GROUP AND ARTIST PRESENTATIONS
Derek Browne, Dudley Charles, Errol Doris, Sr., Carl Hazlewood, David Lanyi
This panel includes artists who organized exhibitions and/or showed their work at Carifesta ’72 as well as artists influenced by the festival.
Artistry in Furious Storms: Personal Reflections of Past Creative Administrators of Carifesta
Dr. Hilary Brown, Dr. Paloma Mohamed Martin, Dr. Efebo Wilkinson
This panel of administrators of Carifesta explores the operational considerations and perceived impacts of Carifestas in the 1990s and mid-2000s. In a reflexive voice, these panelists discuss the administration of the festival, the most invisible but hugely significant aspect of the production of a Carifesta.
CAM (Caribbean Artists Movement-1966-1972) -The Embryo of Carifesta
Rod Westmaas, with contributions by Carmen Monroe, Ram John Holder, Doris Harper-Wills, Joyce Trotman, Ann Walmsley, Ian Hall, Ken Corsbie, Eric Huntley, Ansel Wong, Stewart Brown, John Stephenson, Peter Fraser, Alex Pascall and Marc Matthews, among others.
The Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) was founded in London in 1966 by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, John La Rose and Andrew Salkey. The burgeoning West Indian diaspora from the newly independent Caribbean nations that had settled in the capital, along with those nations yet to seek independence, were eager to explore their history, society and culture. The founders were determined to create a forum by which talent from the Caribbean was not suppressed but given the exposure they rightly deserved.
Braithwaite, a poet from Barbados, Salkey a novelist and radio journalist from Jamaica and La Rose a book publisher and poet from Trinidad, providing the perfect synergy needed for CAM to exist.
This presentation will seek to show, by way of videos, statements and reflections from the London diaspora, how CAM was fed and nourished by the prevailing conditions in London, how it grew by the contributions, enthusiasm and brilliance of the talents that had chosen to call London their home and finally how it gave birth to charismatic heroes, explored myths, re-energised traditions and beliefs, heralded creativity and eventually making way for a new platform in the form of Carifesta.
SCREENING AND DISCUSSION
Carifesta 1972: Fragments
Jasper Adams, Simone Dowding, Stanley Greaves, Margaret Lawrence | Moderator: Russel Lancaster
The Moray House Trust will premiere a video prepared for this symposium featuring fragments from Guyana’s contribution to the inaugural Carifesta programme as well as reminiscences. These fragments will include: An Extract from Couvade, a play by Michael Gilkes (read by Russel Lancaster, Simone Dowding, Jasper Adams and the late Ron Bobb-Semple); seminal artist Stanley Greaves’ memories of his exhibition and a look at some of the work he displayed; and The Legend of Kaieteur, a poem by AJ Seymour (read by Russel Lancaster & Margaret Lawrence).
MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION AND EXHIBITION
CARIFESTA IZ AH BIG TING and A COMMEMORATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CARIFESTA '72
Errol Ross Brewster
Artist Errol Ross Brewster will comment on the nature and orientation of contemporary Carifesta practice in this multimedia presentation. While working on commissioned films of Carifesta in 1979, 2003, and 2006, Brewster interviewed regional cultural luminaries and compiled remarks by festival organizers—these sources inform his narrative. Alongside his presentation, Brewster’s info module A COMMEMORATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CARIFESTA '72 is featured in this symposium. To view the work and learn more about the artist, please visit the symposium’s Virtual Gallery.
Dance@Carifesta ’72: The Evolution of Dance in Guyana
Doris Harper-Wills, Malcolm Hall, Verna Walcott-White, Linda Griffith, Mwanza Glenn, Vivienne Daniel | Moderator: Dr. Rose October
Arguing that Carifesta ’72 contributed to the growth of dance in Guyana, this panel will address the legacy of dance in Guyana and showcase its evolution and current trends. Each panelist was directly involved or impacted by Carifesta ’72 and will present aspects of their personal experiences. As we reflect on Carifesta ’72, the panel will present on the pageantry of dance; the impression left by the international community on dance and dancers in Guyana; the influence of Carifesta on dance as a profession; the administrative aspect of planning for Carifesta; the importance of the birth and development of the Guyana National School of Dance; academia and the arts - specifically dance, and benefitting from the legacy of dance, as a youth.
