Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said Tobago's hosting of a segment of Carifesta XIV could be the start of "something magical" for the island.
Addressing the launch of the Carifesta Tobago Grand Market at the Milford Road Esplanade in Scarborough on Monday, Charles said: "My Caribbean brothers and sisters, we are on the cusp of something magical with the Tobago leg of Carifesta XIV. There is the Grand Market at the Queen's Park Savannah and there is also one here in Scarborough. This will serve as the centre of activity for all things Carifesta-related on the island. So this is really a twin-island treat, with each of us bringing our own unique flavour to our hosting responsibilities."
Noting Carifesta XIV is TT's fourth time hosting the event, Charles said he hoped the island would serve visiting delegates with a wealth of experience and genuine warmth.
He pointed to the recently concluded Tobago Heritage Festival, saying the excitement continues with colour and splendour.
The Caribbean, Charles said, is much more than a region.
"We are in fact a family bonded together by some of our shared experiences. We are living in the era of digital connectivity.
"Some will argue that this is simultaneously a period that human-to-human interaction and connection are diminishing. It is a bit of an irony of sorts that, as technological tools and platforms advance, making it easier for us to reach and meet one another, there is the caveat that the converse may also be occurring."
It was against that backdrop, he said, that he was "quite delighted that the word ‘connect’ was selected as one of the tenets highlighted in this year’s Carifesta theme.
"Part of the value of this festival is that it provides an unparalleled chance for physical interaction among the Caribbean’s established and emerging creatives, artists and artistes, allowing them the golden opportunity to co-mingle, to discover their interconnectedness, to network and to forge new unions. As an incentive within Caricom, Carifesta produces and promotes regional camaraderie and community. I believe it is this desire to connect and to learn more about our fellow Caribbean brothers and sisters that is at the heart and soul of this festival."
Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation Nadine Stewart Phillips, in her address, urged delegates to indulge in the "Tobagoness."
“I am heartened that Tobago’s cultural fraternity is once again afforded the opportunity to share our rich offerings with our Caribbean family. This well-anticipated three-day affair is finally here, and the stage is set for a very splendent exposition of the region’s culture and arts."
“For many of us in the Caribbean, art is life, culture is identity and the world is our stage. This Caribbean festival of the arts therefore provides us with the magnificent opportunity to proudly represent and showcase our historically embedded livelihood and uniqueness for the world to see,” she said.
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said because of the "twinning" of TT, it can be easily misconstrued that the cultures of the two islands are the same.
“Anyone who would have visited the Tobago Heritage Festival and all that is manifested there would understand when Tobagonians say that they have their unique culture and heritage that they hold very dear in Tobago. And any visitor from Trinidad, as I have been, feels so proud to be apart of this twin-island state where you all have a totally different experience in one island to the other,” she said, adding that the visiting delegations that have the privilege and opportunity to be in Tobago are the envy of all the others.
“They are going to come to experience something that the others will miss out on. They are very excited and looking forward to being here, as I am, to experience some of Tobago’s heritage, some unique culture, and we are happy to be able to give that experience to them.”
The Tobago Grand Market features food, fashion, art and craft and ends on Wednesday.