David Comissiong

A Carifesta Dance of Shame!

Dr. David Comissiong
A Carifesta Dance of Shame!

Which country that you know of, would host CARIFESTA, and would organize a major international Dance exposition as the central event of the Festival, but would refuse to include a single one of their local or national dance groups in the said Dance exposition ?

Well, if you guessed that the country is none other than Barbados you would have guessed right!

Would you believe, that Dr. John Hunte — the “artistic coordinator” of CARIFESTA –is seemingly proud to be able to announce that the “Signal Dance event” of CARIFESTA X111 will be a major international dance show at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium on the 24th of August, and that the event will feature dance groups from Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, and Haiti, but none from  Barbados !

According to Hunte, this ultra-prestigious show is designed “to use modern concepts of Caribbean identity to unfold visions of ourselves and our common legacy”, but the only Barbadians that he deems fit to include in the show are two female ballet dancers who reside and practice their craft in the European countries of Germany and Hungary.

Now, I have nothing against these two overseas based daughters of the soil– both of whom I know and admire– but somebody needs to tell Hunte , Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, and the rest of the CARIFESTA Secretariat that this is just not good enough.

If the Minister and his Secretariat are truly interested in exploring “modern concepts of Caribbean identity” and “visions of ourselves”, then how can they fail to include at least one of the best Barbadian dance groups that, year after year — at the annual National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) — creatively explore the boundaries of what it means to be Barbadian and Caribbean?

How can they– for example — fail to include such a quintessential and consistently excellent Barbadian and Caribbean dance group like Dancin Africa?

Is Minister Lashley and John Hunte really telling us that a group like Dancin Africa is not fit to grace the major dance stage at CARIFESTA — even though the Festival is being held in Barbados, and is being financed by the Barbadian taxpayers?

I have personally witnessed dance shows all over the Caribbean — from Cuba and Haiti in the North to Guyana and Suriname in the South– and I can affirm that some of the most compelling and impactful dance performances that I have ever witnessed have been delivered right here in Barbados at our annual NIFCA dance finals.

Indeed, the Dancin Africa troupe possesses a brilliant twenty-five year NIFCA gold award winning repertoire that is based upon at least two dozen profoundly insightful and moving dances crafted by such outstanding Barbadian choreographic talents as Gene Carson, Kelvin Carvalho, Tyrone Trotman, Oral Welshman, and Aisha Comissiong.

Is Dr. Hunte and Minister Lashley really telling us that none of these Barbadian master works are to be showcased to the rest of the world on the biggest and most prestigious CARIFESTA stage?

What a travesty! What a pathetic expression of a national inferiority complex! What a shame that something like this can still be happening after 50 years of Independence!

David Comissiong
Citizen of Barbados

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David Comissiong

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