Culture Night: CARIFESTA 2017

It’s not easy to extract a thoughtful creative perspective from the Guyanese craftspeople who journeyed to Barbados for CARIFESTA X111. There were simply too many other distractions…………like the demanding pursuits of assembling consignments of art and craft then having these loaded into a government-sponsored container to be shipped to Barbados; and trying to negotiate sponsorship for air travel and room and board in Barbados from a fatigued private sector and after you would have arrived in Barbados, having to endure the logistics of registering your presence, securing your belongings and setting yourself up to do business, utilizing an opportunity that rarely arises at home.

It is easy in that environment to forget that CARIFESTA has other important objectives, not least among which is the showcasing of the various cultures of the region. That is exactly what happened in a great many instances. Our craftspeople went to Barbados to ketch their hands and when we spoke with them afterwards they were able to tell us little about the celebratory aspects of the event, the theatre, the dance, the poetry reading and the parading of the various talents from around the region. 

Long before CARIFESTA we had been hearing about the hustle and bustle amongst the craftspeople. They explained to us during our interviews that one of the very earliest challenges is the sheer pressure associated with producing a sufficient number of pieces to make the trip worth the while. Then, of course, there are the bureaucratic challenges. These are always the most difficult specifically for the reason that you have to engage government bureaucracy and government bureaucracy is always the most difficult to engage.

There were some good things that happened……like the story we were told about plans (only plans at this stage) to create a regional craft shop in Barbados that can serve as a sort of regional outlet for art and artefacts from across the Caribbean and the support that some of the regional fashion designers will be receiving from the Italian fashion industry. There was also an opinion expressed about an initiative designed to seek to establish a closer relationship between CARIFESTA and the diaspora, that is to say that we should seek to take advantage of “the diaspora market” so as to give our craftspeople a better opportunity to parade and to sell their goods.

Here, the suggestion was mooted that we take CARIFESTA to New York, to Toronto and to London, feats that will require considerable organization but might, it is felt, end up being well worth the while. These are ideas, we were told, that could be raised with the Foreign Ministry where (who knows!) some virtue might be found in assigning trained Cultural Attaches to selected missions who will be assigned, in the main, to create an environment in which a CARIFESTA transplanted to Europe and North America might work.

The idea, it has to be said, is appealing. Caribbean people residing in the diaspora would be only too pleased to experience the nearness of a culture that they had left behind, in many instances, several decades ago. Some of them, many of them have done well enough for themselves to serve as valuable patrons for local art and craft and if our dress designers are sufficiently talented to rival the standards of the metropolis, they too, perhaps, might make ‘a killing’ beyond the Caribbean. Who knows? We might see the emergence of new entrepreneurial vistas that link Caribbean businesses to enterprises in the diaspora as well as profitable joint ventures that can raise the levels of optimism in our manufacturing sector.

But it can only work for Guyana if we stop paying lip service to seriously connecting with the diaspora……….which is exactly what we do at this time. What we do never seems to extend itself beyond the fantasizing about what is possible and afterwards we park our dreams for the next opportunity to roll them out again. That is as far as they usually get. That is why our craftspeople must continue to depend on the vending opportunity that CARIFESTA offers. Too few things ever grow beyond a dream.




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