Tag Archives: CARIFESTA

Love My Bahamas

Just had to share this. Artists Takin Ovah!!

If you’re on Facebook, go find the Love My Bahamas page and have a look at the art.

When CariFringe starts, there will be tours you can take of the art.

Love my Bahamas Downtown Art Experience is a mural project that will enliven the walls of downtown Nassau. It involves 15 local and international artist. Come and visit the open studio space where you can see the artist at work, and learn from the rich visual arts scene in The Bahamas.

Share with us this unprecedented art experience by visiting:

via Live Positively Bahamas – Journal.

(And they said it couldn’t be done.)

On Culture, CARIFESTA, and the Bahamian Economy, Part I

It came to my attention last month that our government was planning to postpone, once again, the hosting of the Caribbean Festival of Arts, if it had not yet done so. Announcements to that effect would be made very soon, I was told. The fact that such announcements have not yet been made may make this post obsolete. I rather doubt it, however.

It should be no surprise to anyone at all that I think this is a terrible idea. It’s not just because I would like to write for a living and make that living in the country in which I grew up. It’s also because it’s flying in the face of what international agencies focussed on development economics suggest is the place of culture in that development.

For those of us who don’t know, or who haven’t noticed, the world has changed. As I write, indeed, at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, the US President is opening the door for negotiations with Cuba, which, as we all know, is the only viable competitor for The Bahamas’ prosperity in the Caribbean region. In fact, it’s possible to argue that the only reason The Bahamas has maintained its supreme position in the region has been because the fifty-year long US embargo of Cuba, has coincided with the latest Bahamian boom. But now, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is visiting Cuba, and the Obama administration is making very clear noises that the embargo will soon be lifted.

At the same time, for the first time in almost twenty years, the Bahamian government’s plan for prosperity — foreign investment, foreign investment, foreign investment — is not bearing fruit. Why not? The reasons are various. Perhaps the biggest is the reason Barack Obama himself gave for changing the way the USA has done business for the past generation or so — that trickle-down economics, or the spreading of the wealth accumulated by the rich and mighty — does not work. It no longer works in the USA, which is the greatest nation in the world; and it has not worked in The Bahamas as an engine of development for a country that has not yet invested in itself.  Oh, it has done well in providing a couple of decades’ worth of get-rich-quick money for a smattering of people. But as we are noticing, where the sharing of wealth is dependent on the goodwill of the greedy, little gets shared. And so our current “wealth” is almost wholly dependent on the goodwill of the foreign investor, who is interested in the people of this nation only as workers — as block-layers, lifeguards, toilet-cleaners, cooks, drivers, or middle managers who have no ability to affect or shape company policy.

Continue reading On Culture, CARIFESTA, and the Bahamian Economy, Part I

CARIFESTA X – An Alternative to the same old, same old

wonder of the world: CARIFESTA X – An Alternative to the same old, same old

The Bookman, a blog from Trinidad and Tobago, muses on art, CARIFESTA, and society.  It’s not coincidental, I think, that this week I’ve been to two talks already about the same thing:  one on Wednesday at PopOp Studios about CARIFESTA XI to be held in The Bahamas, and one last night at Chapter One Bookstore about the role of the writer in society.  At the end of the panel discussion from last night, where six of us, writers from very different backgrounds and with very different bodies of work, spoke about that role, we were answered in the discussion that followed by a visual artist who told us that our conversations were not isolated, that they were happening all around the country.   Something is happening nationwide about the Caribbean arts.  Perhaps we are coming into ourselves.  The Bookman suggests that perhaps this something is happening regionally.  Because I believe in the latter, I’m going to quote from The Bookman’s comment on CARIFESTA X to illustrate, just a little, what I mean, and what I hope:

One cannot help but feel that art is held as a fringe. That artists are at the edges of society, almost invisible, except for moments when society is engaged with it and comments on talent. It is always the same trite comment at that, that there is so much talent in Trinidad and Tobago…and? What are we doing about it?

