The Surinamese Presidential Palace located in Independence Square, Paramaribo on Friday, was transformed into a kaleidoscope of colours as thousands of people witnessed the opening of Carifesta XI that showcased hundreds of dancing children, a military drum band and fireworks among others.
The event is being attended by representatives from countries from the Caribbean, UNASUR and further afield.
Guyana’s 60-member contingent includes Head of the Literary Arts-Al Creighton, Arts and Craft -Denzil Hollingsworth, music- Andrew Tyndall, performing arts – Seeta Shaw Roath, Fashion -Carol Fraser, and Films- Richard Pitman. Head of the delegation is Director of Culture, Dr. James Rose.
Carifesta XI which is being staged during the period August 16 to 26, is a multidisciplinary festival that showcases the cultural expressions of peoples of more than 30 countries in the Caribbean Region.
The event will allow contingents to showcase their skills and various cultural pieces in literary arts, arts and craft, music, visual arts, performing arts, fashion and culinary arts.
One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was the performance of a group of 340 children between the ages of 6-16 years who showed their skills in various types of dances including traditional, modern, hip hop, ballet and contemporary. Suriname received support from Cuba in this regard.
Suriname’s cultural diversity was highlighted as the audience was treated to expressions from different groups: East Indians, Amerindians, Javanese and Maroons.
Together, the cultural pieces told Suriname’s story of development and the way forward with much attention on the protection of the forest and the promotion of traditional practices.
One of the most captivating elements in the presentation was the illumination of the Presidential Palace which was used throughout the programme as a backdrop.
“We are dedicated to position Carifesta X1 as a world renowned hallmark festival of Caribbean culture and artistic excellence that generates economic benefits, unites the Caribbean and excites all people,” President Desi Bouterse said in his speech at the event’s opening.
He emphasised that he and the citizens of Suriname are extremely happy to be hosting Carifesta as the region’s diverse culture is celebrated for the eleventh time.
“Suriname, with its famed hospitality, stands ready to demonstrate together with you how expressing ourselves strengthens the ties between peoples across the borders,” he said.
President Bouterse explained that for the first time the festival brings together peoples from the Caribbean and those from the rest of world.
“I can assure you that during the coming days, Suriname citizens will succeed in making all of us feel connected as equal human beings,” he said.
The President emphasised that culture is an important cornerstone for a healthy society which takes into account the economic and social factors. Knowledge of culture fosters an understanding among people of different identities, helps to resolve and prevent conflicts, and consequently enhances collaboration in relationships.
In his presentation, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque acknowledged that Carifesta X1 ties in with the 40th anniversary of the Caribbean community, and in this regard there is cause to reflect on integration.
“One of the architects of our regional integration movement and one of the signatories of the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973 the then Prime Minister of Guyana Forbes Burnham responded to the request of a group of writers to introduce Carifesta as a forum where artists and the people could come together to celebrate our culture and diversity…he recognised the important role of culture as a foundation of our regional movement to bring more people together to create one Caribbean family; integration is our vision,” Ambassador LaRocque highlighted.
He noted that the hosting of Carifesta brings back memories of the first event that was held 41 years ago in Guyana and Carifesta 8 which was held in Suriname in 2003.