Need to know | Events calendar (July/August 2019)

Essential info to help you make the most of July and August across the Caribbean — from Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica to Carifesta in T&T

  • Photo by M. Timothy O’keefe/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Photo by Alentyn Volkov/
  • Photo courtesy Reggae Sumfest
  • Photo courtesy Tate Britain/© Alastair Levy
  • Iona Miriam’s Christmas Visit To & From Brighton (2017, acrylic paint and plastic objects on collaged canvas, 1890 x 1225 mm; Frank Bowling and Hales Gallery, Alexander Gray Associates, and Marc Selwyn Fine Art). Photo courtesy Tate Britain/©Frank Bowl
  • South America Squared (1967, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 2430 x 2740 mm; Rennie Collection, Vancouver). Photo courtesy Tate Britain/© Frank Bowling. All Rights Reserved, Dacs 2019
  • Rainbow flags fly high at T&T’s first-ever Pride Parade in 2018. Photo by Maria Nunes
  • Photo by Salim October/
  • Photo by Bikeworldtravel/
  • Photo by Reddees/
  • Photo by Mark Atkins/

Don’t Miss: Tobago Heritage Festival

Have you ever travelled somewhere and wondered what the culture is truly like? Tobago offers endless opportunities to become immersed in its rich traditions from mid-July to early August, at the annual Tobago Heritage Festival. Village communities across the island host daily events bringing longtime practices to life, telling stories about history and identity. The Moriah Ole Time Wedding is a classic, and if you love folktales, there are plenty creative spirits in Les Couteaux. “Dance the cocoa” in the time-honoured technique for drying cocoa beans, or head to the Pembroke Salaka to witness the bélé, a dance with roots in the Congo.

Shelly-Ann Inniss

How to get there? Caribbean Airlines operates several flights daily to A.N.R. Robinson International Airport in Tobago from its headquarters in Trinidad, with connections to other destinations in the Caribbean and North and South America

All About . . . Mango season

One of the most popular fruits on the planet is the mango. In fact, it’s known as the “king of fruit” worldwide. Here in the Caribbean, mouths water in anticipation even before mango trees are covered in buds, much less the ripe fruit, and mango connoisseurs argue over their favourite varieties.
There’s no doubt mangoes create hits, literally. Did you know the first calypso ever recorded was “Mango Vert” in 1912 by the Trinidadian group Lovey’s String Band? Ever wondered what other fun facts this sweet fruit bears? Here’s a roundup of mango trivia to boost your credentials.

The word “mango” is derived from the Tamil word “mangkay” or “mangay.” When Portuguese traders settled in Western India, it became “manga.”

The mango tree is a symbol of love and family. In Jamaica, an ancient mango tree called the Kindah Tree plays a significant role in the Maroon village of Accommpong, St Elizabeth. This is where Captain Cudjoe held meetings to bring the Ashanti, Coromante, and Congo tribes together in the fight against the British.

Mango trees start to produce fruit after four years. Some trees still bear fruit even after three hundred years — yes, they live that long.

In the Caribbean, the phrase “go mango walk” means to steal someone’s fruit.

The heaviest mango ever recorded, according to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009, weighed 7.57 pounds.

Mangoes are the official national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. And the unofficial national fruit of every island in the Caribbean big enough to grow a tree.


How do passionate people celebrate mango season? You can find out at the Antigua Mango Festival (running from 6 to 7 July) and the St Kitts and Nevis Mango Festival (4 to 7 July)

Word of Mouth: Reggae Sumfest

Reggae is the pulse of Jamaica, and that pulse beats strongest come July, as Reggae Sumfest (14 to 20 July) brings thousands of music fans together to experience the island’s biggest performers. Reggae superfan Johnnel Smith has travelled to over forty destinations worldwide, observing and analysing how countries and cities use their unique culture as a tool for attracting visitors. But she never misses Sumfest, as she explains in this Q&A.

So what is Reggae Sumfest?

To me, it’s the world’s greatest Jamaican reggae and dancehall music festival. It offers a platform for new artists to showcase their talent, and for well-established artists to put forward the best of Jamaica’s music. It brings together other aspects of Jamaican culture and is staged with a backdrop of one of the most beautiful tourist destinations. We dance, sing along, and give our favourite artist a “forward,” which means to start the song again when we are pleased with their performance. A Jamaican audience is one of the hardest audiences to please, so performers don’t hold back.

When did you first attend?

I have been attending the festival since 2013. Once a new artist “buss” [i.e. performs for the first time] at Reggae Sumfest, their career usually takes off from there, and it’s always good to say you saw them first before they become immensely popular.