So I am going around in circles with my point. The public need to be educated about what is happening in the arts locally and regionally. The corporate world needs to get more involved in the arts and make it much more relevant to their own business mandates, and the artists themselves must start to hold themselves to the highest standards, look at their profession as deserving of much more than handouts and government support and we need to be very loud and clear about just how much we mean to our society by having alternative spaces to show our work and encourage the society to see that we mean business and that it isn’t business as usual.

Another View of CARIFESTA

Alissa Trotz makes some salient points (hey, Alissa!!)

In the Diaspora : Stabroek News

In a presentation made at the Caricom Heads of Govern-ment Conference in July, Barbadian novelist George Lamming took Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo to task for the following comment “…and now we come to the lighter side, CARIFESTA in Guyana.”

There is one way to interpret these remarks, as seeing culture as entertainment to engage in when the real work is finished. It is a view that allows ‘culture’ to fall by the wayside, to be addressed only after the ‘real’ priorities of so-called development are attended to, like building roads and paying off the foreign debt. As Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott observed in his exchange with the President at the opening CARIFESTA symposium, we have heard politicians rehearse these tired arguments for years. Walcott expressed his ambivalence about a festival that asks us to celebrate the wanton disregard for our artists in a region where with few exceptions artistic endeavour is not seen as a serious vocation. Here is the ongoing lie of CARIFESTA, illustrated by the profound gap between rhetorical pronouncements and the woeful state of our institutional infrastructure supporting the arts.

Read more.

An answer, maybe, to Rick

Guyana Providence Stadium: Guyana – Rambler on the benefits of Carifesta

So please, El Presidente could you arrange just one more week of freeness, dancing and drinking? You know as a Moscow trained economist that this splurge of government spending, (you take $500 million of taxpayer’s money out of the economy and send it right back in) is not the zero sum game it would appear on paper. It multiplies throughout the truly long lasting, productive sectors: beer, rum, hair salons, boutiques and Red Dragon.
And what a shining example of public/private partnership, the mega concerts were. For example, you invited the company that imported soda pop/beer to hold a concert for which people had to buy the same soda pop/beer to receive a ticket. This demonstrates how even-handed you can be even as your investigation into the customs scam grinds to a halt.

The performers stay in the hotel you helped finance with our money and thereby reduce the hotel’s interest-free loan in a way that is impossible to verify.
Then you get the newspaper whose owners your government gave illegal tax concessions to, to join an unquestioning cheerleading chorus for Carifesta along with your personal TV and radio stations.

Let’s not even mention the Chronic, which ignored everything else in Guyana for ten days as it entered the magical world of Carifestaland. Not even the killing of those criminals – what are their names again? – could crash their party.

No wonder it was a success. You proclaimed it was a success, the biggest ever… like your budgets, your tax revenues, and you were everywhere, omnipresent: you quarrelled with Walcott, avoided auditors at the Grand Market, addressed the gospel fest, declaring the country was in safe hands …you meant your hands of course, not God’s. Ha ha silly us!

And the crowds! The multitudes came out for you, for your country. After all 30,000 people at the Banks Ultra Mega Concert-to-end-all-Concerts can’t be wrong! And in the process, they made the PNC look like fuddy-duddy party poopers.

The point, though, is that it didn’t have to be government-funded only.  My point was that the demand for such events is high, and is worth money.  Governments don’t have to make everything free to make something economically viable; in fact, governments often destroy the economic viability of cultural events by too much interference.  Take Junkanoo as an example.

We would do well to pay attention.

CARIFESTA X Update – Moving Forward

I’m sitting in Nassau now, with life half back to normal, the desk suitably christened with the muttered invective and laughter that it takes to get me through a bureaucratic day, with CARIFESTA X behind and CARIFESTA XI straight ahead, a target whose bullseye we Bahamians ought to shoot. We’ve had four years to prepare, after all. We’ve studied two of the festivals, the two most recent, the two that have happened since the design and adoption of the New Strategic Plan. We’ve got the resources, if we agree to free them up.

But do we have the will?

