Remarks by Dr. Gadsby-Dolly at the Closing Ceremony for CARIFESTA XIV

Good Evening,

The reviews are in…. and I believe I speak for us all when I say CARIFESTA XIV was a monumental success!

But how does one bring closure to a festival such as CARIFESTA? All over social media the cries have gone up… could CARIFESTA be longer?

For the past 10 days, this festival impacted the way we value the Caribbean identity, and shifted on paradigms; we in Trinidad and Tobago felt so proud to host the region. Delegates, I ask you, how was your experience CARIFESTA XIV? I have a strong feeling that you enjoyed being here as much as we enjoyed having you.

It is said that one of the most energetic events in the universe is a supernova; a powerful explosion in the cosmos when a star has reached the end of its life. I compare the energy emitted from CARIFESTA XIV to that of a cultural supernova; exploding in the hearts and minds of Caribbean people. However, this star is, in the words of Aaron “Voice” St. Louis, one of our CARIFESTA XIV Brand Ambassadors, “Far from Finished.” CARIFESTA will continue to endure throughout the chapters of the Caribbean’s history, intensifying an already luminous glow on the region’s premiere artistic expression.

I wish to reflect on the many milestones achieved for CARIFESTA XIV. We set out on a mission to take our Caribbean culture- film, dance, music, theatre, visual arts, symposia, literary arts, food and fashion, and to meticulously devise an impactful master plan to present these offerings to the people of the region and diaspora with a world class finish.  

In the area of film, the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival not only featured a wide cross section of films from across the region, but facilitated meaningful and much needed dialogue on the advancement of the industry in the region.  I congratulate and express gratitude to Dr. Bruce Paddington, who has made a sterling contribution to the film industry in T&T, as well as the entire team for their excellent work. 

The Bocas Lit Fest –CARIFESTA edition was a resounding success with a feast of compelling writing, poetry, and rapso.  Ably led by Founder and Festival Director Marina Salandy-Brown, the festival included an Open Call for writers from participant countries to read from the respective works, and saw over 130 persons registering. The Free workshops and panel discussions all taught willing participants how to rethink the way we write and interpret the writings of others. I thank all of you for devoting your time and expertise to nurturing the Caribbean’s literary genius.

The premiere fashion event for CARIFESTA as spearheaded by FashionTT featured the exceptional work thirty designers from the region. The Fashion District, led by Sandra Carr of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, also experienced tremendous success and was constantly abuzz with activity. Speaking of a constant buzz, the Caribbean Food Park at the Grand Market was so magnetic, I am convinced that this will offset more local and regional food festivals in the near future. I thank the delegations for sharing your culinary offerings that left us Trinbagonians with unquenched palettes…

And what better to pair great food with than superb entertainment. From the Live at Lunch concerts featuring local and regional talent, to the invigorating Country Night performances filled with musical and dance depictions of our history and contemporary social issues, to the Best Village Folk Theatre performances, to the larger than life “Pan and Powder” juggernaut that overtook the capital city, the Children’s Variety Show, Youth Village Concerts and of course, the Island Beats Superconcert, the talent radiating from CARIFESTA XIV replenished our souls in more than way, especially since Trinbagonians are always suffering from carnival tabanca. We have once again proudly demonstrated that when it comes to cultural artistry, this small region is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Our Symposia, led by Dr. Suzanna Burke in conjunction with the University of the West Indies, titled “Journey Round Myself” was an opportunity to ask those critical questions about who we are and where we are headed as a region.  Through workshops, panel discussions, and master classes, we have elevated our cultural consciousness, and this heightened awareness about ourselves is critical to the holistic development of cultural policies and national action plans for culture and the arts.

I cannot exclude our Visual Arts exhibitions, Art gallery hop, and master workshops. The pieces on display from artists across the region anchored by masters such as Leroy Clarke and Jackie Hinkson, represent an eclectic mix of the old and new Caribbean. I could not be more proud to call myself a citizen of the Caribbean, and I hope that you would have developed a newfound appreciation for visual arts on the whole.

I congratulate the CARIFESTA Secretariat of Tobago for presenting delegates with a unique cultural experience. From the Salaka Feast, to the CARIFESTA Village, Castara tour and performances, Tobago’s cultural offering has added a distinctive dimension to CARIFESTA XIV, and even Trinidadians would have benefitted from a deeper understanding of the rick culture of our sister isle.

As the curtains have now been drawn on this epic festival, I must convey my unfathomable gratitude to the Host Country Management Committee and the hard working CARIFESTA Secretariat for bringing this vision of CARIFESTA XIV to life. To John Arnold, Arlene Holman, Jamie Thomas, Patricia Henderson-Browne, Colin Lucas, Kayann Layne, and Akosua Edwards, you have all proven that the human spirit is an unconquerable warrior, and you worked rigorously over the past two years to secure success. I also convey gratitude to CARICOM, all regional stakeholders, as well as to the 2017 CARIFESTA host country Barbados, for the invaluable guidance provided to Trinidad and Tobago. Your support was crucial to our success. I thank Corporate Trinidad and Tobago for their unquestionable allegiance to culture and the Arts. Thanks to our platinum sponsor, First Citizens, the official bank for CARIFESTA XIV, B Mobile and Republic Bank for powering our successful Youth Village, One Caribbean Media, SCG Caribbean, Angostura, Caribbean Airlines, NLCB, Digicel, Liat, the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, the TTMA, TTT for daily coverage of our events, Hyatt, Blue Waters, Coca Cola, Massy Stores, Movie Towne, Proudly T&T, TGM, Animae Caribe, SWMCOL, Fashion TT, Film TT, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Tempo, Global Villages, Music TT, NALIS, the EMA, Film Co, and the list goes on. We the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago are grateful for your ongoing investment in our cultural industry, and your willingness to partner and sponsor this Caribbean Festival- CARIFESTA XIV.

So, what is next after CARIFESTA? We must convert the learnings from the hosting of this mega-festival into tangible actions. CARIFESTA is a developmental showcase for the region’s arts, and we can all agree that the potential for monetization of our rich culture and hetiage is unparalleled. Culture is after all, our greatest asset. It is bountiful, transcends divisive barriers of gender, social status, idealogy, and race, and will never be depleted. So to the delegates of CARIFESTA XIV, may our region’s culture continue to increasingly impact our respective GDPs and strengthen those familial bonds we share as a people.

To the 2021 Host Country Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Toabgo stands ready to support you and offer any guidance necessary to ensure that the standard and reach of CARIFESTA is elevated every two years. We look forward to bringing our Trinbagonian delegation to your shores and we know that the people of Antigua and Barbuda will extend the very finest hospitality to the region. We can hardly wait!

For now, I bid CARIFESTA farewell, and I am certain that the invaluable insights gained, as well as the lessons learnt, will go hand in hand to uplift Trinidad and Tobago’s own cultural landscape. We were honoured to host you. I thank you for your presence here tonight at this Closing ceremony, and I invite you to enjoy the last sights and sounds of CARIFESTA XIV. Long live Caribbean culture!

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