Title: CARIFESTA through the years, a brief glimpse of Burnham's cultural legacy
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/CA00100673/00001
 Material Information
Title: CARIFESTA through the years, a brief glimpse of Burnham's cultural legacy
Physical Description: Newspaper clipping
Language: English
Creator: Kandasammy, Lloyd F.
Publisher: Stabroek News, Thursday, 14 August 2008, pages 20 & 21
Publication Date: 2008
Subject: Caribbean
Caribbean Writers and Artists
Martin, Carter
Burnham, Linden Forbes Sampson
National History and Arts Council
Dolphin, Lynette
Pilgrim, Frank
Seymour, A.J.
Hinds, Basil
Singh, Rajkumarie
Corsbie, Ken
Manley, Michael
Abstract: The writer provides information on the early efforts to host a regional cultural festival, the evolution of the Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts; driven by the thoughts expressed by the Convention of Caribbean Writers and Artists held on 24 February 1970 and its endorsement by the then Prime Minister of Guyana Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. Provides background information on the naming of the festival, the competition for the design of the logo, the administration of the first CARIFESTA held in Guyana in 1972 as well as on the staging of the other eight festivals. Looks at expectations for the tenth festival to be held once again in Guyana in 2008.
Funding: Digitized with funding from the Digital Library of the Caribbean grant awarded by TICFIA.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA00100673
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat
Holding Location: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier: CARIFESTA X 2008

Full Text

Page 20 STABROEK NEWS, Thursday, August 14, 2008


CARIFESTA through the years, a brief

glimpse of Burnham's cultural legacy

By Lloyd F Kandasammy ing and singing. % K I under the theme 'A Hallmark of despite having to borrow pan stands

On 24 February 1970 a convention
of Caribbean Writers and Artists at
the Critchlow Labour College was
hosted in Guyana under the chair-
manship of the renowned national
poet, the durable Martin Carter,
then Minimu of Information and
Culture. During this convention the
participants lamented about the
absence of an appropriate vehicle to
showcase the rich cultural heritage
of the Region and at the same time
give recognition to its outstanding
artists and art forms.
The previous attempts at staging
a regional cultural festival in 1958 in
Trinidad and that of 1967 in London
were not totally successful in attract-
ing full participation from all coun-
tries. In the circumstance, the idea of
staging a local festival was suggest-
ed by the participants to showcase
the Caribbean's artists. This was
readily endorsed by then Prime
Minister of Guyana, Hon. Linden
Forbes Sampson Burnham who then
bestowed the task of planning this
activity on the National History and
Arts Council.
In September 1970 the
Secretariat was established and in
May 1971 Lynette Dolphin was
appointed as director and Frank
Pilgrim was selected as commis-
sioner. This duo was also assisted by
numerous members of the council
including A.J. Seymour, Basil
Hinds, Rajkumari Singh, Ken
Corsbie and others. They were
joined in April 1972 by Bunny
Fernandes as the Secretariat's co op
business manager.
In their annual report for the pro-
ceedings of the Council for 1970 the
secretariat noted that the name of the
festival CARIFESTA: Caribbean
Festival of Creative Arts was select-
ed. Additionally they announced a
competition for the design of a logo
for which the prize of $500 was
offered Schools, auditoriums and.
other buildings were inspected and
estimates were quickly prepared to
determine their suitability for per-
formances by the wide spectrum of
artists which the festival was going
to attract.
1972 became widely known as
The country was bustling with
activity as the anticipation of the
region's first true cultural exposition
was about to commence. On 25
August 1972 Guyana was finally on
show as thousands gathered at the
various venues to celebrate the
grandest cultural spectacle this
country has ever hosted. The pro-
gramme over this period took the
form of plays, monologues, poetry,
dancing, folklore, steel band music
"a1d calypsos, lectures, concerts, pop
-hows, pageants. discussions, sculp-"
e, a.; and international exhibi-
Se.hiUd art exhibitions, demon-
.:ion-. .carvmin. ceramics. pa'nt-

For twenty two days nations and
people, put aside differences and
unity was enhanced with a cultural
exposition, a riot of colour and cele-
bration by all, made richer by the
sparkling traditions of the peoples of
the region each distinct yet bonded
together by a common identity, that
of creativity.