Panelist Doris Harper-Wills, an artist and author will discuss the Pageantry in Dance of Carifesta ’72. She will emphasize the involvement of children in folk dance, and speak about the mass movement of the secondary school children in the park, and their engagement in poetry, song, and dance that were integral aspects for the youth involved in Carifesta ’72. Malcolm Hall will focus on Guyanese exposure to the international community of dance at Carifesta ‘72. His focus will be on a few dance companies and how the leaders of these companies left a huge impression on dance and dancers in Guyana. Some of those companies were the Barbadian Dance Company, Jamaican Dance Company, LaRose Festival, and Ballet de Haiti. Verna Walcott will relay her experience as a dancer at Carifesta ’72 and how it influenced her life as a professional: dancer, and choreographer, and later an entrepreneur and artistic director of her company, Impressions Dance Theater. She will also address how some local choreographers such as Robert Narain, Doris Harper-Wills, Helen Taitt, and Michael Layten have impacted her dance journey. Leslyn Clarke-Pierre will discuss the administrative aspect of Carifesta ’72, as she was a staff member of the then National History and Arts Council where she held the position as secretary of the late Lynette Dolphin, the chairperson/director of the Department of Culture. As Ms. Dolphin’s secretary, Leslyn was a part of planning committees’ meetings that were instrumental in operationalizing Carifesta ‘72. She will address the role of planning for Carifesta.
Further, Linda Griffith will address the birth and development of the Guyana National School of Dance, along with the impact of “dance” and the exposure of its students on the international scene through their attendance to Carifesta in other countries. She will discuss how these experiences helped to develop young dancers’/children’s character and further the appreciation of dance in Guyana. Mwanza Glenn will discuss how he has benefitted from the legacy of dance as a young dancer, choreographer, and fashion designer, and about his dance knowledge gained as a result of his dance teachers’ exposure to dance stalwarts during Carifesta ’72. Once a student of the Guyana National School of Dance, and eventually, a member of the National Dance Company of Guyana himself, he will discuss his high level of appreciation for the technical work brought to Guyana by Madam Lavinia Williams and the Cuban visiting dance instructors. Aside from his life in the dance arena, as one of Guyana’s top young fashion designers, he is using dance as an influence for the creation of his fashion designs. Finally, as the Director of the National Dance Company of Guyana, Vivienne Daniel will address the current state of dance in Guyana, while focusing on how Carifesta ’72 has impacted her life as a teacher of academia and dance. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of knowledge transference about cultural forms in different regions, as related to the academia and dance. In other words, she will discuss how cultural knowledge is being addressed in Guyana and the Caribbean regions through primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Festival City and Carifesta '72: The People who Came
Terrence Richard Blackman, Michele Luard-Charles, and Carolyn Walcott
This panel brings together some of the original residents of Festival City to reflect on their personal experiences of living in and coming of age in Festival City. In addition, the panel will highlight some of the personalities, institutions, and activities that defined the community. Each participant will offer their Festival City reflections: where did their family move from? Why? What schools did they and other children attend? What churches, libraries, friends and personalities were integral to their lives there? The panel will aim to define the ethos and aims of the community and its significance within the evolution of the more comprehensive Guyanese project.
SCREENING AND PRESENTATION
Re/Imagining Carifesta ’72 on Film
Joan Cambridge and Jeremy Jacob Peretz
Re/Imagining Carifesta ’72 on Film Prior to screening a brief excerpt-in-progress, the presentation will begin with recollections and explication regarding a screenplay originally co-written for Carifesta 72 by Joan Cambridge and her late husband Julian Mayfield, then-Senior Special Political Advisor to Prime Minister Forbes Burnham. Never materialized as a final product, the film sought to galvanize emergent Guyanese national and Caribbean regional consciousness, while serving as archival resource documenting the first Carifesta performances, exhibitions, and atmospheres. Together with her collaborator Jeremy Peretz, Joan will provide background context on the original film and outline their present work on a revived and extended take at the concept. Concerns with cultural sovereignty and self-determination that inspired the initial Carifesta have attained renewed relevancy demanding exigency. Re/imagining the vital role arts play in people’s everyday lives, the current production refracts past into future through the prism of those fifty years since Carifesta 72. The plot imagines a couple coming from the United States to attend the festival. He is a Guyanese so intoxicated with the lure of America he can’t wait to return—while his spouse, an African American artist captivated by her experience of Guyana, its rhythm, its culture—decides to settle, and perhaps without him. So begins an odyssey of revived urgency through the ancestral calls of Pan-Afro-Caribbean sacred arts. Drums sound, and ensuing conflicts and revelations provide windows into complex dynamics of nation, diaspora, and imperial afterlives, with Carifesta’s cultural presentations as animating backdrop. “And the wheel turns / and the future returns / wreathed in disguises.”
