By RICKEY SiNG-I
TO PROJECT CARIFESTA '72, this prize-winning symbol
was selected for use on posters, brochures and other publicity
material from among fifty entries received in a competition spon-
sored by the National History and Arts Council. The .symbol
depicts a brown hand grasping the sunlight. It was submitted
by Billy Ryan Enterprises Ltd., an advertising and public. rela-
tions firm founded by a Guyanese and located in St. John's, An-
tigua, Nearly half of the entries were submitted by competitors
in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbadlos and Antigua. The
hand emerges as the symbol of creative man in the tropical areas
seeking to create andy filll his cultural destiny by grasping the
sacred fire of the hea -
S -lva shown, by the planners .for the cultural
TIE THREE-WEEK CARIBBEAN Festival of about'one million of these Caribbean
the Creative Arts (CARIFESTA) held in the capital East Indians.
city of Guyana from Au"lt 25 September 15 ,Whether it Was Guyana and the cha
this year, marks turning point in the Wj1story of speaking West Indian islands, the Dutc
the Caribbean, p.rticularlr that of the English- Spanish-speaking Caribbean, or Portug
speaking Caribbean, a reg i that bears the scars of Brazil, the element that dominated the
some four centuries of colonialism. unmistakably Afro. And the hand thai
Brutalised by the vicious twin system of the Amerindian and East Indian comic
slavery and indenture, these people of the region ried with it a disgusting patronizing t
Who had come to embrace a European value system this may have resulted from the
as being all that was good, and rejecting with utter complacency of the largely creole o
self.contempt the cultural heritage of their ances- CARIFESTA, than by design.
tors, tbad raised the curtain to find not a White But this preponderance of the
view of themselves, but a Black one and, oh, element in the festival, whether this
how beautiful, how uniquely rich was their pot- have been evident in the performan
pourri of culturesl Jamaica, the Eastern Caribbean island
One of the English-speaking Caribbean's most o Brazi, Venezuela and Cuba (Hai
outstanding poets, Edward Braithwaite, declared as viewed separatzil, Vzuely), should really be
viewed separately), should really be ne
he witnessed the unfolding of this cultural pano- however disappointing it may have b
rama, that it was "the most important event ever point of the indigenous Amerindians,
to take place in the Caribbean." Indians, if we know something about
Just over a decade ago, Puerto Rico hosted a As the West Indian educator, the n
Caribbean Festival of Arts in which some of the Tried and Toao, oere
West Indian islands participated. nce then Best of Tinid and Tobago, observe
Tinidad and Tobago's internationally-famous bean is a beautify house with an
Carnival has earned an even 'greater reputation, ality." And the historian, Gordon Lew
glarnorised, largely as a tourist attraction, as a Rico, reminds us that the Caribbean f
great cultural extravaganza of happy, laughng the vast plantation economy stretching
reto the southern United States, with i
people. nantiv Naar nannles hblonglng tn the
But it was CARIFESTA '72 that, in spite of poor
planning excusable in the context of a first
effort and the evident political considerations on
the part of the host country, proved to be /an
occasion of tremendous cultural awakening albeit
more entertaining than educational in the field of the
performing arts as the people exploded with their
CARIFESTA, a dream come true for the
Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, whose
brainchild it was, has gone dawn as a grand experi-
ment in portraying to the world the richness and
complexity of the cultural heritage of the people of
28 countries in the region.
As it turned out, CARIFESTA proved largely to
be an experiment which, on the one hand, showed
a tremendous emphasis on the cultures of the sur-
vivors of the Black folk whose personality was
crushed in the "Middle Passage," charted to build
And on the other, it dramatised the shockingly
lon priority given to the folk culture of the indigen-
ous people of the .Caribbean the Amerindian -
and, in the case of multi-racial societies like Guyana,
Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago, the scant respect
class of the Americas as they were si
I heritage of
in of English.
h, French or
t extended to
es staged by
ti has to be
een from the
or the East
rho we are.
d, the Carib-
'is, o. Puerto
forms part of
iaped by the
forces of that economy ....
In the cultural panorama of the Caribbean,
therefore, it is only fitting that we face the realities
of our world in giving pride 'of place to the African
cultural heritage that has survived the dehumanising
effects of slavery and colonialism. But let this be
no excuse, at the next CARIFESTA, now scheduled
to be held in Jamaica in 1975, 'for the very thin and
meaningless representation of the Amerindians and
East Indians at CARIFESTA '72.
Not only Edward Braithwaite, but other Writers
like Errol Hill and Austin Clarke commented on the
low content o: West Indian representation in
Others, such as Eusi Kwayana, the militant
leader of the pro-Black African Society for Cultural
Relations with Independent Africa (ASCRIA), was
very critical of the token participation given to the
Amerindians, and, as he claimed, an almost deliber-
ate attempt on the part of the organizers to exclude
genuine folk representation, at the grass-root level
of the rural communities, from this cultural festival.
