Acclaimed writer Earl Lovelace will be attending the 12th edition of the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (CARIFESTA) in Haiti, from August 21 to August 30. He will be a keynote speaker at a two-day symposium themed “The Caribbean, a Collective Memory,” which will question the issue of reparations and how the history of the Caribbean can be rewritten.
Lovelace said “it is important that the Caribbean have some sort of greater sense of itself, not simply floating around waiting for others to determine what we are, but we can and hopefully will determine this ourselves.”
He said CARIFESTA is important to the Caribbean as it is one of the few times when “Caribbean artists get together and exchange ideas, present their work and rekindle again the smoldering embers of what is a Caribbean.” On the issue of the seeming lack of interest in CARIFESTA and the arts in the general regional population, Lovelace said “the arts were banned in this country and in the region at a certain point, just like Baptists, Shango, stick-fighting, beating a drum, dancing and so on, what that did was to criminalize the arts and place them at the very lowest level and I think we haven’t apparently recovered from that yet.”
Lovelace said while his generation of writers and artists have done some groundwork, they did not manage to create a vision of what the Caribbean should be. It is up to the younger generation decide where they want the region to go, provided they can agree on a destination. “As part of the anti-colonial movement, the Federation was a big thing in our psyche and in our hopes, but people in their 20’s and 30’s, they don’t know anything about Federation, so they don’t have that built-in hope. We hear the calypsonians sing all the time “we’re all together, we all are one” and I think this is a real idea in the Caribbean. I don’t think that any one group here feels that they alone should be here. I don’t think that Africans feel it should be Africans alone, or Europeans feel that or Indians feel that. I think that everybody would like everybody else to be here, how we relate to each other is the question,” he stated.
Lovelace said a united Caribbean will better be able to raise the issue of reparations. He said, “the (artistic) movement is towards a Caribbean that begins really on justice and fair play and I don’t think that has been our beginning. We’ve avoided a lot of things, especially reparations. The need and cry for reparation is so clear, that it’s difficult to understand how we didn’t raise it on the level of our Governments early o’clock and even as we raise it now, we have to raise it in the context of these islands being independent.” He expressed disbelief that there had been very little word from Caribbean governments on the reparation issue but stated that even if they wanted to press the issue, there was very little they could do.
Lovelace said this will be his first visit to Haiti and he is eager to see what the country has become. He said he sees Haiti as “a spiritual pole in relation to rebellion and reparation, as a home that represents black struggle in the Caribbean and rebellion and the victory of rebellion. Haiti is a place where black people who had been enslaved, revolted and overthrew the existing government and beat the armies that Europe presented to push it back into enslavement. I would say to Haiti that we are the same people and we hopefully have the same kind of destiny. In the Caribbean, we have come together from different places, under different circumstances of equality, inequality, injustice and oppression. Different people have had different roles in that in the Caribbean and it is these groups of people that we want to get together to make one. That is going to involve a lot of work. People have to unlearn behaviour, people have to appreciate each other and appreciate what has happened.”
Lovelace said he wants the Caribbean to reclaim the rebellion as a starting point, as opposed to Emancipation. “Rebellion is against a system and it also envisages being for something and to clarify increasingly what we for and what we against as a starting point, which is provided as it were by rebellion. History is an account of the past that impels you to your future. So if you know where you’re coming from, then you know where you’re going. Where should the Caribbean go?”
The opening of the exhibition “Share Memory” at the National Pantheon Museum, will take place on August 20 and is the first major event of Carifesta XII Haiti. On Saturday, August 22, Haitian President, Michel Joseph Martelly will officially open the Grand Market Champ de Mars. CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, will attend CARIFESTA along with several Heads of Government of the Caribbean.
In addition to Earl Lovelace, the Trinidadian delegation will consist of Supernovas Steelband, which came 2nd in the International Steelband competition and Leroy Clarke, who will put on a mini-exhibition of 35 of his paintings. CARIFESTA, the largest cultural and artistic event in the Caribbean, has fused all forms of expression of Latin America and the Caribbean since 1972.
As a result, it has become a major multicultural and international event that increasingly attracts countries from other continents.