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Fantastic CARIFESTA XI blazing trails

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)  Fantastic was the word used by Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to describe CARIFESTA XI which is in progress in Paramaribo and other regions of Suriname.

Speaking after witnessing the opening weekend and participating in the launch of the Caribbean Marketplace for the Arts and the Youth Village on Monday, the Secretary-General said anyone visiting the event would have been blown away by the explosion of talent they would have witnessed. Ambassador LaRocque said “it has been a great experience and the theme “Culture as Development” should be viewed as an end in its own right and as a catalyst for development overall.”

He was also high in praise of the efforts by the Government of Suriname and the organising committee of CARIFESTA XI. “From the magical evening that was the opening ceremony, to the Grand Market, the Community Festivals, the Youth Village as well as on the streets Suriname has embraced CARIFESTA. That is testimony to the hard work of the organising committee and the full support of the Government of Suriname,” the Secretary-General said.

The variety of artistic expression on display has been complemented by a taste of Suriname’s diversity through the Community Festivals being staged all across the country as an integral part of CARIFESTA XI. An example of these festivals is one at Fort Niu Amsterdam, an hour’s drive from Paramaribo. At the sprawling complex, visitors experience both the Amerindian and Maroon way of life through small replica villages in which Maroons and Amerindians demonstrate their craft and culinary skills including unique beverages and meals.

The complex also contains a museum dedicated to the African tradition as well as a memorial and tribute to the contribution of Surinamese military personnel in wars overseas. The visitors are also treated to performances by visiting contingents set in a picnic area.

The Grand Market is the hub of CARIFESTA with booths from the 30 participating countries and local commercial and civil organisations. The display of craft, art, literature and country information draws thousands on a daily basis who are also attracted to the country performances on the grand stage and the very popular food court which features cooks and dishes from across the Caribbean and further afield on a daily basis.

Although the Youth Village is not a new element, the decision to create a Green Village has been lauded as an innovative initiative by all including the President of Suriname His Excellency Desi Bouterse who is also Lead Head of Government In CARICOM for Community Development and Culture, a portfolio which includes Gender Issues, Youth and Sport. The opening of the village on Monday night brought thousands of youths to the site to enjoy a concert with DJs from across the Region and live acts.

The village, supported by a renewable energy and an Information Technology company, features a completely solar powered house, a garden area and creative craft and food items based on the green theme. There are also activities to attract the young and young at heart including educational booths and practical demonstrations of selected skills such as body painting and other visual arts and the use of information technology.

At the Caribbean Marketplace for the Arts, which is a new feature of the festival, young and emerging artists from the Region have been brought together with booking agents, promoters and marketing experts from around the world to guide them on benefitting from their talents. The very well attended four day series of symposia and workshops began on Monday and is a step in the direction of furthering cultural industries as a major factor in the economic development of the Community.

The ground breaking initiative had its genesis at a previous edition of CARIFESTA held in Suriname in 2003 under the direction of the late Surinamese playwright and cultural activist Henk Tjon. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture in Suriname, Mr Stanley Sidoel noted that the Marketplace would be a legacy of CARIFESTA XI as well as a starting point for encouraging careers in the cultural industries.

As CARIFESTA XI blazes trails in Suriname, what Secretary-General LaRocque described as the “callalloo of cultures melting as one” has excited the thousands who have been flocking to the various sites.

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