I don’t know. Five years in government incline me to believe that we don’t, that the collective we have neither the vision nor the balls to do what needs to do to host the festival as we could, that we trust neither ourselves as innovators nor the Caribbean culture as a whole enough to regard this as a valid investment. Five years of watching the government waste my tax money on Madison Avenue advertising agencies who know nothing about us and who must be taught what elements to emphasize, and who sometimes get it very wrong ($12 million in supplementary funding midway through a tough budget year, this after the Bahamavention cockup, with no guarantee that a similar failure won’t be the result of that $12 million reinvestment), five years of hearing that while an average of $2 million of my tax money is allocated to the development of our own indigenous culture (that’s all, and I challenge you to find it in the National Budgets for 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, or 2004), about twice as much of that same tax money is spent on promoting Atlantis every year, five years of being told that we don’t have the money to offer workshops in the Bahamian Family Islands for those people whose talents are discovered through the National Arts Festival, of being told that we don’t have the money to fix the only government-owned performing arts centre (even though that centre collects revenue every week), that we don’t have the money to hire dance teachers or to find government-owned quarters to house either the National Dance School or the so-called Department of Culture.

We’ve got the resources; we send more than enough of them out of the country to promote a Bahamas that has nothing to do. We have yet to invest even a quarter of that money in ourselves here at home.

Will CARIFESTA change that? I don’t know. I rather doubt it, unless we ourselves change. Will we host CARIFESTA well? We are certainly capable of doing so; but that ability needs nurturing and investment, neither of which we have done for the thirty-five years of our independence. That ability needs faith in ourselves — and that is something that we Caribbean people find in short supply.


For future reference, I’m closing out my commentary on CARIFESTA X here. There’s lots more to say and share, but it’ll take place over at the Ringplay blog, as it’s largely theatre-related, and has to do with The Children’s Teeth mostly. Check the blog: the RSS feed is here.

CARIFESTA Update – in the end

Well, we’re back home. Those of us who travelled in the advance party returned on the charter, which was fine, one direct flight, then off the plane in Nassau. We flew through the turbulence of Tropical Storm Hannah, and though we had to wait for our luggage for some time at LPIA (there were only two men working the baggage carts — no clue why that was, maybe Mondays are slow) we were home in less than six hours. Of course, given the fact that we had checked out of the hotel at 3:30 and arrived home at 2:30 that makes it 11 hours door-to-door, but that’s part of the challenge of travelling with large groups.

Back to work today. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll be sitting behind a desk in a couple of hours, fighting the usual fights of trying to get money released for cultural activities, trying to to get people paid for work they’ve done for the government, troubleshooting situations that are the result of half-assed jobs done by other people, wrapping up the CARIFESTA work and wrapping up other work I began.

In government, projects almost never end. Even projects that have natural endings drag on longer than they should, largely because there are too many people involved in the process of executing them. Perhaps that’s by design; perhaps it’s because in The Bahamas (and, presumably, in most places, since politics and government are bedfellows) governments are places to house people who can’t find work elsewhere, and so tasks are divided into tiny little pieces, all of which have to be completed before the task can be done, and most of which are shared among people of below-average competency, and so all the bits and pieces are almost never finished properly. And so wrapping up goes on forever, until budget years close, and the loose ends are either gathered or left to fray on their own.

I’m pretty clear on one thing. For me, work is a series of projects to be completed, and to be completed well. Creative work is that: inspiration, design, creation, revision, polishing, presenting, ending. Beginnings and ends, like life itself, not infinite futile repetition, spirals that lose efficiency and quality as they turn.

The Bahamas received the CARIFESTA Scroll for the second time. This time it wasn’t Winston Saunders who accepted it on behalf of the Bahamian government, but the Minister of State himself, standing on the cricket field in the Providence Stadium, flanked by the contingent in full Junkanoo regalia, which probably means that we will actually host the event in 2010.

It’s a project that needs management, that needs design, polishing, and efficient, high-quality presentation.

It’s a project that could be mangled entirely by government.

More on this later, when I’ve worked out how to express my reservations and hopes in ways that don’t contravene General Orders. But for now, we’re home again.