Criticisms tend to have spiralling effect. And
before long the political detractors of the govern.
ment, were questioning the expenditure on CARI-
FESTA '72 iih terms of national priorities in a country
with some twenty per cent. unemployment, limited
job olportuitles, and'- a piplfiai6o grbo th' 6f nearly
three per cent annually,
The criticisms are not to be ignored if there are
to be improvements. Nor should the positive
features be underplayed if CARIFESTA is to make
its impact as a unifying force in a region seeking
to come to terms with the harsh realities of survival
in the face of contempt for or ignorance of the
cultural aspirations of the descendants of slaves and
What the organizers of CARIFESTA '72 suc-
ceeded in doing with 20 months of planning, was to
bring together, for the first time, in one city of poor,
developing nation of The Third World, some 800
performing artistes and nearly three dozen writers,
artists and critics of 28 Caribbean countries with
their folk songs, music, art, drama, artefacts, novels,
poetry, the cultural heritage, the ways of life, or at
least significant aspects of that life, in these terri-
tories of the region.
To have sustained interest, even from an enter-
tainment point of view, for three weeks in a country
where, like the rest of the Caribbean, the people
are still to appreciate their 'own thing,' is in itself
,~At least one million dollars was spent to host the
festival, apart from expenditure on infra-structure
work like the National Cultural Centre, which, to
the disappointment of everyone, was not completed
in time for CARIFESTA but nevertheless, had to be
uscc' with an improvised canvas roof.
When completed by August next year, this Centre
.which remains the centre of a cultural con-
troversy between Indian religious and cultural or-
ganisations and the Government. ... will cost
around $1Y4 million (G)-and boast the biggest and
most modern stage in the Caribbean for the perform-
ing arts. The.stage will have an overall width of
some 56 feet 'with a 48-foot wide depth.
The Guyana Government, which had set up a
special Secretariat headed by a triumvirate of
well-known personalities in the Aeld of Guyana
culture, discovered that in order to host the festival,
it must start organising from scratch, since this
country, unlike a number of other English-speaking
Caribbean territory, is not geared for tourism.
Further, a cultural consciousness and support for
the festival had to be fostered in the midst of sharp
cultural and racial divisions.
But after 20 months of intensive planning, plenty
of travelling to interest countries invited to partici-
pate, the six main committees set up for the festival
and the estimated 300 Guyanese who were directly
involved in the working arrangements for CARl-
FESTA, were ready to share, with an estimated
7,700 overseas visitors and the many thousands of
their coatymen, the joy and the disappointment
of the cultural presentations during these three
CARIFESTA Commissioner, Frank Pilgrim...
a member of the triumvirate (the others being M~
Lynette Dolphin, ead of the Naional history and
Arts Ceuil; and Gyanese poet and writer A. J.
Seymour) said: "As the ay aploacbed for the
offial lanmwing of CARIVESTA, we were tres-
ling i our so about how ft will all cow ut.
Wit~ no previot experiewf, and noting of this
magntade to ompmre it wth in the region, yeoa as
mnderstad ear ese~toeat, tihe ~assiness, our
concern that it win sot prore a failvr."
Trje, t&w lwean emtre was soe reoy, It
was true tht CA3rFlSTA bad W ome and g iS
waeatt4 realr ivOsiHO it i any a 1pde*OtO way mte
East hiian eeuiwaiwsty that mikia p e fwo at lWest
aflt of the iset COs tr y w
And in th(iefir pocuaiw wVatho If tb e
eont tiaf fBrtrtlthe Z foio B "aOahl", 0*jww
fA Ce'A~RISswA te> #WfY.-
The liKst in oeut ry'^ia ot? n k- g pefow-
atie. "MikAindW ef Fi'6& a 1Bt-JiOWm of the
even having necessary rehearsals.
But CARIFESTA was not a failure. It did not
prove to be a money spinner for the host country
But to view it in such narrow terms would be t
miss the whole idea of the festival
The cultural renaissance it has spawned during
those weeks of many-sided cultural presentation
whether it was Rex Nettleford's National )anes
Theatre Company and the Rastafari Brethren from
Jamaica, "The Madringalistas" of the State of
Aragua in Venezuela, Cuba's famed folklore group
Conjunto Folklorico Nacional and the Ara4,
Orchestra, Brazil's Viva Bahia folklorista, the tas.
querade bands from Montserrat and St. Kitts
Barbados' National Dance Theatre Group, thj
Southern Dance Troupe from Trinidad, Guyana's
dramatic presentation of 'Couvade,' or the aongs
music, poetry, art from any of the other participat
ing countries CARIFESTA had succeeded in
inspiring the people to have an inward look at them.
selves and to evade a new sense of apprelation of
what they represent to the world.
