Caribbean Datebook (March/April 2015)

Events around the Caribbean in March and April — from the Carifta Games in St Kitts to Phagwah in Guyana

  • Courtesy Of Ebony G. Patterson And Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Photograph: Monique Gilpin And Philip Rhoden
  • Phagwah in Guyana. Photograph by Ian Kissoon
  • Photograph by Darren Wilkinson
  • Stephen R Smith/Photo Dynamics Inc. See more Holders Season Images at
  • Courtesy The Division Of Tourism And Transportation, Tobago
  • Still from Una Noche (2012), a film by Lucy Molloy. Courtesy The St Barth Film Festival

New Orleans

See the art of mas

It’s no longer a controversial idea that the Caribbean’s many masquerade traditions are expressions of cultural heritage, celebrations of national pride, and at the same time media for cutting-edge contemporary artists. The exhibition En Mas: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean, which opens in March and runs for three months in New Orleans, brings together projects by nine artists whose performance works have “engaged, transformed, or critiqued historical and contemporary Caribbean performance practices.” During 2014, artists like Trinidadian Marlon Griffith, Jamaican Ebony G. Patterson, and Bahamian John Beadle created commssioned performance spectacles at various Carnivals across the region. En Mas brings together “material remnants or reconstitutions” of these, “as well as photographic and filmic interpretations.”

When: 7 March to 7 June
Where: Contemporary Arts Centre New Orleans
For more info: visit



Join the rites of spring: Holi or Phagwah

Holi — also known in the Caribbean as Phagwah — is the most colourful of Hindu festivals, celebrating the arrival of spring. A public holiday in Guyana, and also widely celebrated in Suriname and Trinidad, the day of Holi itself is the culmination of forty days of observations and events. As Ian Kissoon, a former executive member of the youth arm of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, explains, “The planting of Holika (usually a castor oil tree) . . . signifies the beginning of the Holi season,” and was performed on 24 February this year. Forty days later, on 5 March, the Holika will be burned to symbolise the triumph of good over evil, with chowtaal singers entertaining the crowd. 6 March will see prayers offered at mandirs (or temples), and afterwards celebrants get to smear and squirt abrak (coloured powder) and abeer (coloured liquid) on each other. It’s a messy and joyous celebration of life, and all are invited to join in.

When: 6 March
Where: venues around Guyana


St Kitts and Nevis

Go for gold: the Carifta Games

Since 1972, the Carifta Games — hosted in 2015 by St Kitts and Nevis — have been the major athletics tournament in the Caribbean region. The Caribbean Free Trade Association (Carifta), the forerunner to today’s Caricom, was created to provide a united economic platform for Caribbean nations, and original member states are eligible to send amateur athletes in two age categories, Under-17 and Under-20. Now in its forty-fourth year, the tournament includes 150 track and field events: sprint races, hurdles, middle-distance track events, and various jumping and throwing events. This is where athletics stars like Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown, Bahamian Pauline Davis-Thompson, and Barbadian Obadele Thompson began their international track and field careers. So be on the lookout for the next global athletics talents to come from the Caribbean — you’ll remember having seen them first at the Carifta Games.

When: 4 to 6 April
Where: Silver Jubilee Stadium, Basseterre



Face the music: Holders Season

As they have for over twenty years, in March music and theatre will echo through the grounds of historic Holders House, a seventeenth-century plantation house near the west coast of Barbados. And it will be magical, especially since conjuror Michael Gee will be one of the acts on the opening night, along with acrobat Desiree Kongerod and pianist Joe Stilgoe. Another highlight event will follow a few evenings later: one hundred years of Hollywood cinema, as Stilgoe takes the audience down memory lane with signature music from some of your favourite movies. And theatre night will bring a one-woman show by Apphia Campbell, whose Black Is the Colour of My Voice is inspired by the life of Nina Simone. The twenty-second edition of Holders Season will come to a climax with performances by BLAKE and Sarah Boulton.

When: 7 to 21 March
Where: Holders House, St James
For more info: visit


Barbados Chocolate Festival and Conference

When: 7 March
Where: Savannah Beach Hotel, Christchurch
What: Chocolate is one of the most popular flavours in the world and Barbados has an entire festival dedicated to it. A mix of workshops, seminars, and demos means there is chocolate available everywhere for tasting — sharing optional
For more info: visit


US Virgin Islands

St Croix Food and Wine Experience

When: 12 to 18 April
Where: venues around St Croix
What: Not just an epicurean heaven, with local and celebrity chefs showing off their skill, this event also supports the St Croix Foundation, which provides training and scholarship opportunities to young Crucians in the food service industry
For more info: visit



Race away this Easter

Easter comes early this year, and in Tobago, that means a slew of unique traditions — and not just religious ceremonies. Up for goat racing? Or do you prefer crabs vying for glory? That’s right: elsewhere you might find staid seasonal horseracing, but the anticipation and fun of watching a Tobagonian crab or goat being urged towards the finish line is a special experience. Another must-see Tobago Easter event is kite flying. Once upon a time it was traditional for kites to be made by hand at home. Nowadays most enthusiasts buy their kites ready-made, but nothing’s stopping you from building your own and testing your skill at any open savannah or beach. There are even competitions for those who want to be crowned king (or queen) of the sky.

When: Easter weekend runs from Good Friday, 3 April, to Easter Monday, 6 April
Where: venues around Tobago
For more info: call Tobago’s Department of Tourism and Transportation at +868 639 2125 or 4636



NGC Bocas Lit Fest

When: 29 April to 3 May
Where: National Library and other venues in Port of Spain
What: T&T’s “festival of words and ideas” brings together dozens of writers and performers for five days of literary readings, debates, lectures, and more. The fifth edition of the festival will include a special focus on translation, bring together some of the Caribbean’s most celebrated sci-fi writers, and pay tribute to elder poets Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite in the year they both turn eighty-five
For more info: visit



Jake’s Off Road Triathlon

When: 18 April
Where: Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth
What: Now in its twentieth year, the oldest off-road triathlon in the Caribbean will see brave souls take on a 300-metre ocean swim, 25K off-road bike race, and 7K run.
For more info: visit



Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge

When: 6 to 9 March
Where: San Ignacio, Belize
What: Up for an adventure? Maybe paddling 175 miles down the Belize Old River in canoes, with three overnight stops along the way, may be just the thing for you
For more info: visit


St Barthélemy

Get reel

Twenty years ago, says Ellen Lampert-Greaux, one of the organisers of the St Barth Film Festival, their programme screened “35-mm films with an intermission to change the reel.” Now, as they celebrate two decades years of featuring the best in Caribbean film — with audiences sitting on that same tennis court where it started so many years ago — a state-of-the-art digital projection system keeps things current. Films are also shown on a huge inflatable screen on the beach in Flamands, as well as afternoon screenings in the historic setting of the Wall House Museum. Highlights of the programme? Special screenings of Jonathan Demme’s 2003 film The Agronomist and the Jamaican classic Rockers, with Kim Johnson’s PAN! Our Music Odyssey (Trinidad and Tobago), Laurent Cantet’s Retour à Ithaque (France/Cuba), Raoul Peck’s Meurtre à Pacot (Haiti), and Alexis Andrews’s Vanishing Sail (Antigua) also joining the line-up.

When: 24 to 30 April
Where: venues around St Barth
For more info: visit


Cayman Islands

Kaibo Kitefest

When: 6 April
Where: Kaibo Beach
What: It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane. No, wait, it’s a kite? That’s right: it’s kite-flying season in the Caribbean, and Grand Cayman’s Kaibo Beach is the place to see handmade and store-bought kites fight for supremacy above the waves

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