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Carifesta XI opens in Suriname

By Ivan Cairo
PARAMARIBO, Suriname-With a dazzling display of colors and laser projections of the participating country’s flags on the Presidential Palace as backdrop, shaolin monks from China, hundreds dancing schoolchildren carrying balloons, a military drum band, drama, ballet performances and a fireworks show Suriname staged a spectacular opening of the eleventh Caribbean Festival of Arts and Culture (Carifesta XI) Friday evening.

The Independence Square in the capital of Paramaribo was transformed into an outdoor theater seating around 7,000 spectators while several thousands more watched the opening ceremony on widescreens which were erected at several locations in the capital.

“Culture is an important cornerstone of a healthy society. Taking into account the economic and social factors only without paying attention to the culture perspectives will not be sustainable for development on the long term”, said Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse in his address to the crowd. The Surinamese leader further noted that “as cultural expression forces respect and understanding between individuals and groups with different identities, it helps to resolve and prevent conflicts and consequently enhances collaboration in our relationships”.

According to Caricom’s Secretary General Irwin La Rocque “a special and unique celebration of Caribbean culture begins here and now with the opening ceremony of this eleventh commemoration of Carifesta”. The Caricom official further noted that attendees came from all over the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Latin America to experience “this magical evening” and the festivities during the next days. “Carifesta is loved by all of us, because culture is our passion”, said Larocque.

Giving praise to regional cultural ambassadors he further noted that Caribbean nationals are passionate and take great pride in “our many accomplished and renowned artists, musicians, writers and dancers who proclaim the Caribbean and inspire the global imagination”.  During the festivities locals and visitors alike, according to the Secretary General, will take the opportunity to explore the business of culture and the way in which the development of a cultural and creative industry can help to realize prosperity.

For the next coming days internationally acclaimed Caribbean performers including jazz singer Denise Jannah and flutist Ronald Snijders from Suriname, Wycleff Jean and Tabou Combo from Haïti, Barbara Cadet Quintet from St. Lucia and No-Maddz from Jamaica and many many more are scheduled to perform live on stage.

Besides delegations from Caricom member states also guest performers from China, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Curacao, Bonaire, French-Guiana, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Columbia, South-Korea and Argentina will participate in Carifesta XI. So far only Haiti President Michel Martelly as one of the Caricom leaders has confirmed to be present in Suriname.

Guyana has dispatched 60 persons-the largest contingent to the regional cultural showcase-Guyana. In addition, there are several organisations that will be coming under the Guyana banner such as the Carnegie School of Home Economics.

“The logistics of moving people around, getting them to the place where they have to perform and so forth is sometimes challenging. Some of that might be mitigated because we are going with our own transportation so it might help,” Culture Minister Frank Anthony has been quoted as saying by the Government Information Agency (GINA).

He added that most of the events will be in different parts of Suriname so persons will have to be travelling all the time. Persons who will not be participating on certain nights should give support to other Guyanese when they are participating, he urged. There will be a country night and Guyana will be showcasing its performing arts.

“We’re going there to showcase Guyana in all the various aspects of our culture, so we’ll do that, but the other thing too is to learn from others so that we can then come back and have our own fusion and develop our own things out of the experiences that we would have gained,” the Minister highlighted.

All the various heads highlighted and touched on some of the aspects they will be showcasing at the event. Head of the Literary Arts is Al Creighton, Arts and Craft -Denzil Hollingsworth, music- Andrew Tyndall, performing arts – Seeta Shaw Roath, Fashion -Carol Fraser, and Films- Richard Pitman. Head of the delegation is Director of Culture, Dr. James Rose.

The Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta), was initiated by the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in 1972 to celebrate the arts, foster a vision of Caribbean unity and to positively advance Caribbean culture regionally and internationally.

Guyana hosted the first Carifesta in 1972 and the tenth event in 2009.