PERFORMANCE AND TALK
We are the Legacy of Creative Revolutionary, Rajkumari Singh
Taij Kumarie Moteelall, Simone Devi Jhingoor, Priya Dadlani, Miranda Rachel Deebrah, with Sharda Shakti Singh
There are only two kinds of artists ~
those in the arts, and those with the art in them.
– Rajkumari Singh
Fifty years ago, Rajkumari Singh served as an Advisor to the Carifesta Secretariat, playing an essential role in the actualization of the first Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) held in Guyana from August to September 1972. She formulated and planned activities for Carifesta ensuring 30 participating countries from the Caribbean and South America could join forces during a powerful postcolonial creative and cultural moment to uplift the hopes and visions of a unified Caribbean. Singh, a stalwart in the arts and political activism, nurtured future generations of creatives; promoted historical literature, as well as the arts and crafts of Folk Culture in Guyana; and offered a sanctuary space for creative practice and community building in her home on Lamaha Street.
In this session organized by Taij Kumarie Moteelall, artist, activist, and co-founder of Jahajee Sisters, we will examine the legacy of Singh, specifically how her indomitable spirit lives on in a new generation of Indo-Caribbean creatives in New York City. We will place our artistic and cultural work within the lineage of Singh's impact, and creatively exhibit the ripple effects of her contribution to Carifesta ‘72, as well as her commitment to connecting creativity and revolution to the collective thriving of Caribbean people and nations.
Because of Singh, and her children, Gora, Prith, Radha and Chitra’s leadership in NYC, a fired up cadre of feminist leaders who are achored in our ancestral lineage and Caribbean identity are rising up to carry forth her vision. We will share our art, speak to the influence of Rajkumari Singh on us, and connect how we are carrying forth her creative, revolutionary legacy. As visual artists, dancers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, poets, theatre and performance artists we will share our collaborative art presented at the 2020 and 2021 virtual Indo-Caribbean Women’s Empowerment summits. These performances paid homage to Singh and viscerally demonstrated her impact on us. We will also share our thoughts and perspectives on the linkage of arts and activism to healing generational trauma and building solidarity across race, class. Gender and power.
Instances of “Pur’ Blaka” in the Caribbean
Caribbean folklore has many stories of murderous atrocities perpetrated against regional indigenous populations and enslaved persons trafficked transatlantic by slavers to be used as fodder for the plantations established by European colonizers. Paranormal occurrences have also been reported at many regional sites where innocent blood was shed en masse and Bloody Point, a very popular historical site in St. Kitts and Nevis, stands out in that regard. At this site, more than 4000 Carib Indians were massacred by the European colonizers in a pre-emptive strike. Folklorists claim the many freak accidents and paranormal occurrences that blight Bloody Point are caused by non-transitioned souls of the massacred whose sudden deaths prevented them completing a three-phase rite of passage to the afterlife.
Arnold van Gennep, who studied rites of passage of various cultures, postulates that the death ritual comprises separation, transition and incorporation but souls eviscerated in sudden death do not complete this cycle. He also theorizes that deliberate interaction between the between the corpse, the living and the soul is required for the process to be completed. Robert Hertz suggests that the purpose of funerary rites as a ritual is to assist a material object (such as a living being) to pass from this world to the next. In the ritual, as the object is destroyed it liberates the soul which is then transformed to a greater or lesser degree and before being reconstructed in the beyond (Hertz 1960:46). This concept is known as “Pur’ Blaka” and Pur’ Blaka was recommended to St Kitts and Nevis at CARIFESTA VII in 2000 by Surinamese Cultural icon Henk Tjon †. This presentation explores the contributions of rituals in CARIFESTA.
Precursors to Craifesta
This 15-minute PowerPoint presentation is a brief factual presentation of the two precursors to Carifesta: the 1952 Caribbean Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the 1958 Federation Festival in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Performative National Identity at CARIFESTA XIV: The case of Guyana
Lloyda Alicia Garrett
Guyana’s presentation at the opening showcase of the 2019 Caribbean Festival of Arts, commonly known as CARIFESTA burst onto the stage under the theme “One Voice” and deployed symbols of cultural identity through the combination of set design, costumes, music, dance and other theatrical elements. Melissa “Vanilla” Roberts’ voice rang out with a plea for unity, placing the blame for disharmony at the feet of some unnamed political elements and celebrated the power of the people to finally realize this key ingredient of Guyana’s national identity.
