Group Title: The First CARIFESTA
Title: Alternate version
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 Material Information
Title: Alternate version
Physical Description: Book
Publisher: Caribbean Beat, 62, January-February 2005
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA00100100
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: Digital Library of the Caribbean
Holding Location: Digital Library of the Caribbean
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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by Caribbean Beat
from the July/August 2003 Issue (No. 62) of Caribbean Beat

The first Carifesta, held in Guyana 31 years ago, celebrated the
enthusiasm and energy of the newly independent Caribbean
territories. As Suriname prepares to host Carifesta VIII in
August, Caribbean Beat looks back to the festival's optimistic

The first Caribbean Festival of Culture and Arts, Carifesta I, was celebrated in
Guyana in 1972. For the English-speaking Caribbean, this was the age of
Independence, and that first flush of patriotic optimism still lingered. Visitors to
Guyana in 1972 were struck immediately by a spirit of enthusiastic discovery, by the
fact that so much was achieved with limited resources. Artists and performers from
most Caribbean territories were joined by colleagues from several nearby Latin
American countries. Music, dance, theatre, art, and poetry overflowed through the
city of Georgetown, and audiences were not confined to any cultural or intellectual
Barbadian poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite electrified listeners at a reading from his
early books; Javanese dancers from Suriname enacted intricate, stylised sequences;
a Cuban orchestra amazed audiences with a performance full of conflict and vitality.
One of the highlights of this first Carifesta programme was a revival of the oratorio
The Legend of Kaieteur, composed by the late*Philip Pilgrim, based on the well-
known poem by A.J. Seymour. A 150-voice choir was joined by two pianists and a
steel band. Georgetown's cultural centre, where Kaieteur was performed, was still
incomplete, and the acoustics far from ideal, but the scale and ambition of the event
aptly summarised the hopefulness of the entire Carifesta enterprise; as Seymour's
poem proclaimed, "From what the mind wills, body will not turn".
The original plan envisioned a biennial Carifesta. After Guyana, Jamaica hosted
Carifesta II in 1976; it was Cuba's turn in 1979, then Barbados in 1981, but then
there was a gap of more than a decade before Carifesta V in Trinidad and Tobago, in
1992. T&T were hosts once again in 1995, and in 2000 St. Kitts and Nevis became
the smallest territory ever to take on the challenges of the event. Whether because
of a change in regional spirit, or a flagging of early optimism, it's generally agreed
that the later Carifestas have lacked some crucial element that animated the
festivals of the 1970s. But in late August 2003, the people of Suriname will attempt
to revive that early spirit, as Carifesta VIII returns to South America, where it

started 31 years ago.
Suriname, with its population descended from India, Africa, Europe, Indonesia,
China, and the Middle East, and with culturally distinct groups of indigenous
Amerindians and Maroons, may be the region's most ethnically diverse nation, and
hopes to use Carifesta VIII to strengthen its links with the rest of the Caribbean. An
ambitious week-long programme, from 24 to 30 August, includes exhibitions,
theatre, a book fair, the performance of a Hindu Ramayan "opera", and a show of
indigenous flora. The organising committee imagines the event as a "family reunion"
for the Caribbean's artists, an opportunity for "inspiring, stimulating, questioning,
loving, irritating, educating, elevating each other". May our most talented answer the

Bill P .grim,_J rather
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at the National
Cultural Centre in

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and Arts. Soloist

stands at centre-
courtesy Bill Pilgrim

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