Joy, success and benefits from CARIFESTA XIII

By Michael G-A. Lashley

The Children and Youth Dance Theatre and Macomere Fifi

The members of the Canadian-Caribbean contingent to the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (CARIFESTA XIII) in Barbados (August 17-27, 2017) found joy, success and professional benefits galore.

This was the first contingent of Caribbean Diaspora artists (resident outside of the Caribbean region) ever to be officially invited to participate in CARIFESTA.

Words cannot fully describe the pride and joy of seeing our Children and Youth Dance Theatre shine on the premier stage of Caribbean arts and culture. The artistic and administrative efforts of their talented leader Andrea Douglas were on show and no one was surprised when these youngsters were invited to repeat their outstanding performances, not once, but twice.

The riveting acting of Djennie Laguerre, under the expert dramatic direction of Rhoma Spencer, brought the agony of “Rendezvous’ Lacay” to life before audiences incapable of escaping the two-sided trap of tears and laughter in a Haitian social setting.

The Caribbean tradition of story-telling and spoken word got more than its fair share of CARIFESTA honours, thanks to the energetic theatrical powers of Sashoya Simpson and Djennie Laguerre.

Prolonged movements of sheer genius punctuated the brilliant artistry of our adult dance company KasheDance whose performance of “FACING Home: Love and Redemption” shook the Festival to its most controversial core. The artistic leadership and masterly choreography of Kevin A. Ormsby and Chris Walker have once again been exalted in the annals of Caribbean dance.

The joint performances of Shak Shak (Roger Gibbs), Moses Revolution (Moses Lewis and Carlton Roberts), Macomere Fifi (Tara Woods, six-time Calypso/Soca Monarch in Canada) and Soca Queen Susan Grogan, brought down the house several times.

In the symposium segment of the Festival, our contingent’s participant was Ahdri Zhina Mandiela, a theatre specialist with decades of professional experience.

In addition to the millions of dollars poured into the economies of Barbados and the wider Caribbean ( especially in the tourism, travel and hospitality industries), CARIFESTA provided our Canadian-Caribbean participants with valuable artistic and professional experiences, enhanced Caribbean-wide culture networks and numerous invitations for paid performance and training initiatives in the region.

Though there were some administrative challenges in such areas as the ground transport to and from the performance venues, we only had one significant setback: except for the Barbados Advocate newspaper, coverage of our Canadian-Caribbean participation was non-existent in the local and Caribbean media and very scant in the CARIFESTA Secretariat’s website and social media communications.

On the other hand, we were particularly impressed and encouraged by the ministerial and high-level meetings, presentations and consultations convened by the CARIFESTA Secretariat and by the Barbadian Culture Minister, the Honourable Stephen Lashley. The Minister’s vision, for the future development as well as for the enhanced efficiency of the festival itself and of the Caribbean’s creative industries in general, was indeed inspiring.

Both the quality of the work being done by the CARICOM Secretariat in those two areas and the Cultural Policy Meeting convened by Dr. Donna Green of the Barbadian Culture Ministry augur well for the longer-term.

We at C-CAN are also gratified by the productive outcome of the Meeting which we requested with four Ministers of the Barbados Government in order to explore a wide range of business development initiatives.

Our greatest achievement, however, was to succeed in making a small but significant repayment to the people of Barbados for their warm hospitality and the many courtesies that they showered on us: we could feel the happiness that they radiated when they joined us in the street parade at the start of the Festival and whenever we expressed our appreciation for their persistence in making us feel at home.

Our special congratulations go out to three persons who epitomized the spirit of caring and the solutions-oriented approach to their official duties: Natalie the Gracious of the Dover Beach Hotel; Samia Moseley, the liaison officer assigned to our contingent; and Andrea Wells, Executive Director of the CARIFESTA XIII Secretariat.

We are ready like Freddy for CARIFESTA XIV in 2019, when Trinidad and Tobago will be making a smashing success of Caribbean Arts, Culture and Creative Industries.

The Canadian-Caribbean Arts Network (C-CAN) is a partnership of Canadian artists, artistic organizations and professionals of Caribbean heritage. Our current mission in CARIFESTA is to open up regional, national and international opportunities, as well as to present, promote and effectively market the artistic works of Canada’s artists and artistic organizations of Caribbean heritage.

Our Canadian-Caribbean contingent’s participation in CARIFESTA XIII was made possible by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council and the generous support of the Caribbean Consular Corps in Toronto, the Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue (BAND), the African Caribbean Board of Industry and Trade (ACBIT), Mr. Sam Gualbance of Chelsea Food Inc., Cyrus and Mona Khan of Mona’s Roti, The Belmont Lime (Toronto), Tantie Irmine, Tantie Rita, the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Ontario and many more kind souls too numerous to mention.

C-CAN’s CARIFESTA initiative was the brainchild of Rhoma Spencer. Our contingent was managed by Michael G-A. Lashley, Chef de Mission/Project Manager; Rhoma Spencer, Artistic Director; Judith Lezama-Charles, Project Coordinator; Ronald A. Taylor, Dance Director; Kevin A. Ormsby, Partnership and Grants Consultant; and Roger Gibbs, Music Director. Ivor Picou served as our Stage Manager.