Remarks by Minister Gadsby-Dolly at Carifesta XIV’s Opening Ceremony

What a journey…. But we are finally here , opening night of CARIFESTA XIV Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago’s journey to tonight started as an idea, then a decision, followed by almost two years of planning, culminating in this grand showcase, the start of ten days of the 14th edition of Carifesta, the premier festival of the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, since the baton was passed from Barbados to Trinidad and Tobago in August 2017, we have all worked feverishly to further elevate this regional cultural celebration.  Strategically positioning our cultural identities into a ten-day festival became a Herculean task. Relative to the rest of the world, we are a small territory with larger than life cultural legacies. Our voices, shared memories, fiery spirits and artistic wonder are all unmatched. We have spent the last two years trying to narrate this unique Caribbean story using the best writing instruments available to us. Tonight, it is my honour to bestow unto you the exciting cultural product that is CARIFESTA XIV.

We open with “Streets of the Caribbean;” an ode to the iconic architectural structures, from previous and the next CARIFESTA hosts, across the Caribbean islands.  From the Chamberlain Bridge in Barbados, to Haiti’s striking ‘Le Marron Inconnu’ or “Unknown Slave” statue, to Guyana’s Starbroek Market, “The Streets of the Caribbean” take our Caribbean heritage and reflect it in one concentrated space which represents the manifestation of our collective genius and reimagine a stroll through the Caribbean like no other. These vistas were carefully selected because they represent defining moments of our region’s history. Whether they are bastions of hope or symbols of architectural advancements in the region, they mean something to each of us, evoking nostalgic pride in our individual identities. So, to the CARIFESTA delegates and our visiting Caribbean diaspora from all over the world, I say to you “Welcome to Your Streets of the Caribbean.”

Since its inception in 1972, CARIFESTA has maintained its status as the region’s most successful model for cultural integration. It is a Biennial exercise in self-rediscovery for Caribbean people, whilst sensitizing global audiences on the Caribbean’s cultural DNA. The theme for this, the 14th edition- “Connect, Share, Invest” captures the broadened trajectory of the festival, whilst reflecting a paradigm shift in Trinidad and Tobago’s own cultural landscape.

There are over three hundred (300) booths in the Grand Market, separated into distinct districts. First and foremost is the Country District where you can journey through the chain of countries from Suriname up to the Cayman Islands. Then unto the Fashion District with over thirty (30) entrepreneurs from the fashion industry in the region and beyond. Island Crafts featuring 60 regional and local artisans while Caribbean Artistry features a unique mix of artisans and designers. As we stroll down the lane, you will encounter a Literary Fair where over one hundred (100) writers can not only sell their books but readings and workshops. The Caribbean Food Court provides an eclectic menu from the region and a finally the eighty (80) booth Trade Zone and Buyers’ Market includes thirty (30) booths from the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association, a CARIFESTA gift shop as well as companies that are directly and indirectly associated with the cultural industry.  This District also features meeting rooms, workshop space and a conference facility.

And at the epi-centre of all of this is the breakout stage for local and regional performances from 12 noon daily, so from 11am to 11pm, the Grand Market will be pumping with activity. The quintessential Rum Shop by Angostura, our partners, and the Trinidad and Tobago boothcompletes our Grand Market. The Grand Market is but a stone throw away from the National Museum and Art Gallery, the hub for Visual Arts, and the Youth Village at Bishops Anstey, which is powered by Republic Bank and Bmobile.

All of this will be complemented by over 45 events happening across ten performing spaces in both Trinidad and Tobago, celebrating the finest of our visual, theatre and literary arts, dance, music, cuisine, and fashion.

Whilst the capital city serves as the hub, six (6) community festivals were created, twinning visiting delegations with communities to share their cultural offerings.

Tobago plays an essential role in CARIFESTA XIV as they not only host, I believe four (4) regional delegations, to share in traditional events like the Salaka Feast and Castara Bonfire. Delegations will also participate in cultural exchange workshops. Tobago can also boast have having its own CARIFSTA Village and Island Vibes daily along  the Scarborough Esplinade from August 19th to 21st.  

Cognizant of the fact that knowledge-transfer is critical in developing the region’s cultural industry, the Carifesta XIV Symposia have been fashioned with trending, impactful sessions and workshops. It is our intention that at the end of this festival, the artistes of the region stands to benefit from enhanced networks which can further propel the industry forward.

As I conclude, I must confess that on a personal and professional level, CARIFESTA XIV was one of my most exhilarating journeys, and the best is yet to come. I am humbled to have this opportunity and proud of the dedication of the team that has worked to bring us to tonight. I make special mention of the Carifesta Secretariat and the Host Country Management Committee with the support of the Caricom Secretariat. I invite you to open your minds and souls to the resplendence of the region’s most prolific cultural expression. Allow the memories of CARIFESTA XIV to overwhelm your senses, inspire your creativity, challenge your intellect, and take you to a higher state of existence. Happy Carifesta XIV!