Carifesta XIV bringing the region together in the “Streets of the Caribbean”

This facade of the Suriname Presidential Palace welcomes visitors to the Fashion District inside the “Streets of the Caribbean” as part of the Carifesta XIV Grand Market at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Photo by Nigel Telesford

Over the next seven days, the sights, sounds, colors, tastes and cultural aspects of all the Caricom nations of the Caribbean will be represented here in Trinidad and Tobago at the fourteenth Caribbean Festival of The Arts – more commonly known as Carifesta XIV. The Queen’s Park Savannah has come alive with all manner of activities designed to stimulate the five senses and the installation of the Carifesta XIV “Grand Market”, which includes enticing and engaging components such as the: Fashion District, Food Park, Live at Lunch, Trade District, Country Nights, Craft District, Green Corner and more.

With T&T being the host country for the fourth time, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts commissioned the Carifesta XIV Secretariat two years ago to showcase and represent the region while also engaging various local suppliers, performers and talents in diverse fields of industry.

For the first time in the history of this festival, the region’s most iconic landmarks and tourist attractions have been reproduced and assembled together on full display in the “Grand Market” at the Queen’s Park Savannah. These reproductions of regional landmarks exist under the designation “Streets of the Caribbean” and will also serve as eye-catching backgrounds for photo memorabilia.

Conceptualized by Carifesta XIV’s Artistic Coordinator, Jamie Thomas, the murals and facades that comprise the ‘Streets of the Caribbean,’ were “designed to transport people across the region with sight, sound, smell and feel and thus, represent a microcosm of the Caribbean with a theme-park aesthetic”. 

The facade surrounding the Country District depicts Cuban Houses as part of the “Street of the Caribbean” inside the Carifesta XIV “Grand Market” at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Photo by Nigel Telesford

Thomas revealed that the concept was “brought to life” and constructed by a special team of designers, including Max Munroe, Enaldo Bynoe and the team at Creator Design – led by their Artistic Director and world-renowned, Trinbago-based engineer, Ben Gayah. 

“I am the artistic director at Creator Design, but without my very capable team it would not have been possible to complete this project,” said Gayah. “It took approximately 2 months of non-stop work to get them completed and the monuments have been up for just over 2 weeks now since we began installing them on site. We did the Twin Towers, Starbroek Market, Suriname Presidential Palace, Antigua Cathedral and the Barbados Bridge/Clock Tower. The Twin Towers happen to be my favorite because they look like the actual buildings, but the Suriname Presidential Palace had the most details, so that made it more of a challenge than the rest of them. The material used was a mixture of styrotex, plywood and paint and the challenge was the time-frame given to complete the pieces. In the end though: it brings us real joy to create these pieces for everyone to enjoy – that’s the best part!”

Nine monuments have been recreated and installed at the “Streets of the Caribbean” inside the Grand Market at the Queen’s Park Savannah. These monuments represent the nine countries who have hosted the festival since its inception in 1972 and include: 
The St Johns Cathedral in Antigua/Barbuda – which is the next host country for Carifesta in 2021; the Chamberlain Bridge and Clock Tower in Barbados – representing the country that hosted Carifesta in 1981 and in 2017; the Cuba Houses from Havana, Cuba – who hosted Carifesta in 1979; the Presidential Palace of Suriname in Paramaribo, who hosted in 2003 and 2013; the Starbroek Market in Guyana, who hosted Carifesta in 1972 and 2008; the St Kitts and Nevis Clock Tower in Basseterre, Saint Kitts, who hosted Carifesta in 2000 and the “Twin” Financial Towers of the host country Trinidad and Tobago, who have hosted Carifesta in 1992, 1995, 2006 and now in 2019. Two statues are included as part of this collection, namely: “Le Marron Inconnu – The Unknown Slave”, which represents Haiti, who hosted Carifesta in 2015 and the Bob Marley Statue from Kingston, Jamaica, who hosted Carifesta in 1976.

A visitor from St Kitts takes a photo of the Twin Towers mural as part of the “Streets of the Caribbean” inside the Carifesta XIV Grand Market at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Photo by Nigel Telesford

Thomas revealed that the concept for the “Streets of the Caribbean” struck him, whilst he was travelling to Dubai and Kenya last year. The creative veteran media professional said he researched the history of the festival and wanted to contribute a new and innovate concept for showcasing the region, our culture and its people.

“I wanted the Grand Market to feel like its own city and to reflect two things: a theme-park sort of experience, where one is entertained by sights and sounds, but one which is simultaneously an educational experience for locals – for those who may not have traveled the region to have an opportunity to see something from the other islands in an almost life-size scale – and also for our visitors to see something familiar that they identify with and thus, feel a sense of belonging. I wanted our guests from the region to feel a sense of ownership because it’s their festival also – yes, it’s hosted by us this year, but it really reflects all of the Caribbean. That actually fulfills the concept of the festival and I’m very happy to serve Caricom, serve Trinidad and Tobago and to serve culture because I’m a man who truly loves the Caribbean. I’ve lived in the Cayman Islands and traveled the Caribbean extensively through my show on Tempo for many years. I believe this concept is a first and I’m hoping that people really enjoy the experience.”

Carifesta XIV opened on Friday evening and continues until August 25 with a myriad of events, showcases, symposia, film screenings, art exhibition and more taking place at various venues around the nation. For more information, download the Carifesta App, visit the website at or follow @carifesta2019 on IG and Twitter.

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