The thousands who witnessed the presentations
learnt something of the aspects of life of the Parti.
cipatingcountries. They came to appreciate that the
Rastas f'Jamalca were no primitive, weed-.smolina
violent-prone people, but West Indians whose aeareh
for identity, whose message of 'petce and love'
modest living and the extolling of the virtues oi
Africa, explained something about the general egaGh
for a national Identity parttclarly In tlheb mai.
speaking Caribbean. -
Who didn't know much about the DjIuk of
Surinam, the people popularly known as 'Bush
Negroes,' learnt that uring slavery, these people
had fled the plantations and forced the Dutch 0olo'.
isers to make peace with the tribe.
Famous for their wood carvings, the Djukas
have some very intriguing motifs to express their
innermost feelings. For instance, as Surinsm's fery
poet, Dobru, explained it, if a man wants a woman
he would give her a comb. On that comb would be
carved what he thinks about her such as want to
kiss you'. 'I want to meet you along a secret road,'
or I want to go to bed with you.'
Fascinating indeed. But so, the CARFIESTA
audience discovered, were the Javanese of Surinam
and the Cubans and Brazilians with their stro
Afro-element cultural presentations, people wham
they had ignorantly not IdeU ed with the cultural
heritage of Africa.
Haiti's Dr. Rene Pipulon, Dean of the Faculty
of Letters in Port-au-Prnce, enlightened those who
participated in CARIFESTA about the much dis.
cussed but ll1nderstood Voodoo phenomena in
"Voodoo," he explained, "comes from the Dao
mey word Vodoun, meaning spirit or 6. Voooo
is a religion like any other rel g ,on. What makes
a religion s its ph oph it doetrfln, its mora
and ceremonies and throe Is absolutely no df Irese
from this religion to any other,"
Dismiseinf a "IJgnorsne4" hiargeo that V0o0d4
was involved wth human saria0fi r, Pqlf, n Naid
that according to statistics, Afve mhflto people mak
upHailti and seme a t of the poo pp,
Edward Brithfwaite on the tlw ha141d, 00r4d
for the educational content of the cul ural "estival,
giving proper recognition wo the role of writers an:l
Even before the curtains came 'own on
CARIFESTA '71', however, some of the writers and
artists who had come for the festival and a num-
ber of leading ones didn't, such as George Lamming,
Vidia Naipau., Derek Walcott, C. L. R. James. John
Hearne, Wilson Harris Andrew Salkey-had formed
themselves into a Caribbean Writers ind Artsts
Group, and proposed the creation of a special section
within the Caribbean Regional Secretariat to foster
cultural development in the area.
The governments oi the Caribbean Free Trade
Association have already agreed to ascertain to
what extent they can promote regional cultural
co-operation and finance the flowering of the culture
oi their peoples as part oi a wider programme for
Caribbean integration. They are to co-ordinate
activities through the Regional Secretariat.
In looking back as they make their own inCivi-
dual assessment of CARIFESTA '72, Haiti's Rene
Pipuioi. said: "In my opinion, CARIFESTA was a
very important manifestation of arts, literature and
politics in the life of the whole Caribbean."
Earl Lovelace, the Trinidadian novelist, declared:
"The politicians might have the upper hand and the
organisation might not have been the best. The
people. .,ght have been kept out too much from real
inter-reia :onship wi'h the artists."
"But," he added, 'if we, the artists as a collec-
tive boCy, know what we want to get out of
CARIFESTA, then we could have used this occasion
to plan to do some of these things. We could have
come together and gone all about the country and
talked to the people. This cid not happen."
For his own part, expressing the feelings of the
principal organizers of the host country for
CARIFESTA, Frank Pilgrim, former journalist,
well-known playwright, and Commissioner of the
Festival, said that on the debit side must be recorded
the failure to conclude arrangements with such
countries like Mexico, Colombia, Panama, and Peru
to ensure participation.
The low profile given the writers and artists
was also a matter of regret since, as he said, there
must be a healthy balance between the performing
arts and the contributions from the writers, painters
Pilgrim hopes that at CARIFESTA '75 there wil
be perhaps an architectural section, the mc.re large-
scale distribution for sale of the record songs and
folk songs nd music, the works o writers, painters
and sculptors. And, of course, the hope for a deep-
ening of the process of regional cultural integration
a hope we all share.
ar -- --
REX NETTLEFORD and his Jamaica National Dance Theatre
r Company set a striking standard of professionalism and style
when they appeared at the canvas-topped Cultural Centre
on the second night of the three-week cultural bash. Here Nettle-
ford leads his company in the sparkling folk ballet "Kumina."
/ AT LEFT: A samba dancer from Cuba's Conjuncto Folklo-
rico group shows Prime Minister Forbes Burnham how it is done.
SThis hip-swinging international pas de deux was staged after the
/ Cubans had performed at the Cultural Centre when the Prime
Mister and his party went ge to meet the