This is the briefest of reminiscences of the Caribbean Festival of the Arts – Carifesta. Another edition of this Caribbean Community cultural mega–event begins in Barbados next Thursday. For me, every Carifesta evokes recall of the visionary and integration-specific brilliance of the late Forbes Burnham.
This week marked thirty-two years since Burnham’s earthly departure and his creation Carifesta is 45 years-old when it begins in “Little England” Barbados next week.
Like him or not, Forbes Burnham’s robust participation in the genesis of both Carifta and Caricom, then his relentless pursuit and ultimately his virtual single-handed execution of the first festival in Georgetown in 1972 (August) secure his stature as a Caribbean thinker of excellence.
Mind you, one evening at the Kuru Kuru College on that highway Forbes Sampson revealed to a small group of us just what he thought of some then Caribbean leaders and their (selfish) approach to the region’s economic integration. I’ll never share his views back then publicly, delivered over some shots of his favourite whiskey or bourbon.
But even his exhortations as he conceptualised Carifesta in May 1966 testify to his statesman-like integrationist commitment.
At that May 1966 Conference, themed Independence and the Freedom of the Artist, he dreamt of a Caribbean Nation. Said he “Instead of a group of islands masquerading as independent States and believing that they can strive in this twentieth century world (we have to think as a community, a nation.)”
He called upon that first conference to emerge with concrete proposals as to what could be done “to help develop an identity of our own; to discover who we are and to appreciate the area and the people of the world that is Caribbean.”
I was there
Every “Carifesta-time” I wax sentimental because, you see, I was a young teacher in May 1966 imbibing Burnham’s, cultural and identity dreams as he spoke at Queen’s College.
When nothing happened concerning the Caribbean Festival he had mooted in independence month 1966, he spoke again at another writers and artist’s conference during Republic month February 1970. Again, yours truly took a day from teaching to hear Burnham – at the Critchlow Labour College – lament: “Approximately four years ago we had dreams of this meeting developing institutionally into an annual affairs, a festival, but alas, like so many dreams we have had in the Caribbean, this one has not yet come true.”
So Burnham, in 1970 was impatient; disappointed with his West Indian Counterparts who were slothful in making his festival dream manifest. So, as they say, “the rest is history.” In 1972 in Guyana he did it himself. The Caribbean and the wider cultural world of the arts and entertainment were delighted. Slowly, Carifesta became an institutionalised Caribbean–wide mega-event.
Amidst stops and starts the Caricom experts have expanded the scope of the festival. The jury is still out regarding its sustained success.
We – especially the guardians of culture in our own Guyana – must quietly, but with pride and dignity, lift up our varied contributions. In this technological age I understand we’re even taking film and animation. I have confidence that our new faces, young team and cultural administrators on the trip will all do us proud. I know little of our full scale presentations.
But the birthplace of Carifesta has no option but creative excellence; the best. Do us proud next week.
Why we love our Ministers
Even if we did not actually vote at any elections – because we were under eighteen or are Jehovah Witnesses – we regard government ministers as our nation’s top most public servants.
Yes, whatever our political party, when our choices become honourable ministers we see them as our own humble, hardworking professional and political role-models and managers. Whether President, Vice-President, Senior or Junior Minister, we, the followers, hold them in high esteem, hoping perhaps, to be like them some time in the future.
We admire their standards of both morality and daily living. We are proud that they are parliamentarians, can get firearms and long-term visas to other far places; that they enjoy appropriate allowances and VIP privileges; that they are guaranteed housing and great health care and continuous transportation to and from work.
Yes, we admire our ministers for their relative comfort all year round. For that makes them more productive servants of us who voted for them and/or their party. Still – hopefully – our party too. All that is why we cannot ever stop loving our ministers. May the Creator bless them continuously. And their families, and their possessions. Amen.
Hail Hector! And Goodbye…
As Carifesta 2017 looms, I write this personalized farewell to Hector Stoute, a cultural enabler in his own right, over his eight decades.
Hector passed on Sunday, the death anniversary of his hero Forbes Burnham. As I’ll be tempted to pen too many paragraphs, I’ll merely record memories in bullet-point form.
I met Mr Stoute in the mid-seventies when he helped teach me to drill when he was an officer in the GDF
Then, for years, he was the announcer at Amateur Boxing Tournaments – “This next bout listed number eleven on your card”
(No Sports Hall nor Gymnasium in those days.)
He was always proud of Bartica where he was taught by my uncle, ABC Fenty.
His work for Mashramani, for local Calypso and as a Promoter and Television Producer is well-known.
He used to be close to the Mighty Sparrow who called him “Tall Boy”.
He moderated numerous events for the PNC, the GGG, then the PNC.
After his last marriage – Promenade Gardens Wedding – he worshipped little daughter Destiny.
One of our numerous loud arguments concerned the origin of the word “Bouviander”.
On Saturdays he would call in consistently to my Cook-Up TV Show.
He liked only one of my eleven(11) girlfriends.
Knowing him as I did, I know he will try to organise events wherever he is headed. (He will recall when Town Clerk Sooba made him and all other City Councillors meet in the City Hall compound in the hot sun and he will forgive her – even as his Soul Rests in Peace).
1) The injured was rushed to the West Demerara Regional Hospital but “was transferred to the GPHC for further treatment.” What are these Regional Hospitals for?
2) Great Stabroek News editorial on the demolition of Astor Cinema on 2nd August. I must tell about the “Astor-in-my life” soon.
3) It’s starting? The building of a new Vendors Mall at the Stabroek Co-op Bank site?
’Til next week