'CARIFESTA described the
people of the sun in all of
their glory represents the
joining and communion of all
the areas and styles of indi-
vidual artistic expressions
that come out of the cultural
diversity that is the

These words by the Honourable
Prime Minister of Jamaica Michael
Manley encapsulate the essence of
CARIFESTA which was staged with
great fanfare throughout the
Caribbean; Jamaica 1976, Cuba
1979, Barbados 1981, Trinidad and
Tobago 1992, 1995 and 2006, St.
Kitts and Nevis 1995 and Suriname
The cultural and artistic success

of CARIFESTA 1972 led to a call to
institutionalize the festival within
the emerging structure of the
Caribbean Community. In the cir-
cumstances the Heads of
Government, at the 1972 Heads of
Government Meeting unanimously
approved the establishment of a per-
manent unit within the Secretariat
with oversight functions for coordi-
nating subsequent CARIFESTA
Four years later Jamaica hosted
the region's second CAR1FUSTA,

Cultural Extravaganza.' This festi-
val was organized in Jamaica around
Caribbean heroes: this time,
Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jose Marti,
Juarez, Bolivar and Marcus Garvey.
For twelve days Kingston and
other parts of Jamaica were trans-
formed into a sphere of riot and
colour as musicians, dancers, steel
bands, artists and sculptors all show-
cased their respective identities and
distinctive cultural traditions. For its
part Guyana's contingent consisted
of forty five of the nation's finest
artistes noted examples included the
esteemed pianist Ray Luck, the
Yoruba Singers, the Triveni group
folk dancers from Linden and oth-
Three years later in 1979 despite
some criticism the theatres, stadi-
ums, plazas and streets of Havana,
Cuba were the setting for cultural
presentations by the numerous
countries in the region as nations
gathered to celebrate CARIFESTA
III: A Rainbow of Peoples Under
One Caribbean Sun. As was the case
with previous festivals the Guyana
contingent did not fail to impress.
The Chronicle symphony Orchestra,

to perform outshone the bands from
the other nations. 'Pans aglitter they
held the audiences spell bound for
15 minutes. Then the entire theatre
stood and literally clapped their
hands for a full minute.' The Yoruba
Singers, the National Dance
Company and other representatives
also gained rave reviews in the local
After extensive performances in
dance, music and drama together
with several workshops to address
the creative and performing arts
CARIFESTA III closed with a grand
Caribbean Carnival along Havana's
malecon. Leading the parade of
nations was the Guyana contingent.
The 'crush of humanity was dwarfed
by the towering rainbow illuminated
floats with their dancers on top of
them, confetti was thrown about to
add to the carnival atmosphere' as
the curtains closed on another suc-
cessful CARIFESTA.
For 16 days Barbados was trans-
formed by a torrent of cultural
expression as that country hosted

Turn to page 21


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Opening Ceremony National Park


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STABROEK NEWS, Thursday, August 14, 2008 Page 21

CARIFESTA through the years, a brief

glimpse of Burnham's cultural legacy

From page 20
Images of the Sun. The
national stadium was filled to
capacity as Prime Minister
Tom Adams declared the fes-
tival open as volleys of bal-
loons rose in the sky and
masquerade dancers from
Guyana and other dancers
from Guadeloupe and
Trinidad and Tobago staged
impromptu dances to the
sounds of Sparrow's music.
Throughout the course of this
festival, reviews in the press
noted the advances made by
the National Dance Company
of Guyana from their first
performance in 1972.
The Yoruba Singers also
proved to be another crowd
All over Barbados,
crowds cheered and danced
as the regions finest talent
was put on display. As was
the case with Cuba, the festi-
val climaxed with a grand
street carnival; 'spangles and
sequins caught the sunlight
and threw it back in shim-
mering shards that dazzled
the eyes of Barbadians and
visitors who lined the route
of the parade.
For a number of reasons
CARIFESTA was not staged
until 1992 in Trinidad. This
eleven year lull in the festi-
val's hosting is linked to a
number of factors inclusive
of the financial and adminis-
trative resources required.
Jamaica did indicate their
willingness to be the venue
again in 1989 but regrettably
these plans were disrupted by
the devastation of Hurricane
It was not until 1992 that
the festival was rejuvenated
when Trinidad and Tobago
Together in Strength. Despite
criticisms the festival was
successful and Trinidad again
hosted CARIFESTA VI: The
World's Best Cultural Mix in
1995. The reports in the press
heralded the return of the
region's festival which
opened with swirling dancers
and high kicking dancers.
With the staccato beat of
drums and the swirl of long
colourful dresses the
Caribbean community
opened its premier arts festi-
val in Trinidad. The opening
ceremony was a cultural
extravaganza with thousands
of performers as the stadium
flamed into colour and a fren-
zy of action with a carnival
style pageant.
Visitors were treated to a
magnificent spectacle as hun-
dreds of school children
formed the sun, the map of
Trinidad and Tobago and the
CARIFESTA logo followed
by a parade of the participat-
ing nations.

