Welcome Address by Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, O.R.T.T., President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago at the Launch of CARIFESTA XIV

Good evening.
Next year Trinidad and Tobago will, for the fourth time proudly host one of the most well-known and vibrant instruments of Caribbean unity. As the home of what we consider to be the greatest show on earth, we could not be more enthusiastic to be part of this process. Tonight, we celebrate creativity – one of the greatest assets of our region.

CARIFESTA has been a mecca for cultural performers from all across the region and is a perfect showcase for the plethora of talent that resides in this tiny corner of the world. My expectations for next year’s festivities are high given the impressive displays of creativity, energy and ingenuity that we have seen since 1972.

I am excited to be here and thank the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts for her kind invitation. I see myself as the quintessential Caribbean woman, perhaps because I spent three years at the Cave hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, which was itself an incubator of much of the region’s talent. It was a huge melting pot of students from one end of the Caribbean to the other who oozed raw talent which was given free expression.I was carried away by the atmosphere and lack of artistic talent notwithstanding, became Brickhouse, campus calypsonian. You will be relieved to know that I will not be delivering any renditions tonight as my singular role is to welcome you to this fourteenth edition of the Caribbean Festival of the Arts, a role that I embrace with as much relish as I did my providentially brief performing incarnation.

The appeal of CARIFESTA is that it exhibits both the elements which unify, and those which distinguish each territory from the other. Though we share major historical experiences, the nuances and variations of each island are most strikingly conveyed through artistic expression; we there see the diversity of our cultural heritage.

There is another aspect to CARIFESTA which we must recognise. Sixty years on after the birth of the West Indies Federation, the region continues to grapple with the notion of a Caribbean identity. The concept has been attempted in many frameworks but we are yet to arrive at the ideal construct.

CARIFESTA brings fully to life the dream of Caribbean unity. As representatives of their native country, participants are ambassadors for regional integration. The late Forbes Burnham, former President of Guyana, wanted this festival to ‘foster and develop a Caribbean personality’. Let this dream not have died with him.

I look forward to the prospect of greater value coming out of CARIFESTA. While the occasion is a wonderful opportunity for artistes to perfect their talent and refine their brands, it also affords a platform to learn, one from the other and to discuss ways and means of further collaboration in the arts, even outside of the CARIFESTA framework. I encourage all participants to exploit this opportunity and to use this festival as a launchpad for future projects and training in their respective countries.

Keep the ten objectives of CARIFESTA steadily in view as you prepare for August 16th to 25th, 2019. The festival is a worthy investment of time, talent and money for all participants. A little selfishly, Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to the benefits to be derived from increased tourist activity during the period. Given the tangible and intangible benefits of CARIFESTA, this year’s theme of Connect, Share and Invest offers good advice and so I encourage you to connect with each other, share your successes and invest in our region’s future.

Thank you, and please enjoy the rest of the evening.