(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to be here with all of you at the Closing Ceremony of the Eleventh Caribbean Festival of Arts and to deliver these brief remarks on behalf of the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, H.E Mr. Irwin LaRocque. 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.
I wish to congratulate you, President Bouterse, and your hard working CARIFESTA XI team, in having successfully organized and delivered CARIFESTA XI and creating a space where all participating artists and officials were able to explore the theme of CARIFESTA XI – Culture for Development. Over the past 10 days we have celebrated our 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. The Caribbean Marketplace for the Arts where international booking agents and art promoters attended the Festival to see Caribbean artists was an important initiative to take Caribbean culture to the world and to give professional support to our artists. This is an initiative that should continue in all CARIFESTAs. Other new elements such as the mass choir presentations, Animation and Anansi were ones which celebrate youth and present new opportunities for young artists to develop, while safeguarding our Caribbean heritage and identity. I know that everyone who attended CARIFESTA XI will leave with a lasting memory of an unforgettable performance or cultural expression they saw or experienced.
I would also like to commend the Youth Focus Programme and the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors in making sure that our young people were fully engaged in CARIFESTA; organizing activities, giving technical and other support, and enjoying the exploration of who we are as a people. Engaging our young people is critical to the continuity and sustainability of this quintessential Caribbean Festival.
Standing here on the Onafhankelijkheidsplein – Independence Square – in the centre of the historic “wooden city of Paramaribo” which has been the main stage and elegant backdrop for CARIFESTA XI since the 16th of August, we can look back with satisfaction on what has been a rich and colourful artistic extravaganza. Mr. President, I would like to assure you that as one Caribbean family, we all share in the joys and successes of our collaboration, and take joint responsibility for any shortcomings. That strong spirit of Caribbean-ness has dominated throughout the Festival and made us proud.
I also wish to congratulate Suriname on their efforts to implement the new model for CARIFESTA which is intended to take the Festival to a higher level of excellence, to generate economic benefits, engage Caribbean people and create new pathways to success for our Caribbean artists. Suriname has managed, with the support of its Caribbean counterparts, to place this country, the Region and CARIFESTA on the cultural world map.
On behalf of the Secretary General, and the entire Caribbean Community, I extend our deepest appreciation and thanks to the many countries and organizations in and outside the Region that have participated and contributed so significantly to the success of CARIFESTA XI.
To the Government of Suriname, the Host Country Management Committee, the CARIFESTA XI technical team and all the supporting committees, staff and volunteers, I extend our sincere appreciation for your commitment, long hours, hard work and cheerful spirit. We thank the people of Suriname for their warm and generous hospitality that made our stay such a pleasant and memorable one. Proficiat, Suriname – congratulations!
I also wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work done by the members of the Interim Festival Directorate – our regional management body for CARIFESTA – as well as the Regional Cultural Committee and our staff of the CARICOM Secretariat, who all have worked tirelessly in supporting the delivery of the Festival.
But all good things must come to an end, and so as the curtain comes down on CARIFESTA XI, we now look forward to the preparations for CARIFESTA XII in yet another beautiful sister state – the Republic of Haiti. We thank the President of Haiti for the kind offer to host, made at the Thirty-Third Meeting of Heads of Government in St. Lucia in July 2012, which has been graciously accepted by our Heads of Government. The presence here with us this evening of the President of Haiti, H.E. Michel Joseph Martelly, signals the strong commitment of Haiti to its role as the next host of the CARIFESTA.
President Martelly, we also thoroughly enjoyed your performance last night here at Independence Square – you created another special memorable moment for all of us at CARIFESTA XI.
Haiti’s national motto “L’Union fait la Force” (Unity is our strength) will now be the guiding force as they receive the cultural baton of responsibility for hosting CARIFESTA, this 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.”
I wish you all a safe journey back home. Waka bun, un ala, mati fu CARIFESTA… take care everyone, friends of CARIFESTA. It was wonderful to be here in Suriname; see you again in 2015 in Haiti at CARIFESTA XII.