What’s your favourite Sumfest event?

There are so many good things about the festival that it’s hard to choose one. Dancehall night is always a must-see. All the top artists perform and they all try to out-do each other. There is always an undercover rivalry for the best performance of the night.

How has the festival changed throughout the years?

Prior to 2016, the festival had a focus on bringing international artists to Jamaica. Many were trending hip-hop or R&B artists, along with a few reggae and dancehall artists. In 2016, the new organiser Josef Bogdanovich [of DownSound Records] gave a resurgence to the festival and brought back the emphasis and essence of reggae music. That is what the locals and tourists want — only the best of Jamaican music.

Which acts are you looking forward to seeing in 2019?

This year will be epic! Headlining the festival are Beres Hammond, Buju Banton, and Chronixx [pictured at left]. That’s like having the grandfather, father, and son of reggae music on one stage. All legends in their own right.

What are your tips for first-timers?

Wear comfortable shoes, bring blankets and portable chairs if you get tired easily and might like to rest in between acts. Forget all your worries for the night! When that music hits you, you feel no pain.

Interview by Shelly-Ann Inniss

On View: Frank Bowling at Tate Britain

Some would argue it’s forty years overdue. The Frank Bowling retrospective at London’s Tate Britain — which opened at the end of May and runs until 26 August — is the first full career-wide survey of the Guyana-born artist, now eighty-five years old and still working daily in his studio. “The possibilities of paint are neverending,” Bowling says, and the range of his experimentation with the medium is on stunning display in the Tate’s galleries.

Born in 1934 in the town of New Amsterdam, Bowling left what was then called British Guiana at the age of nineteen, for postwar London. His first inclination was to write poems, but after enrolling at the Royal College of Art he began a six-decade study of technique, colour, shape, and texture. A move to New York in 1966 triggered a decisive shift away from figurative painting towards abstraction and Bowling’s celebrated map paintings, in which stencilled maps of continents and countries float above fields of luminous colour.

The 1970s saw another major shift in technique, as Bowling devised a technique of pouring layers of thinned paint over tilted canvases, to sometimes psychedelic effect, with elements of chance and accident creating unpredictable cascades of colour.

The latter part of the Tate exhibition follows Bowling as he increasingly experiments with unusual textures, incorporating gels and foams, beeswax, chalk, and glitter, and even found objects and fabrics into his canvases, creating surfaces that tempt the viewer’s fingertips.

Bowling’s later paintings offer few obvious hints of biography, but as the artist describes it, a return trip to Guyana in 1989 produced a significant revelation. “‘When I looked at the landscape in Guyana,” he says, “I understood the light in my pictures is a very different light . . . It occurred to me for the first time, in my fifties, that the light is about Guyana.” Thirty years later, that remembered light still glows in the astonishing works of an insatiably curious artist, whose total oeuvre is at last visible.

Own Words: Walk in Pride

As T&T prepares to celebrate its second-ever Pride Parade, Andre Bagoo explains why the visibility of identity feels so potent

Moko jumbies, feathers, glitter, confetti, hot pants, bikinis and beads — Trinidad and Tobago’s Pride Parade is basically Carnival in July. You’ll see women wearing pink triangle t-shirts gyrating alongside drag queens with big wigs and Swan Lake-inspired tutus. You’ll see ecstatic muscle Marys, daddies, bears, twinks, and twunks. There’ll be music trucks crammed with so many boom boxes they might burst. You’ll hear soca and vintage calypso one minute, Rihanna and Madonna the next. Fall under the spell of hundreds marching in sync, chipping, wining to the same heartbeat of freedom, equality, love. Think Mardi Gras, think Rio de Janeiro — but in a small, wildly multicultural country a few miles off the South American coast with a population comprised of the descendents of enslaved Africans, East Indian indentured labourers, migrants from Europe, China, and, more recently, its closest neighbour, Venezuela. (Simón Bolívar’s middle name was Trinidad.)

Though T&T’s Carnival is an annual tradition, Pride only happened for the first time in 2018 — the same year a High Court judge struck down an archaic colonial-era law targeting same-sex couples. When the judgement was delivered, crowds celebrated spontaneously outside the Hall of Justice, vibesing on its steps then spilling into neighbouring Woodford Square, the historic park in downtown Port of Spain with a statue of Aphrodite. The spontaneity of that celebration tapped into a deeper truth. Carnival flows in our blood. The Pride parade coursing through the streets of the capital feels as inevitable as that celebration was natural. With my boyfriend, I join the jugglers, the acrobats, the tassa drummers, the flag women. But walk with a water bottle. It’s easy to get thirsty in the sweltering heat. And make sure you have enough stamina to go all the way: there are limes and fetes after all the street revelry that will demand your undivided attention.

