CARIFESTA: 1st edition celebrated by Guyana but 15th edition cancelled by Antigua & Barbuda?

Photo: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority

Carifesta in Antigua & Barbuda

Scheduled for August 12-22, 2021 in Antigua and Barbuda, the 15th edition of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) was postponed two years ago by the government of these two islands. According to the press release issued on October 08, 2020, this major cultural gathering was to be held from August 11 to 21, 2022. “The postponement of the Festival comes in the wake of the continued challenges surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and its prolonged devastating impact not only on the economy of Antigua and Barbuda, but also on the entire Caribbean Community”, could read. The Minister of Sports, Culture, National Festivals and the Arts, Daryll Matthew, had also indicated that Carifesta XV in 2022 must be used as a “moment for the re-imaging and re-engaging of our collective progress and destiny, which are among the goals of Carifesta”.

But it is clear that there is no excitement around the largest cultural festival in the Caribbean as it is the case at each edition. There is no press release about a possible second postponement or a possible cancellation of the event.

We have contacted the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda and Caricom to find out more, we are waiting for their answers.

It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic still is a major obstacle for the conduct of the largest festival in the Caribbean. According to the health authorities of Antigua and Barbuda, a full immunisation scheme represents two doses of vaccine ; people who have received only one dose or no dose at all arriving in the country must, among other things, be placed in quarantine for two weeks. Moreover, in the Eastern Caribbean countries, heavy penalties (fines or prison sentences) are in effect for violators. Did all the Caribbean guests at Carifesta receive these famous two doses? Not so sure. Maybe because of the lack of available doses, but also because they refused to be vaccinated…

It was the first time that Antigua and Barbuda were chosen to host Carifesta, but with 8,851 cases and 144 deaths, this Caribbean state of just under 100,000 inhabitants obviously does not want to take any risks. Does it have the financial means to organize such a high-level event after the devastation caused by Covid-19 on the world economy, especially on tourism?

Symposium 50ans Carifesta C

Carifesta I celebrated in Guyana

In any case, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Carifesta whose first edition took place, remember, from August 25 to September 15, 1972 in Guyana, a virtual symposium has been organized from August 5 to 7, 2022 in this South American country which is a member of Caricom. Its title was: “The Inaugural Caribbean Festival of Arts as Prism: 20th Century Festivals in the Multilingual Caribbean”. The co-organizers – Adrienne Rooney, Dr. Ramaesh J. Bhagirat-Rivera, and Dr. Vibert C. Cambridge – wished to examine the inaugural Carifesta, its significance, and its legacies. We will collectively explore its possibilities, achievements, and missteps. We will also use this seminal moment as a prism through which Caribbean culture, nationalism, transnationalism, and postcolonialism can be analyzed (…)”.

Researchers, artists, participants of Carifesta 72, as well as the Guyanese and Caribbean diaspora had the opportunity to send a written contribution about this cultural meeting. This event was also organized in partnership with the Guyana Cultural Association of New York (GCA) as part of the 2022 Guyana Folk Festival. Those who were in Guyana at the time were invited to physically visit the exhibition called “Carifesta at 50: The Festival City Exhibition” held at the Lions Club of Ruimveldt on Saturday, August 6.