CARIFESTA XIV Opening Ceremony Address

Ministry of Community Development, Culture, and the Arts

Opening of Carifesta XIV Ceremony
Friday 16th August 2019 | Queen’s Park Savannah | 6:00 p.m.


Presented by: DR. THE HONOURABLE NYAN GADSBY-DOLLY, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts



Dr. The Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago 

Your Excellency Christine Kangaloo President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Mr. Kerwyn Garcia

The Honourable Bridgid Annisette George, Speaker of the House of Assembly and Mr. Newman George 

His Worship Joel Martinez, Mayor of Port of Spain

Members of Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet 

Ministers of Government across the region

The Honourable Kelvin Charles, Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the CARICOM Secretariat and Mrs. Sandra Bell LaRocque 

Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the Diplomatic Corps

Members of Parliament 

Members of the Tobago House of Assembly 

Dr. June Soomer, Secretary-General, Association of Caribbean States 

Dr. Hilary Brown, Programme Manager for Culture and Community Development of the CARICOM Secretariat 

CARIFESTA Delegations from the region and beyond 

The Trinidad and Tobago delegation

Members of the Host Country Management Committee, and CARIFESTA Secretariat 

Specially invited guests 

Members of the Media

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen 

Good Evening, 

What a journey…. But we are finally here, the opening night of CARIFESTA XIV Trinidad and Tobago’s journey to this evening started as an idea, then a decision, followed by almost two years of planning, culminating in this Grand Opening, the start of 10 days of the 14th Edition of CARIFESTA; the premier festival of the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, since the baton was passed from Barbados to Trinidad & Tobago in August 2017, we have all worked feverishly to further elevate this regional cultural celebration.  Strategically positioning our cultural identities into a ten-day festival became a Herculean task. Relative to the rest of the world, we are a small territory with larger than life cultural legacies. Our voices, shared memories, fiery spirits and artistic wonder are all unmatched. We have spent the last two years trying to narrate this unique Caribbean story using the best writing instruments available to us.  We have laboured over this collage using mixed media-and tonight, it is my honour to bestow unto you the exciting cultural product that is CARIFESTA XIV. 

We open with “Streets of the Caribbean”; an ode to the iconic architectural structures, from previous and the next CARIFESTA hosts, across the Caribbean archipelago.  From the Chamberlain Bridge in Barbados- originally constructed by the country’s first settlers, to Haiti’s striking ‘Le Marron Inconnu’ or “Unknown Slave” statue celebrating the abolition of slavery, to Guyana’s Starbroek Market, constructed in the 1880s – the streets of the Caribbean takes our built heritage and presents it in one concentrated space which represents the manifestations of our collective genius, and reimagines a stroll through the Caribbean like no other.  These vistas were carefully selected because they represent defining moments of our region’s history. Whether they are bastions of hope or symbols of innovation and progress in the region, they resonate with each of us, evoking nostalgic pride in our individual identities. So to the CARIFESTA delegates and our visiting Caribbean diaspora from all over the world, I say to you “Welcome to Your Streets of the Caribbean.” 

Since its inception in 1972, CARIFESTA has maintained its status as one of the region’s most successful model for cultural integration. It is a Biennial exercise in self-rediscovery for Caribbean people while sensitizing global audiences about the Caribbean’s cultural DNA. To safeguard the competitiveness of the region’s cultural product, CARIFESTA is evolving to feature more pathways for networking, mentorship and trade opportunities. The theme for this, the 14th edition – “Connect, Share, Invest” captures the broadened trajectory of the festival, whilst reflecting a paradigm shift in Trinidad and Tobago’s own cultural landscape. 

There are over three hundred (300) booths in the Grand Market separated into distinct districts.  First and foremost is the Country District where you can journey through the chain of countries from Suriname up to the Cayman Islands. Then unto the Fashion District with over thirty (30) entrepreneurs from the fashion industry in the region and beyond. Island Crafts features 60 regional and local artisans, while Caribbean Artistry features a unique mix of artisans and designers. As you stroll down serenity lane, you encounter a Book Fair where over one hundred (100) writers can not only sell their books but do readings and workshops.  The Caribbean Food Court provides an eclectic menu from the region and a finally the eighty (80) booth Trade Zone and Buyers’ Market place includes thirty (30) booths from the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association, a CARIFESTA gift shop as well as companies that are directly and indirectly associated with the cultural industry.  This District also features meeting rooms, workshop space and a conference facility to support business meetings and presentations as well as banking facilities courtesy First Citizens, the official bank of the festival.  

And at the epi-centre of all of this is the breakout stage for local and regional performances from 11:00 am daily, the quintessential Angostura Rum Shop and the Trinidad and Tobago county booth. The Grand Market is but a stone’s throw away from the National Museum and Art Gallery, the hub for Visual Arts and the Youth Village at Bishop Anstey High, powered by Republic Bank and Bmobile.

All of this will be complemented by over forty-five (45) events happening across performing spaces in both Trinidad and Tobago, celebrating the finest of our visual, theatre and literary arts, dance, music, cuisine, and fashion. 

Whilst the capital city will largely serve as the hub of the festival, it is critical that communities outside of Port-of-Spain harness the economic benefits of this undertaking. Thus six (6) community festivals were created, twinning visiting delegations with communities to share their cultural offerings. These festivals will amplify knowledge of local cultural assets, whilst forging stronger connections between micro-entrepreneurs and the regional community.  

Tobago plays an essential role in the CARIFESTA XIV story as they host up to four (4) regional delegations, to share in traditional heritage events like the Salaka Feast and Castara Bonfire. The delegation will also participate in cultural exchange workshops. Tobago can also boast have to have its own CARIFSTA Village and Island Vibes daily along the Scarborough Esplanade from August 19th to 21st.  

 We are Cognizant of the fact that knowledge-transfer is critical in developing the region’s cultural industry, the CARIFESTA XIV Symposia has been fashioned with trending, impactful sessions, and workshops. CARIFESTA’s Talent Search and Casting Call, Creative Zones.  It is our intention that at the end of this festival, the artistes of the region stand to benefit from enhanced networks which can further propel the creative industry forward. 

As I conclude, I must confess that on a personal and professional level, CARIFESTA XIV will be one of my most exhilarating journeys. I am humbled to have this opportunity and extremely proud of the dedication of the team that has worked to bring us to tonight. I make special mention of the CARIFESTA Secretariat and the Host Country Management Committee.  I invite you to open your minds and souls to the resplendence of the region’s most prolific cultural expression. Allow the memories of CARIFESTA XIV to overwhelm your senses, inspire your creativity, challenge your intellect, and take you to a higher state of existence. I thank you. 

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