The Olympics of the arts: The Caribbean Festival of Arts and Culture runs from August 21 – 30


This article by Sateesh Maharaj appeared in Trinidad’s Express.

When most people think of Haiti, images of the devastating earthquake in 2010 immediately come to mind.

Guy Francois Jr, Consulate General to Haiti in Miami says the country has since been making tremendous progress, even attracting increased foreign investments. Carifesta XII, which will be held in that country from August 21 to 30, is just another manifestition of this positive input. This year’s event will be held in five different cities; Jacmel, known for arts and crafts; Port au Prince with theatres; Gonaives where study sessions and workshops will take place; Les Cayes where a music concert will be held and additional events will take place in Cap Hatien.

Carifesta—the Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts—was first held in 1972 in Guyana from August 25 to September 15. Two successive Conferences of outstanding Caribbean Writers and Artists in 1966 and 1970 recommended to the prime minister of Guyana that they would welcome the invitation to an annual Festival of the Arts.

The prime minister had related his vision of a cultural mecca for the region’s people. It was a vision of peoples with roots deep in Asia, Europe and Africa coming together to share, to perform their art forms. The dream embraced the literature inspired by our peculiar Caribbean temperament, paintings inspired by our tropical jungles and art visualising our forefathers in the distant past.

Francois added: “Carifesta is one of the biggest festivals in the region that gathers Caribbean countries. Non-Caricom countries also attend to share their culture. There are nine different categories of events: gastronomy, theatre cinema literature, dance, music, craft market, fashion and art.”

Haiti is hosting Carifesta for the first time and Francois says that country is very rich in culture and history.

“We are very excited to showcase that to the Caribbean. I think that it is a great opportunity for us. Uniting the cultures is a big first for us.

Haitian President Michel Martelly is an artist himself and he saw the vision of having such an event in our country. I think it will greatly benefit our country.

Francois said that during the last Carifesta in Suriname in 2013 Haiti was well represented.

“We had Haitian chefs, dance troupes; we were basically represented in each section.”

He said it was going to be very interesting seeing the Haitian and Trinidadian food together during Carifesta.

Francois believes that having Carifesta in Haiti will give the festival a lot of exposure.

“I think it is something new, especially to the Haitians living abroad in the United States. We have about two million Haitians living in the diaspora. We’ve done a roadshow to go into different cities with the Minister of Tourism where we presented Carifesta which was new to a lot of those people. We’re going to have elected officials from different cities in the United States come experience the Carifesta.”

Francois added that hotels will be offering packages for visitors coming in specifically for the event.

He said the entire island was anticipating the event and invited the region to see past differences and acknowledge our similarities.

“It’s like the Olympics of the arts in the Caribbean. The Haitian community both in Haiti and abroad are excited to reunite with the Caribbean. We’ve been lacking that. A lot of people say we don’t speak the same language but we need to put that aside.

“At the end of the day when you go to Haiti most people understand English so they will be able to communicate. So this is not an excuse. We have several things in common—our arts and crafts, and dance and Carnival. There is a lot we can learn from each other and do exchanges. For example steelpan is known in Haiti but we haven’t used it as yet. So having a pan workshop could be a good addition [to the festival]. We also have a lot of instruments that we can share with the Trini delegation.”

Francois predicts that Carifesta will also make a great impact on the economy in giving people jobs.

“As I’m speaking to you, everyone is involved. Culture brings everyone out. Everyone will benefit from the traffic of the delegations.”

And while he did not want to reveal too much of what one could expect at the various locations, he was eager for visitors to see what the island had in store for them.

He said: “We can’t wait for people to see what we’re going to bring. Haitian people are very welcoming. You’ll see the smiles once you land at the airport.”

For the original report go to

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