CARIFESTA Update – last days

Well, so here we are again, at the tail end of the CARIFESTA adventure, and I’m writing this post on the date I’d originally planned to be my last day working as a civil servant. (Circumstances, as my paternal grandmother used to say, alter cases — a testament to flexibility from a woman whose circumstances certainly altered hers.) Philip and I are still sharing the hotel room Buddy’s assigned us from the beginning — a huge cavern of a thing, with generous proportions, lots of glass, and a heap of wasted space. This update is unlikely to make it to the web anytime soon — the connection is unreliable at best, not entirely awful but unpredictable — I haven’t been able to download mail for three days now, though it’s coming in as I type.

My feelings are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, I’m elated not only that we pulled it off again (the travelling of a pretty huge contingent from one end of the Caribbean to another) but that Guyana has succeeded in making CARIFESTA national, regional and international, laying the ground for the development of a world festival that people will plan to attend. We have an IFD (Interim Festival Directorate — the regional governing body for CARIFESTA) meeting today, the traditional end-of-festival meeting, where we will discuss the way forward for CARIFESTA; it is likely to by my last such meeting, unless something else takes place between now and December. It’s a shame, but there it is.

There’s so much to share! There’s the finishing of the recounting of the Anna Regina trip, which was in every way the highlight of the trip, from its organization to the reception of the play and the players in Essequibo, to the experience of staying at Lake Mainstay and swimming in black water, to the return journey, which was more exciting and efficient than the outward bound one.

There’s the summarizing of the Bahamian activities, the bungle of the container and its remaining in Freeport, my disappointment that we were not able to see many other presentations, the mastery of the activities in the Grand Market, the glitches we had and the mistakes that we made (by “we” I mean the Bahamian contingent), the hospitality of the ordinary Guyanese, the incomprehensibility of the closing ceremony preparations, the ending of the Fineman reign of terror, the success (at last!) of our literary artists in finding a way onto the programme, the disappointment of the choir (who never sang anywhere they were sent as the places were unsuitable for a choir — choirs, my people, are HARD to mike, and good ones will not take kindly to being placed before two little unidirectionals which will mess up the balance and distort their sound. Let’s get that right in the end), the triumph of that same choir at the final Bahamian country presentation, my disappointment in the second Junkanoo rush-out, the major SNAFU with the Berbice performance, and finally being able to attend someone else’s show — Jamaica’s offering of Love Games at the Theatre Guild.

And there’s the serious discussion of what we need to do, and how, if we want this festival to move forward. But all of that will wait. I fly home on Monday, on the charter (! YIPPEE — no braving that stop in Trinidad with Caribbean Air!) and on Tuesday I’m back at work, climbing on the hamster wheel one last time to wind down, I hope, my responsibility to the Government. My plan now is to serve out the fall, wrap up the CARIFESTA activities, collect the revenue as well as clean up the container mess, submit a report, wrap up the more long-term projects, like the National Cultural Policy and the numerous draft pieces of legislation prepared since 2003, and move on to more productive activities at the College of The Bahamas.

And finally, there’s the experience of staying at Buddy’s International Hotel, a most interesting establishment. It’s always an education for me to travel in the Caribbean as a Bahamian and to experience other (potentially competing) arms of the Caribbean tourism enterprise. More often than not, it highlights what we have done well, what we have mastered. We have our challenges, most certainly, but more than a century in the hotel and resort industry does have its value, let me tell you, and often our experience shows when we travel elsewhere.

Unfortunately, our experience isn’t the only thing that shows; our arrogance also shows. We are often considered the Americans of the Caribbean — rich, brash, unlettered, scornful, and ignorant — and even when we do not entirely live up to that reputation, we behave in manners that are open to that interpretation. If we are to host CARIFESTA well, we will have to address that fact in a serious way.

But first things first: finish the reports on CARIFESTA, and then move on.

Cheers.

