STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
DURING THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019
CARIFESTA AND FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
Mr. Speaker, from 16th – 25th August, 2019, I led a delegation to Trinidad and Tobago for CARICOM’s Festival of the Arts, known as CARIFESTA. The delegation, totaling 19, included cultural artisans in a number of different areas, including ceramics, painting, poetry, fiction and non-fiction books, fashion, dance, photography, film and other media. The purpose of this trip was primarily to observe, attend workshops and network in preparation for the revitalization of culture in the Virgin Islands as well as full participation in CARIFESTA 2021 in Antigua and Barbuda.
Mr. Speaker, the decision to attend CARIFESTA was made with only a few weeks before the festival. At a Minister of Culture’s meeting in Guyana, an appeal was made to attend the festival by the host of the festival, the Minister of Culture, Dr. the Hon. Gadsby Dolly, of Trinidad and Tobago. Having attended the festival before, I was aware of the significant impact that this could have on our cultural artisans, particularly our young people.
Mr. Speaker, this CARIFESTA trip was not budgeted, and full participation could easily run well above $100,000. Given the fact that this quantity of money was not available, I made the decision to travel with a small delegation. This group of artisans did not have the time to prepare for any significant participation in the festival.
Mr. Speaker, despite our small delegation and limited preparation, the British Virgin Islands made an extremely strong impact at CARIFESTA, drawing praise from many participants for our powerful presentations. We came together as a team and marketed the BVI to the wider region, and made a strong impression in areas such as fashion, poetry, dance and even academic symposia. One of the fashion designers participated in one of the biggest runway shows in the Caribbean. All participants were pleased that we accomplished our goals, and we became a close-knit group in the process.
Mr. Speaker, participation in the festival has already provided dividends as the participants, since our return, have become involved in planning a Festival of the Arts to be held in the Queen Elizabeth II Park on 2nd November, a pre-culture week event, which will honour the late, great Delores Christopher. This event will be comprised of a full day of cultural activities, including music, dance, poetry, drama, fashion, and an art display and book fair and more. Public is invited to this event which will help kick off our activities for Culture Week, which will be celebrated for the 25th year.
In 2021, we will attend CARIFESTA in Antigua and Barbuda with a much bigger delegation and two years of preparation. Given the closer proximity of the festival, we should be able to save on transportation costs, flying participants in and out as needed. We expect to dazzle and display our culture in a grand manner.
Mr. Speaker, the public can expect a cultural renaissance under the leadership of this government of the people. I thank you for the opportunity to update the people on these important activities.