Carifesta is coming, but why bother?

That Cummingsburg Valentine affair

I suspect that I’ve “grabbed” your attention with my lead caption. Because that’s what I intended: to arrest your interest for the next eight/ten minutes.

We Guyanese have every right, even a sense of “duty” (and pride) to “bother” with Carifesta. Just as tragedy/poverty-prone Haiti should enjoy the distinction of hosting that Caribbean/international event.

So please regard this piece as an attention- getter, an awareness-effort to make you-all sensitive and informed, once again, about the Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts (Carifesta). The twelfth edition is schedule for Haiti this coming August.

I suppose I was active in only four of the eleven festivals held so far but I have written and written so much about it. Partly because I was privileged to be a part of both the 1966 and 1970 writers and artists conferences held here at the behest and patriotic wisdom of Linden Forbes Burnham- the original creator of that festival. A most brief genesis of the beginnings and development in my style.


The Vision, The Genesis – 1966


KAIE- The official Organ of the then National History and Arts Council of Guyana in its Issue No.8 of December 1971- seemed proud to report the following:

Carifesta (the 1972 Festival of the Creative Arts in the Caribbean) can be identified as flowing from the initial vision of the Prime Minister of Guyana, Honourable L.F.S Burnham, and his desire publicly expressed on two historic occasions – the achievement of Guyana’s Independence on May 26, 1966 and the inauguration of the cooperative Republic of Guyana on February 23, 1970.

In 1966 the Prime Minister specially invited a number of outstanding Caribbean personalities to the Caribbean Writers & Artists Conference held at Queen’s College on May 30 under the Chairmanship of Mr. A.J. Seymour, Deputy Chairman of the Guyana National History & Arts Council, and declared open by the Prime Minister himself.

The theme of the Conference was Independence and the freedom of the artist and in his wide ranging speech Mr. Burnham stressed the need for the new nation now that it had achieved political independence and was seeking economic independence, to develop a tradition of artistic independence, since the nation must have its own practising artists. He pledged his word that his Government would do its utmost to create the atmosphere which would encourage artists to cease being émigrés and having to go to London for recognition.

He dreamt of literature inspired by the peculiar temperament of West Indians, of paintings inspired by the tropical jungles of Guyana and the beautiful waters of the Caribbean, of sculpture visualizing the forms of our forefathers in the dim and distant past; of Makonaima and the legend of Kaieteur, of research into the language and arts forms of the Amerindian peoples.


He asked for a manifesto for the arts and artists in the Caribbean. ”I have another dream”, he added, “That every year beginning with the first anniversary of Independence, Guyana will be the venue of a Caribbean Arts Festival, featuring Guyanese and Caribbean artists whose work in poetry, painting and sculpture project our dreams and visions and help to foster and develop a Caribbean and develop a Caribbean personality.”



On the occasion of the inauguration of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, a second Caribbean Writers and Artists Convention was held on February 24, 1970, at Critchlow Labour College, Georgetown, under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Martin Carter, Minister of Information and Culture.

On the occasion also the Prime Minister Honourable L.F.S. Burnham declared the Convention open and in his address he referred to the 1966 Conference and reiterated his desire to stage a Festival. He said:-

“It was approximately four years ago when we held, what I like to think of as, the first Caribbean Conference of Writers and Artists. We all had dreams of this meeting, developing institutionally into an annual affair, a festival, but alas. Like so many of the dreams we have had in the Caribbean this one has not yet come true, at least not formally.


I believe that we can have in the Caribbean our cultural Mecca and I am convinced that we can have a successful Caribbean Festival of Art. Our Caribbean Festival can be, nay, must be, a place to which other people can come, learn, admire and enjoy.”

Forbes Burnham did not wait on his Caribbean brothers, sisters and colleagues, his community’s governments. He decided to make his dream come true: Guyana would host and provide the venue for the first Caribbean-wide Arts and Culture Festival in August 1972. It was to be a momentous decision-destined to leave its pioneering imprimatur on the cultural consciousness of the Caribbean for generations to come.


But Why (Go to) Haiti?


The festival has undergone numerous structural changes since Guyana 1972. Have they been successful? The jury has to be out on that assessment. Why, there was even an unwelcome unnecessarily long hiatus when the festival actually disappeared.

The Caricom Secretariat “befriended” Carifesta’s resuscitation. (Bharrat Jagdeo nobly hosted Carifesta 10 in 2008 when The Bahamas suddenly turned its back. At short notice Bharrat brought back the festival to its home but what were to be its legacies hardly are in evidence today. Even the expenditure (2008) is a mystery seven years on.

Guyana has to embrace this cultural festival of arts. We showcase our versions of Caribbean identity and cultural heritage. We must go with the best we can offer. I would love to be in historic Haiti but I doubt I qualify these days. I’ll still attempt a presence however. Why? Well here are my three personal notes on Haiti, once again.


Perhaps France’s Haitian slaves had heard about Berbice’s Slaves Rebellion in 1763. Because Haitian Rebel Slave Leaders Toussaint L’Ouverture, Dessalines and Christophe pulled off this Region’s first – ever victorious Slave Revolt against their French Colonisers, post 1763. (2) America was to occupy Haiti for two decades and like Haiti’s one–time master France, raided that half–island’s resources and treasuries. Hence Haitians have a “right” to be in the U.S.A., – even more than Cuban or Guyanese immigrants. (3) I’m mesmerized that the other half of Hispaniola – one–time “Spanish” Dominican Republic – is not usually hit by disasters as the other Haitian half is. Why? Should I believe that some God frowns on the Haitian people’s voodooism? Or on the legacy of the Evil Duvaliers?

All that should invite our interest in this early Black Republic of the Caribbean Community, rich in its inspirational history; its culture and longevity against all odds.

Even if I don’t make it to Port–au–Prince, Jacmel, Gonaives, Les Cayes and/or Cap–Haitien, I suggest that groups of Guyanese make plans, save, and find ways to be in Haiti during the last ten days of next August. (More from me, from time to time).



 A Valentine Day accord, affair


Since the “Mysterious M. Maxwell” of the constitutionally–legalistic mind – (what “mystery (?)” – beat me to it on Wednesday, I can now share only my more layman’s views on the origins and consequences of the 2015 Valentine Day’s Coalition Agreement. Especially my own early ambivalence about the Alliance For Change getting so much out of the larger APNU.


You see, as the campaigns began, I was skeptical about the AFC “delivering” ten–twelve- fifteen percent” of the electorate to the joint – slate. (Did they actually?) But I know the value of “when-yuh–own–louse–bite–yuh”. (See how comrades Moses and Khemraj are going after their former colleagues?)

Then something I wrote about earlier this year hit home. The AFC it was single–handedly, who introduced the no–confidence vote. APNU come up behind! N-C vote, prorogation, dissolution, early elections, President Granger! Hail AFC Perhaps they do deserve Prime Minister, Vice–President, government — and some power?

Good for Mr Max despite the constitutional jibes at the Prezzie. Ignore Rohee, Nandlall et al. Don’t be side–tracked or distracted. But allow them to talk and boycott. It’s their right!



 Miscellaneous, think…

Should not the coalition’s 100 days be counted after the last Minister was sworn in?

What about Linden’s/Region Ten’s television station(s)? (Lindeners want A.A.Fenty’s cook up show!)

Will the footballer tell the Americans who gave him the cocaine pellets for his stomach? Or is he like me? Very scared?

Man, I’m concerned, but only a teeny-weeny little concerned: Just what would an active champion Bharrat do in bed for two weeks?



‘Til next week!

(Comments? [email protected])

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