Just because I like bacchanal
I gine leh you just tek advantage of me
Go and tek advantage of me.
L’il Rick, Advantage of Me (Crop Over 2017)
Those who encountered me during the first four days of Carifesta XIII would have heard me humming this to myself over and over again.
And it’s not just because L’il Rick is my favourite soca artiste.
It’s because the lyrics touched me far deeper than, I’m sure, the artiste intended.
You see, I love Carifesta!
I love Carifesta more than I love Crop Over! More than I love Carnival!
How can that be? You may ask.
How can that be when every single Carifesta appears (from the inside especially) to be fraught with inefficiencies and deficiencies?
How can that be when, despite each territory having two or more years to plan the events, so many things go wrong?
How can that be when Carifesta appears to be the one Caribbean festival that singularly fails to reach its global potential year after year after year?
How can that be when year after year after year artists and artistes are often reduced to mere props in some political charade during this – the region’s premiere cultural event – designed to celebrate us?
How can that be? Because despite its many flaws, I am still able to see Carifesta in its purest form. When I look at this festival, I am able to see what it SHOULD be as well as what it is. And it is in the conditional that I find hope.
Admittedly, that hope is fading fast…. I mean, if after so many years, we as a region, have failed to get this right, what hope is there, realistically, that such will occur in my lifetime?
So why do I love Carifesta? What does it mean to me? First and foremost, it’s an opportunity to connect and reconnect face to face with writers, artists and artistes that I might never get to meet and re-meet.
It’s a time to demonstrate Barbadian literary talent via reading my own work and that of others to a wider audience.
It’s a time to put paid to that persistent, annoying myth that, beyond Kamau and Lamming, Barbados has no writers of note.
It’s a time to experience and celebrate the cultures of our immediate neighbours…. Cultures so similar and yet in many ways so different.
It’s a time to nyam some good Caribbean cuisine – a different island each day.
But it’s also a time to participate in a mind-blowing, back-breaking endeavour, at personal financial and physical cost, for which few will thank you later.
This year, many artists stayed away from the festival – not participating in performances, not entering work for sale or exhibit; not staging fringe events – because they simply couldn’t afford to spend time and money helping to make Carifesta happen.
The money that came out of my pocket over the course of the eleven days I spent at Grand Market (including set-up of the NCF’s booth) came to approximately half of the money I was paid during the three months for which I was contracted.
So why did I do it?
Because I love Carifesta! I believe in the essence of the festival – that concept of unity in diversity. And because I love it, I will let “you” take advantage of me.
In admitting this, I am admitting that I am part of the problem we Caribbean artists face: as long as there are artists willing to be exploited, artists as a whole will not be given their due – money or respect.
As long as there are artists like me who will fuel ourselves with the call of ‘national duty’ and pull our own pockets to ensure that our nation looks good and that the public is given a good show, artists as a whole will not be given their due – money or respect.
Carifesta XIII was a bittersweet experience for me – far sweeter than it was bitter, but there was that lingering acrid aftertaste – because so many artists that I respect spoke out publicly (chief among them Nala and Akyem) and privately of their disillusionment with government, with Carifesta, with the exploitation. Everything they said was true. We as artists are, in essence, paying for the privilege of working; of practising and showcasing our art.
We are locked into a system that does not value us except in the dollars and cents it can rake in at our expense; a system that touts cultural industries as the sector that will save Barbados economically, yet does not wish to invest in or even pay its artists and artisans fairly (if at all!); a system which does not understand the essential role of art and artists: creating a civil and civilised society.
While I have some awesome Carifesta XIII memories, I’m aware that all is not well with Carifesta generally. Still, if given the opportunity to attend Carifesta IV in Trinidad in 2019, I will be there!
Why, despite all I’ve said?
Simply put: Just because I love bacchanal!
Nailah is founder of Caribbean Passion, the Caribbean’s premier Romance series. She is the author of the Romance novellas To Star, With Love, Someone To Watch Over Me, Second Time Around, Cruising to Love and her latest (the Rihanna-inspired!), Fantasy Fulfilled. She is also the author of the YA novellas Colourblind, available on Amazon and Smashwords, and Pick of the Crop. She is currently working on the sequel to her first action/thriller novella To Protect & Serve.
To read more please visit: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/nailah