“So many years have passed and you know they still fooling we
That we are one people, one nation with one destiny
It is time we link our minds, make it reality” (Roberts 0:17)
In this paper, I argue that this theme is reflective of an aspirational goal within Guyana’s sociopolitical context, which is employed by creatives and politicians alike as a key element in the aim of defining national identity around a unifying and celebratory performance of what it means to be Guyanese. In exploring Guyana’s contribution to the 2019 festivalscape in Trinidad and Tobago I argue that the performative use of symbols within theatre, music, dance and literature are mediated by state involvement but still articulate and provide a space for the performance and rediscovery of cultural heritage and national identity (Nurse, 1999).
Visible inclusion of LGBTIQ+ as part of the Caribbean – SASOD at CARIFESTA X
Guyana hosted CARIFESTA X in 2008. The Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) was formed in 2003 to advance equality for LGBTIQ+ citizens. SASOD included the arts as part of the advocacy – including the English-speaking Caribbean’s first LGBT Film Festival Painting The Spectrum which started in 2005. SASOD organised a fringe festival during CARIFESTA X under the theme “Vele kleuren, één regenboog/Many colours, one rainbow/Beaucoup de couleurs, un arc-en-ciel/Muchos colores, un arco iris. This presentation reflects on the experience of the fringe festival.
Brathwaite’s Kinetics: A Poetics of Performance and Possession
René Johannes Kooiker
Caribbean literary critics and scholars have written extensively about Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s creative use of the “scribal/oral continuum” and his “Sycorax video style,” which ground his poetics of “nation language.” This paper gives an account of Brathwaite’s poetics of movement: his kinetics. This style is distinct to his writings about performative arts and religious practices. The “scribal/kinetic” continuum emerges between the act of writing and the performative arts via the state of possession that occurs in Afro-Caribbean religions such as vodun and Kumina. In his writing, Brathwaite explored the possibilities of print not just to approximate nation language and orality, but also to (re)stage acts and performances using spirit possession as a medium. To demonstrate the link between theatrical and ritual performance in print, I closely read Brathwaite’s description of Rex Nettleford’s Kumina choreography at Carifesta ’72 alongside his account of Marina Maxwell’s Yard Theatre, both of which evoke spirit possession. In his article on Kumina practitioner Imogene Kennedy, Brathwaite confirms the affinity between possession and performance in this distinctive print style. An alternative genealogy for Brathwaite’s stylistic features emerges—based not on the approximation or expression of orality and nation language, but instead on the ritual restaging of movement and performance.
Building Visual Art Heritage through Festivals: A Crucial Showcase for Caribbean Identity and Visibility on the International Art Market
Despite the difficulties, successive Carifesta festivals have managed to provide the necessary visibility and networking opportunities for regional practitioners in the field of art and culture. However, it is a real challenge to find archives on the bodies of works of these artists. This lack of documentation has contributed to the stymied efforts of Caribbean artists achieving much deserved legacy. It is also a factor that prevents the visual arts from fully playing their role in building unity and belonging to a community. They are recurring themes over the past two years following the murder of Georges Floyd in the United States. The discussions about identity and racial discrimination broke language barriers in the region and created an opportunity for the region to speak the same language.
From a practical angle, this article explores, taking the example of the visual arts to demonstrate:
1. how art is a crucial element in the construction of identity in the contemporary era ;
2. how to achieve the heritage of Caribbean artists and their works, and create new career opportunities in the region ;
3. and, how a festival like Carifesta can become the crucible in terms of decolonizing the views of Caribbean art production and output.
Music and Festival Culture: Connections, Interconnections and Disconnections across the diaspora
Meagan Avion Sylvester
This paper will place focus on the connections, interconnections and disconnections between expressions of festival culture between Trinidad and Tobago and New York City. Festival culture will be operationalized to mean “festival music” and as a subset of that, the genre which will be explored will be Calypso and its various hybrid forms of kaisofusion like Calypso-jazz, Calypso-R&B and Calypso-pop. The backdrop for this work is set against ongoing research taking place on the musical relationships and synergies between musicians, songwriters, Calypso orators, background singers, Calypsonians and other contributors to Calypso music who participate in the festival culture of Trinidad Carnival who were birthed in Trinidad and Tobago but migrated and now reside in New York City.
Important to this scholarship is the perspective that festival culture is not limited to time or space but can be realized, created and re-created where the performer is. Further, credit must be given to the impact of migratory movements and the reality of cultural transfer and their ability to shift the power differentials and transform cultural expressions in new places and spaces.