During the course of the
festival tassa drummers,
African drummer, choirs,
musicians, dancers, actors,
sculptors and others gave
exuberant performances,
despite a hectic schedule
which limited performers
from viewing other groups,
to enthusiastic audiences.
Guy-ana's premier dance
troupe The National Dance
Com-pany as they had done
in previous festivals did not
fail to disappoint, equally
outstanding were Mumtaz Ali
and troupe.
Three years later Trinidad
and Tobago again hosted

World's Best Cultural Mix
with similar fanfare.
Emphasis was however
placed on youth.
Caribbean Arts and Culture,
Reflecting, Consolidating,
Moving on' was hosted in St.
Kitts & Nevis the first and
only OECS state to stage the
Despite some hiccups
with limitations of the sizes
of the participating countries
contingents the festival was
staged with great enthusiasm
by all attending. For their
part Guyana presented
GUYFESTA 2000 a two hour
production directed by

Francis Farrier. It reflected
the rainbow of national cul-
tures, ethnic plurality, differ-
ent kinds of indigenous per-
formances and traditions.
Many Cultures: The Essence
of Togetherness, The Spirit of
the Caribbean was hosted by
Suriname. In many ways it
represented a sort of home-
coming to the South
American shores where the
festival originated. Brightly
coloured costumes, a wide
range of tropical rhythms,
many tongues, dances and
beats of all varieties filled
Paramaribo and neighbour-
ing areas as the Caribbean's

distinctive culture was again
put on display.
Independence square in
Paramaribo came alive as the
week I ong celebrations
kicked off with a grand
parade of close to 1000 repre-
sentatives from different
countries. Of significance
was the emphasis on the
Indigenous peoples. For this
purpose a special village was
The diversity of cultures
displayed included an
Indonesian puppet show, a
postal exhibition at the gar-
dens of Independence
Square, drumming and other
art forms.

Three years later CAR-
IFESTA IX: Celebrating Our
People, Contesting the World
Stage was again hosted by
Trinidad and Tobago in 2006.
The spectacle staged by
Trinidad was considerably
larger than their previous
attempts. The opening cere-
mony was unrivalled in
colour and rhythm as hun-
dreds of dancers swarmed
across the field depicting the
rich indigenous heritage fol-
lowed by 'Reverence' lead-
ing to the portrayal of other
The diversity of the
region's culture was further
emphasised with a Parade of
Nations, where nations show-
cased their national costumes
and flags. Masqueraders
added an extra touch of
excitement followed by a
contingent of African drum-
mers as all frolicked to the
sweet sounds of reggae,
calypso and soca music. The
next few days were charac-
terised with numerous events
as nations strutted their stuff
with great enthusiasm.
returns to Guyana, a symbol-
ic homecoming for the
regions 10th festival. The
news of Guyana once again
staging CARIFESTA was
warmly greeted and endorsed
by the populace, many of
whom have recounted with
vivid memories the extrava-
ganza of the first festival in
In August 2008, a cultural
spectacle will be staged with
great fanfare as the potpourri
of traditions, from music to
the culinary arts, painting,
music, drama, fashion and
poetry, literature and sculp-
tures, just to name a few will
transform Georgetown, New
Amsterdam and other parts of
the country into one grand
theatre. Its effect will no
doubt reawaken the creative
vibes within the region and
most importantly stimulate
the country's youth, inspiring
the present and future gener-
ations under 'One Caribbean,
One Purpose; Our Culture
Enriched,' to embrace their
unique and distinctive cultur-
al heritage.
As the time draws closer
for the return of Carifesta to
the shores of Guyana the
undermining of the founder
of this great regional cultural
movement cannot be denied.
Recently there has been a
tendency to sideline
President Burnham despite
the calls to have him recog-
nised for his achievements.
Despite what ever hidden
agendas there may be the cul-
tural legacy of this festival
owes its existence to
Burnham, were it not for his
vision it would never have

Closing session: Official party on stage

Closing session: Lowering of Carifesta flags at National Park

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