Carifesta to the Rescue?

Submitted by David Comissiong

With CARIFESTA a mere week or so away, and with Barbados and most of the Caribbean enmeshed in social and governmental dysfunction and crisis, the fundamental question that arises is as follows:- “Will we use CARIFESTA to launch a powerful cultural and artistic Campaign to regenerate our Barbadian and wider Caribbean nation, or will we squander this priceless opportunity that has come our way?”

You see, the Arts are not merely about entertainment! In fact, the truly indispensable role that the Arts and the artiste must play in a society is to identify and explore the critical existential challenges and contradictions that the society is facing, and to pre-figure ways in which such challenges and contradictions may be overcome or transcended.

Thus, when a society finds itself in deep crisis– as  Barbados and several other Caribbean societies are at present– it is crucial that our artistes be called upon to plumb the depths of our pathology and  help to craft a response.

Indeed, this was the original vision upon which CARIFESTA was founded!

CARIFESTA — as some of us may be aware — was the brainchild of the late President Forbes Burnham of Guyana. And, having conceived of the “idea” of a Pan-Caribbean Arts Festival, Burnham had the good sense to arrange to bring the most creative and outstanding Caribbean artistes of the day to Guyana in order that they might confer together and generate ideas for the construction of the inaugural CARIFESTA.

The artistes who gathered in Georgetown, Guyana in February 1970 included such “giants” as Kamau Brathwaite, Jan Carew, Tom Clarke, John La Rose, Earl Lovelace, Beryl Mc Burnie, Shake Keane, Andrew Salkey, Sam Selvon, Ivan Van Sertima, Wilson Harris, A J Seymour, Michael Gilkes, Philip Moore, V S Reid, Karl Parboosingh, and Aubrey Williams. And it fell to A J Seymour — the legendary Guyanese poet and Editor of the Kyk-over-Al literary journal– to speak on behalf of his fellow artistes, and to address the opening session of Burnham’s “Caribbean Writers and Artists Convention”.

Andrew Salkey— in his subsequently published book entitled “Georgetown Journal“– records the fundamental point that A J Seymour made about the role of the Caribbean artist as follows:-

“The creative artists of the Caribbean have a very special cultural burden to bear, and a very demanding role to play in the total social and political development of the Area. He said that they are also involved, or ought to be, in an unwritten educational programme and praxis for all the people; in short, the Caribbean cultural contributors must see themselves as a vanguard who will help to liberate the creative energies of the Caribbean people, and help all our societies to create a new life out of the chaos of underdevelopment.”

This then is the opportunity that the staging of CARIFESTA in Barbados provides us– an opportunity to bring together the most committed and creative artistes of the Caribbean and to charge them with the mission of investigating the fundamentals of our condition and helping us to collectively chart a way forward.

Are we conscious of this priceless opportunity, and  have  we prepared ourselves to grasp it? Or will we– as tends to be the practice of the current species of governing and bureaucratic elites in the Caribbean– simply go through the motions of doing something but not really making it truly meaningful ?

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10 Comments on “Carifesta to the Rescue?”

  1. David August 9, 2017 at 3:09 AM #

    Let us hope the staging of Carifesta is not compromised by the Kadooment Shooting.

    The creative artists of the Caribbean have a very special cultural burden to bear, and a very demanding role to play in the total social and political development of the Area. He said that they are also involved, or ought to be, in an unwritten educational programme and praxis for all the people; in short, the Caribbean cultural contributors must see themselves as a vanguard who will help to liberate the creative energies of the Caribbean people, and help all our societies to create a new life out of the chaos of underdevelopment.

    To reflect on David Comissiong ‘s extract – are we satisfied a creative sector has accumulated the ‘creative energies’ to add value to our regional that is ‘creatively’ significant?

    Like

  2. Pachamama August 9, 2017 at 7:44 AM #

    David

    Let’s face it, a lot of things happening here that nobody will speak of.

    First, we somehow have arrived at a point when all other systems are failing or have failed to live up to expectation that the arts are to compensate. This is impossible unless the objective is to mislead publics. The arts as propaganda!

    We think we living in a fool’s paradise.

    Secondly, much of what passes for art, culture, creativity does not have a genesis in this region and beyond the innate, represents copying from other places. When we look at fine arts, for instance, we see Caribbean people borrowing other peoples’ work as though their own, and sometimes gaining notoriety.

    There has been very little ingenuity, radical departures from social norms.

    Thirdly, we are not convinced that despite the difficult, sometimes perilous journey to success for aspiring artists that the returns from cultural investments are satisfactory.

    Those who back cultural investments must justify such in more concrete ways.

    Fourthly, as the level of societal noise rises we fail to see any broad-based efforts in schools to have the arts as central to curricula.

    The culture still says that 9 CXCs and 4 A_levels are better than the artist who we depend upon to go into dangerous places seeking the cultural reinforcement for development.

    And on and on……………………………

    Like

  3. Bush Tea August 9, 2017 at 8:06 AM #

    To the rescue? ..what rescue?
    Carifesta is much more likely to lead to further national embarrassment for Lil Hitler and this incompetent DLP government….

    Like

  4. Chad99999 August 9, 2017 at 8:37 AM #

    Caribbean artists come in two categories.

    If they are from the dregs of society ( euphemistically referred to as the “grassroots”), they may have an interesting musical or physical or visual style, but usually they have nothing to say that isn’t obvious.to the thickest skull in the country.

    If they come from the middle or upper classes, they are usually confused and hopelessly inauthentic, caught in a no-man’s land between foreign training and standards, and the (impossible) ambition to be original.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ping Pong August 9, 2017 at 9:24 AM #

    V.S.Naipaul (who will never be celebrated in the Caribbean) once wrote that the future of the Caribbean is Haiti.

    Like

  6. ks August 9, 2017 at 10:21 AM #

    How many millions will go into this ‘party for the artists, poets, story-tellers, dancers, etc.’?? As Bushie insinuated above….. further misdirection of scarce funds by a useless Government.

    Like

  7. Vincent Haynes August 9, 2017 at 12:07 PM #

    Bush Tea August 9, 2017 at 8:06 AM #

    On point……I was thinking the same thing……ass backwards as usual.

    Like

  8. David August 9, 2017 at 12:19 PM #

    Note Barbados committed to hosting Carifesta since 2015. Is it fair to say Barbados’ economy was in a better state.

    Like

  9. Vincent Haynes August 9, 2017 at 12:30 PM #

    David

    In 2015???…….no Skippah……we been in a minus state for years and should not have accepted it without sponsorship or international grants.

    Like

  10. David August 10, 2017 at 6:42 PM #

    Articles like this one exposes the gap in our culture, why humanities is never respected and so on.

    Like

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