WE LIVE in a time of disunity. Countries all over the world are increasingly polarised. We are divided by race, class, and politics. It’s hard to keep sight of what unites us.
The dream of Caribbean integration did not die with the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1962, though that was certainly a near-fatal blow. Caribbean nations continued to work diplomatically under the Caricom umbrella. Cultural, social, and juridical ties were forged. And Caribbean leaders, such as the late Patrick Manning, offered compelling arguments for greater unity, even if such arguments had its detractors.
Carifesta XIV, which will begin in just under two weeks, is a reminder that even if politicians like Donald Trump do their utmost to close our borders, our words, films, and art will always slip through. The festival is, to quote Sunday Newsday columnist Marina Salandy-Brown, “the cultural manifestation of Caribbean integration”, a “week of novel entertainment and cultural exhilaration with a purpose”.
That purpose is important. The fragmentation of longstanding political blocks, the re-ignition of old tensions, the rise of movements which have, in the past, paved the way to war, and an impending environmental catastrophe – which is finding expression in record-breaking weather all over the world – make clear we are facing challenges we have never faced before.
The Caribbean as a region must understand its strategic importance as well as the economies of scale. Simply put: we’re more likely to have a better chance in the face of the onslaught if we are united, not isolated. No man is an island, said poet John Donne. There are lessons we can learn from our neighbours. There are also things we can teach them. We have a better chance of having a say on global issues – like pollution, the crisis in Venezuela, the impasse in Guyana, and the fate of Cuba – if we come together as a regional block.
Carifesta is a perfect example of how the arts can more clearly reflect society from the ground up. The arts allow us to see ourselves, to embrace our shared humanity, to wonder at the mysteries we face and hope to unravel. What better reminder is there of the ties that bind?
The upcoming programme has been supported by key stakeholders such as government ministries, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the TT Film Festival and corporate sponsors. We encourage the public to take advantage of what is set to be the most multi-faceted edition of Carifesta yet.
Given the high rate of murder and mayhem that plagues our seemingly blighted country, a festival of the arts might seem tone-deaf. In fact, it is probably the thing our beleaguered population needs to embolden it with ideas and to inspire hope for the future.