Caribbean Festival of Arts: Where is the Indo-Caribbean culture?

Editorial by Ms. Sherry Hosein Singh, Trinidad, West Indies

The Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in Trinidad and Tobago has come and US$6 million has gone.

A post-mortem has to be done.

With respect to Indo-Caribbean culture in CARIFESTA, it was marginalized in the Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname presentations. A content analysis by percentages will prove this claim.

Indians constitute the majority ethnic group in these countries as well as the majority ethnic group in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Never mind the window-dressing of the little Ramleela here and the little Sangeeta there in CARIFESTA.

This tokenism was clearly illustrated in the opening ceremony at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, on the Friday night when David Rudder sang “Trini to the bone.” Indo-singer Neval Chatelal and some Indian dancers trailed at the tail-end (not saying like a dog, eh) of Rudder’s delivery.

Chatelal’s voice was muted to give aurality and prominence to Rudder. Chatelal touched Rudder, seeking recognition and acceptance, but Rudder did not even watch him.

At the CARIFESTA symposia at the University of the West Indies (UWI), all the feature speakers not only marginalized Indians and Indian culture, they also ignored them completely.

At the panel discussion on reparations for slavery, for example, indentureship was not even referenced. There were no Indians or survivors of the genocide of Amerindians represented on the panel.

The high point of discrimination was exhibited on Monday, August 19, at the University of the West Indies (UWI) when Professor Kei Miller spoke on the topic “Re-Imagining Caribbean Futures.”

Miller, and all the speakers who came to the lectern before him that evening – Professor Brian Copeland, Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Dr. Paula Morgan, Dr. Suzanne Burke, and MC Dr. Efebo Wilkinson – defined culture in the Caribbean as Carnival in all its manifestations.

They spoke only of pan, moko jumbies, J’ouvert, blue devils, Dame Lorraine, Sailor Mas, etc. as well as dancehall, reggae, and soca. Not a word from any of them about Divali, Hosay, Ramleela, kassida, Pichakaree, Rath Yatra, chutney, churail, saaphin, tassa, etc.

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