CARIFESTA Update – Second Georgetown Performance, and Anna Regina

I can say right now that Anna Regina was the highlight of our trip. Protocol and prudence would have me add “so far”, but I doubt that there will be anything more to come that will rival our Anna Regina (Essequibo) experience. I offer my public thanks to the organizers and schedulers of CARIFESTA X Guyana for sending Teeth to Anna Regina, and allowing me to go.

That said, let me start.

The Children’s Teeth
was scheduled to appear in the Anna Regina Multilateral School in Essequibo at 6 p.m. Tuesday — this after its finishing a two-night run at Queen’s College in Georgetown. We waited for some time to get information about when we should leave for Essequibo, because the set would have to be built in the space we were performing in and we needed several hours of advance time. Philip and Terrance erected the set in Queen’s College in four hours; if it would take as long in Essequibo, we would have to factor that into our journey planning. Anyway, by five on the night of the second Georgetown performance, Philip finally got to talk to Paloma Mohammed, CARIFESTA’s Artistic Director, and work out what we would need to do. In the meantime, I took off for downtown, as I’d discovered that the one thing we’d forgotten to bring for our performance was a programme for Teeth, and I wanted to print and photocopy the one page of information that I’d prepared during the day.

I was travelling with the liaison officer assigned to me, a young woman whom I call Shelly because she always introduces herself to me as “your liaison officer”. We have two sets of such officers assigned to our contingent. The regular ones are assigned by the CARIFESTA Secretariat, and are detailed to work with the various elements of our contingent — with the Junkanoos, the writers, the actors, the dancers, the musicians, etc — and the other ones are assigned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and are detailed to work with the senior officials on the trip — myself and Greg Butler (Directors of Culture and Youth respectively) and, of course, Minister. Shelly had agreed to take me to find a place to get copies made, and we ended up at the mall. Of course, my Bahamian eyes saw no mall — they just saw a downtown block with lots of storefronts, until Shelly led me through a passage that reminded me of the entrance to the Prince George Arcade in Nassau, and we ended up — yes — in a mall, complete with roof and escalators up to second and third floors and lots of shops. Right near the entrance was a counter with a girl sitting behind it and a photocopier beside her. Was this the place to make photocopies? we asked. Yes, she said, and took the plastic cover off the machine and started it up. Can you print from a flash drive too? She turned the machine off and recovered it. No, she said, perhaps somewhere else …

We wandered through the mall, until we were advised that we should try an internet cafe. At that point Shelly — who is very organized and efficient in an extremely quiet and understated way — made a phonecall and walked me outside, and asked whether I’d have a problem taking a bus to get to City Hall.

I said I didn’t. And in theory, the anthropologist in me didn’t — indeed, that anthropologist was quite looking forward to the adventure of taking a bus. But the Bahamian in me was screaming Hell No!!! because she had seen the Guyanese buses before — nineteen people squeezed into a fifteen-seater bus, the kind of vehicle we in The Bahamas might call an eight or nine seater (we like a little more personal space at home these days — perhaps we can afford it). But I could see City Hall a few blocks away, and figured that the adventure of catching, boarding and deboarding the bus would be less efficient in the end than simply hoofing our way to the Hall. So we walked the three or four blocks we had to walk — perhaps as far as it would be to get from the British Colonial to Rawson Square, if that — and entered the City Hall compound.

Now I have seen Georgetown’s City Hall from the road, from a bus, every time I’ve been here. But I have never been on foot really till now. And the Hall looks imposing, majestic, and downright beautiful when it’s seen properly — it’s white with pale blue trim and is made of wood and wrought iron and it has a tower and several storeys and it’s a historically significant building. It also turns out that Shelly’s mother was the Town Clerk, and she agreed to print the programmes for me.

The second performance went well, with a fuller house than the night before, and loads of press — Guyana TV, BIS, ZNS. And afterward, while we were being fed by our stagehands and liaison officers, Philip and Terrance dismantled the set and began to prepare the pieces that would make the journey upcountry the next day. The whole set couldn’t go, because the stage was smaller than the one we had; but we would make do. Eight pieces went, and the truck arrived to be packed, and we packed it, and then we came on back to our residences and prepared for a seven thirty start in the morning.

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