jamaica (1976), Cuba (1979), Trinidad and Tobago (1992, 1995, 2006), St. Kitts and Nevis (2000), Suriname (2003, 2013) and Haiti (2015).

Strengthening the Region’s creative industries

CARIFESTA XIII will  place significant focus  on strengthening the Region’s creative industries. and will feature an expanded Marketplace component with the creation of a Buyers Shopping Mall at the CARIFESTA XIII Grand Market at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

According to Festival Director, Ms. Andrea Wells, the Buyers Shopping Mall will be an upgrade of the usual CARIFESTA Grand Market, where cultural artisans normally have the opportunity to display and sell their items.  CARIFESTA XIII organisers have also made arrangements for buyers from across the world to meet with, review and sample the various arts and services that will be on display at the Grand Market. The aim is to link them to bigger markets in Europe, North America, and South America.

Dr. Brown says this expanded Caribbean Marketplace for the Arts is intended to generate more business opportunities for Caribbean artists, through interactions with international buyers who have been invited to the Festival.  “This is an important activity that is in keeping with the region’s efforts to develop creative and cultural industries”, she explained.

CARIFESTA is being hosted in Barbados at a time when that country has demonstrated its commitment to the development of cultural industries through the passing of legislation that give incentives to artists, cultural businesses and entrepreneurs in 2015.

But why is it so important to focus on CARICOM’s creative industries at this juncture? The answer lies in the fact that, over the years, in several developed countries, creative industries are emerging as a strategic choice for reinvigorating economic growth, employment and social cohesion. These industries  have been making significant contributions to the economies of  the world in  similar fashion to that  of traditional industries    The United Kingdom’s creative industries for example, contribute almost £90bn net to GDP and accounts for one in eleven jobs. In the case of  South Africa, that country’s first cultural and creative industries mapping study  done in 2014  showed that their cultural industries had created between 162,809 and 192,410 jobs. This accounts for approximately 1.08% to 1.28% of employment in the country.

It is clear that Cultural Industries have made a significant contribution to economies worldwide and the aim is for  CARICOM to further capitalise on this industry so its economies can get a well needed boost.

 In an address to a recently held meeting of CARICOM’s Regional Cultural Committee, Minister of Culture for Barbados Hon. Stephen Lashley,  made reference to the aforementioned statistics, noting that the cultural industries hold the key to the urgent diversification of the region's economies. According to him, the Region does not need to look very far to see the huge economic benefit of this sector to the economies of other countries.  He posited that it was now critical, given the  challenges facing our economies, for there to be a refocusing of economic policies that result in deliberate action to divert financing from some traditional sectors to those cultural industries with potential to help solve some of the challenges.

Displaying the Region’s Creativity

But CARIFESTA XIII is not all about boosting the economies of the Region. The festival will also highlight the diversity of the CARICOM countries while showcasing their rich mutual cultural similarities and put on display the creativity of the Region.  There will be a range of events and activities to look forward to. The Rock Hall Living Museum, which takes place on SundayAugust 20, at the Rock Hall Freedom Village, St. Thomas, will be one of the free events which celebrates the establishment of the first free Barbadian village in 1841 after Emancipation. This activity will commemorate elements of African ancestry and the contribution of the former enslaved and their descendants. Additionally, there will be a Youth Village (August 18-26) at the Barbados Community College that incorporates dance, music, drama, workshops, tours and competitions for the children.

Other  activities include a symposium at the University of the West Indies, visual arts showcases at various galleries, concerts showcasing dance and music as well as the spoken word; and, of course, theatre highlighting the acting and production skills from across the Region. The opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the Kensington Oval. The closing ceremony will incorporate a super concert that will bring down the curtain on what is being dubbed the greatest celebration of Caribbean culture this summer.

In  summing it up, Dr. Brown says persons should make the effort to attend because “this CARIFESTA will feature outstanding or “signal” performances and events in dance, the visual and literary arts. There will be tributes to our greats like George Lamming, Sir Derek Walcott, and Kamau Brathwaite and acclaimed Haitian author Edwidge Danticat.  The Youth Village has a packed programme for a wide age range of youth so there will be fun things to do for everyone.” 

So there is indeed quite a lot to look forward to at this thirteenth staging of the Caribbean Festival of Arts!

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