Carifesta 2019

For more than four decades, the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (CARIFESTA) has been a catalyst for the strengthening of regional integration among our Caribbean countries, artisans and cultural practitioners. Over the years, Caribbean nations have actively participated in the festival and used it as a catalyst to promote the arts and culture of their country. The festival is therefore a launching pad for the Caribbean to take centre-stage; bringing rich, vibrant, thought-provoking and exhilarating expressions of talent and skill to the world.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the creative and cultural sectors are an integral part of our economy.  Thus, it is with vigour that the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago through the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts sought to bid for CARIFESTA and subsequently won the bid to host the fourteenth instalment CARIFESTA XIV in 2019.

Trinidad & Tobago is without a doubt a Mecca; the Creative and Cultural Capital of the region. The home of Carnival, “the greatest show on earth”, we are excited to showcase and market the culture of Trinidad and Tobago to the Caribbean region and the rest of the world through this festival. As host nation in 2019, it is our intention to create the space, avenue and hub for participating nations to flourish and “Connect, Share, Invest” in the arts and culture of the Caribbean.

The 2019 the festival will showcase a multi-talented cultural display in the visual and literary arts, storytelling, fashion, body art, craft, theatre, dance, music, film and new media from participating countries from the region and diaspora. It will indeed provide an enabling environment for the discussions around sustainable growth and development of the creative industries and a major cultural tourism thrust.

Past CARIFESTAs were successful in sharing aspects of intangible Caribbean cultural heritage such as food, music, dance, and theatre with spectators and have done so successfully. In the CARIFESTA XIV Programming in 2019,  the intention is to add more valuable, by creating  a space for artists’ gatherings and collaborations; which will ensure that there is a lasting benefit for the practitioners themselves and the advancement of the art forms.

The Caribbean Festival of Arts, CARIFESTA, has assumed a pre-eminent place among the elements that define and give expression to the uniqueness of our Caribbean reality.  It has been hailed “the inspirational exchange of creative flows” Edwin Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community made the following statement made during CARIFESTA VIII in Suriname:

“CARIFESTA embodies Caribbean integration. It is here that the people of the Region come together; co-mingle, creating one community, one people. That is integration. Further, this event strengthens the bonds between us, displays our creativity and ingenuity and demonstrates to the world the best that this Region has to offer. CARIFESTA celebrates our Caribbean being in a way that no other single event can.”

The first Caribbean Festival of Arts in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1952, spurred some enthusiasm in the Region for celebrating the excellence of Caribbean artistry. The creation of the West Indies Federation in 1958 was marked by the staging of a Festival in Trinidad; through the auspices of the Extra Mural Department of the then University College of the West Indies. This celebratory spirit must have infused the artistic community of the Region, for it was at a regional gathering of artists in Guyana in 1970, that the idea of a grand Caribbean festival was conceived.

The enthusiasm of the artists attending the Caribbean Writers and Artists Convention in Georgetown in 1966 and again in 1970 during Guyana’s Independence and Republic celebrations, found favour with Prime Minister Forbes Burnham who spearheaded the conversion of the idea into a resplendent exposition of artistic forms and cultural artefacts that became the first Caribbean Festival of Arts in Guyana in 1972.


This first CARIFESTA attracted the participation of 1000 plus artistes from over 30 Caribbean and South American countries, giving expression to their creativity in music, dance, drama, painting, sculpture, folk art, photography and literature.

The vision of the Caribbean leader, Forbes Burnham, who is most directly credited with the emergence and success of this Caribbean event, was to have a “Caribbean Arts Festival, featuring Guyanese and Caribbean artists whose work in poetry, painting and sculpture project our dreams and visions and help us to foster and develop a Caribbean personality”. He envisioned the hosting of the festival as an ongoing event in different Caribbean territories.

It is a vision of the peoples with roots deep in Asia, Europe and Africa, coming together to perform their art forms and embrace literature inspired by the Caribbean’s own peculiar temperament, paintings drawn from the awe inspiring tropical ecology, and the visionary inheritance of our forefathers. The symbol of the first CARIFESTA was a dark hand rising grasping the sun, depicting the skills and aspirations of the tropical man with talent untold. (CARICOM, 2017)

The cultural and artistic groundswell generated by the success of CARIFESTA 1972 gave impetus to the call to institutionalize the festival within the emerging structure of the Caribbean Community. In response to such urgings, the Heads of Government, at their 1972 Heads of Government Meeting approved the establishment of a permanent unit within the Secretariat with oversight functions for coordinating subsequent CARIFESTA events (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, Barbados, 2017)

The cultural village life of CARIFESTA is intended to be a mixture of the States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); the wider Caribbean, Latin America; and a representation of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

The main considerations for staging the CARIFESTA were:

  • The festival should be inspirational and should provide artists with the opportunity to discuss among themselves techniques and motivations
  • It should be educational, so that the people of the Caribbean would be exposed to the values emerging from the various art forms
  • It should be relatable and be entertaining on a scale and in a fashion, that would commend itself to the Caribbean people.


CARIFESTA V, which was held in Trinidad and Tobago in 1992, was a watershed event in the development and promotion of the arts and culture in the Region. This exposition took on a new focus with linkages to the overall national programmes for the development of the arts and culture to ensure the complete harmonisation of objectives and effectiveness across the Region. Since then, Trinidad and Tobago has hosted the festival on two other occasions in 1995 and 2006.

The evolution and transformation of the event over its thirty-four-year existence, can be perceived as a response to recommendations of the new CARIFESTA model, that generates greater value for key stakeholders like artists, cultural workers, cultural entrepreneurs, host and sending governments, and the CARICOM Secretariat. (Reinventing CARIFESTA Strategic Plan by Dr. Keith Nurse June 2004).

The main objectives of CARIFESTA are as follows:

  1. Depict the life of the people of the Region, their heroes, morale, myth, traditions, beliefs, creativeness, and ways of expression
  2. Show the similarities and differences of the people of the Caribbean generally
  3. To establish and celebrate the arts as the most important dynamic force for reflection on our dreams and visions in the process of self-affirmation of the Caribbean personality
  4. To maximize people participation in the arts, promote integration and intensify the interaction between the people and the artists of the Region
  5. To deepen the awareness and knowledge of the diverse aspirations within the Caribbean Community through an on-going process of exposing the peoples of the Region to each other culturally by means of the development of our creativity
  6. To embrace developments in communications technology and the media; while accepting the challenge this technology poses to positively advance our culture at home, throughout the diaspora and the world
  7. To foster a vision of Caribbean unity and possibility by facilitating the documenting and disseminating of art works as highlights of the ongoing historical and cultural development of our people
  8. To expose children and Caribbean youth to the arts and traditions of the Region as a basis for building vibrant and dynamic institutional support for their development as citizens of the future Caribbean
  9. To encourage excellence by bringing masters and youth together to initiate systems of apprenticeship for young artists
  10. To promote the development of cultural industries and merchandising in order to maximize the economic potential of CARIFESTA and the arts, for the benefit of the artists and Caribbean societies