Carifesta VIII: a reunion of Caribbean excellence

Where oå’ where is that Carifesta feeling that should be blowinå’ in the air, seems to be the prevailing sentiment in Suriname. The doomsayers are saying that it will not be done, but the organisers remain determined. Massive billboards promise a sparkling extravaganza and meeting after meeting is held, to iron away every possible wrinkle. Fears that

lacks the dedication to make Carifesta VIII a success are unfounded, said Chas Warning, the Press Relations officer of the Carifesta Committee. å“The doomsayers should come and see me on September 1st, after the event,å” he grinned challengingly Tuesday evening in the bar of the South American countryå‘s flagship Hotel Torarica.

Both he and Henk Tjon, the Artistic Director, promised to deliver on the high expectations Suriname’s rich culture provokes. “Suriname is considered the keeper of the cultural treasures of the Western Hemisphere, so we have to shine. We have a responsibility to deliver on that,” said Tjon. Warning added: “Carifesta
goers will have the unique opportunity to experience the culture of 30 different nations, without having to hop around thousands of kilometers. The best in art and culture, all in one country, in one week.”
Suriname, a former colony of Holland, located on the northern shoulder of South America announced just under two years ago that it would be the host of Carifesta 2003, the eighth forum on which Caribbean nations display their culture and arts. Themed “Cultural Diversity” the event will run from August 25th to 30. Most Caribbean nations have indicated that they’ll take part, as have African nations -such as Ghana-, India and China. 

“Our concept is easy,” Tjon explained. “Caribbean countries and their people have come together for seven times already, to get acquainted and exchange their culture. But after seven times you don’t get acquainted anymore. Then you have a reunion and that what it’s gonna be ... one big reunion in which we’re going to strengthen ties and bask in each other’s uniqueness.” And, he said, as culture requires, the new generations will be inducted into what has been achieved during earlier Carifesta’s. “If the body calls for a new necklace for protection, or demands anything else be done, then so be it,” he said.
Tjon is no greenhorn in the Carifesta society. In some way Suriname’s cultural ambassador to the event, he’s been its cultural director from when it was first staged in Guyana in 1972. “I’m the only one from Suriname who’s done all seven and one of the few people from the entire Caribbean,” he said.

Warning, hailed for co-organising the famed Surinamese Kwaku Festivals in Holland, explained that he and other organisers have spent the last year-and-a-half making preparations. “Every event has mishaps. We’re trying to learn from previous Carifesta’s and not make the mistakes that were made then. We want to give participants and tourists the maximum experience. They are going to experience Suriname like they have never experienced any country before,” he explained.


Carifesta VIII will be the forum on which Caribbean nations will celebrate their achievements, reflect on the past and look ahead, towards the future, said Tjon. “This event will have a very ceremonial character. Our dignity as Caribbean people, as human beings will be exhibited. There is so much injustice in this world. Look at the war in Iraq, at the ongoing genocide in Africa. Our countries have a history of injustice and inhumanity. Who better to exhibit our urge for humanity and justice?” the Artistic Director asked rhetorically.
He said the objective is to deliver excellence. “We do not want to let this event become one of quantity. It will be one of quality,” he said. A strict selection procedure will be in place to guarantee that the best artists take part and that the performances are of the highest possible standard.
As one would expect, Suriname has given the event that for the first time is hosted by a non-English speaking country, its own distinctive flavor. The usual “Grand Market” will be called “Pasar Malam,” which is Indo-Surinamese for the bustling, active type of bazaar where most of the activities will take place. That’s the main venue where participating countries will set up booths to display their art and craft, where art exhibitions and demonstrations will be held, theatrical performances can be watched, poetry will be recited.
“Our version of the Grand Market will also feature a jewelry section where skilled jewelers will show off their art. There will also be a section in which flora will take center stage, there will be a postal exhibition, a literature and so much more in the Pasar Malam,” Tjon said. And, he added, unfolding some more Carifesta secrets, five artists will be honored for their contributions to Caribbean culture during a special exhibition of their work to be hosted in the prominent Presidential Palace, one of the country’s historical landmarks. “There will also be a special presentation of the work of Surinamese artists that went before us, but left their mark on our culture,” Tjon said.

In addition, the romantic “Palmentuin”, a garden of over 100-year-old King palm trees, will be transformed into a huge Amerindian village, where the Caribbean’s indigenous people will be accommodated. “There will be sections for the Surinamese Indians, American Indians, Dominica’s Caribs and so on,” Tjon said, explaining that the idea to erect the Amerindian Village came from the prevailing impression that the Amerindian part of the Caribbean was under represented in previous Carifesta’s. “Anyone who wants to experience the Amerindian atmosphere can be right there. No matter what country that person wants to experience, it will all be right there,” said the Artistic Director.

Said Warning: “We have been criticised for being a little bit stingy with information ... but if there’s no information to give, we can’t give any.” He explained that a lot of countries are only now indicating that they’re participating. And according to him it’s not too late. “We will be ready when we should be. Participants can expect their programs on what will happen, where they have to be, what they will be involved in soon. But as I said, as long as we don’t have all information -country registration closes on June 15th- we can’t really go out and say a whole lot yet. People should try a little more patience. Information is dripping in and we’re putting everything together. We will be ready!”

For further information