There’s something to be said about affording people the time and space to come to terms with who they are, to quietly nurse the realisation of being queer without the pressure of public scrutiny. Equally, the visibility of Pride is, for me, as potent as prayer, as moving as meditation, as authentic as heading to the beach and letting warm salt water kiss your weary feet. Prepare yourself for the feeling of euphoria, as you hold the gigantic Pride flag that links every type of person imaginable, fabric flowing like a Peter Minshall river down the middle of a sea of queer bodies and allies — all charged with the electricity of walking, for the first time in centuries, on roads that feel, for a moment, lovingly solid, familiar, and safe.

T&T’s second annual Pride Parade takes place on 28 July, 2019, in Port of Spain, part of a month-long programme of events

Carnival Calendar

July and August are Carnival season across the Caribbean, in in the diaspora, too.


8 + 9
Vincy Mas, St Vincent and the Grenadines
Ah movin’ heavy with me

15 + 16
St Lucia Carnival
Jam to Dennery soca, with a cool down in the Sulphur Springs


Caribana, Toronto
Steelpan, soca, and food. West Indian spirit in the north!

Antigua Carnival
From Panorama right through to Carnival Tuesday — #WhatCoolLooksLike

Crop Over, Barbados
No crew is left behind on Kadooment Day

12 + 13
Spice Mas, Grenada
Colour, humour — and jabs

Notting Hill Carnival
Music and masquerade energise the streets of London

Top Five: Carifesta XIV

There’s no shortage of arts and culture festivals across the Caribbean, from the internationally acclaimed to small community-based startups. But none of them is so much like a family reunion as Carifesta, the (now) biennial Caribbean Festival of the Arts, which returns this year to Trinidad and Tobago, for the fourth time. From 16 to 25 August, performers, craftspeople, and artists in all media and genres will assemble for a packed ten-day programme showing off the host country’s best talent alongside established stars and promising newcomers from other participating nations. How to navigate through the many dozens of scheduled events? Our top five picks are a start.

Art at Castle Killarney

Also known as Stollmeyer’s Castle, this grand edifice on the Queen’s Park Savannah was once a private residence. Recently restored, a gleaming example of T&T’s heritage architecture, the castle will be the venue for an exhibition featuring classic and contemporary artists from T&T.

Celebrating Kitch

Writer Anthony Joseph’s novel Kitch is a genre-bending fictional biography of the great Lord Kitchener, T&T’s calypso legend. On Monday 19 August, Joseph’s prose and Kitchener’s lyrics come together in a special performance at Port of Spain’s Big Black Box — just one part of the Carifesta literary lineup programmed by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.


Cultural traditions from South Asia, brought to T&T during the era of Indentureship, immeasurably enrich the country’s arts scene. This special showcase of Indo-Caribbean performance — dance, music, theatre, poetry — on Thursday 22 August will demonstrate how millennia-old artforms have evolved in a New World society.

J’Ouvert in August

For many Trinis, J’Ouvert morning — the traditional pre-dawn opening of Carnival — is the true start of the year. On Saturday 24 August, Carifesta visitors will have the chance to experience it themselves.

Island Beats

The indisputable Carifesta finale: a “super concert” on 24 August featuring T&T’s Machel Montano and Calypso Rose, Guadeloupe’s Kassav, Jamaica’s Shaggy, and Alison Hinds of Barbados — and that’s just the start of the lineup.

Caribbean Airlines is an official sponsor of Carifesta XIV. For more information on these and other festival events, visit


More highlights of July and August across the Caribbean

Dominica Dive Fest

5 to 14 July
The Nature Isle is an idyllic destination year-round, but this annual diving festival brings the thrill of underwater treasure hunts, snorkelling picnics, and educational tours along the pristine coast.

Calabash Festival, Montserrat

14 to 21 July
Creativity shows us the expected in a different way, and at the annual Calabash festival, this is guaranteed — from artisanal talent to tours and a family fun day. The memories you’ll shape might make your calabash bowl overflow.

Emancipation Day

1 August
Across the Caribbean, the rhythm of African drums heralds the commemoration of the end of slavery. From the Bahamas in the north to Guyana in the south, Afro-Caribbean culture and history are celebrated with processions and parades, concerts and exhibitions, rituals and remembrances.

Curaçao North Sea Jazz

29 to 31 August
International superstars Gladys Knight, Pitbull, and Mariah Carey are just some of the names in the line-up, alongside local musical talent. After having a wonderful experience in Curaçao, one of Caribbean Airlines’ newest destinations, Jamaican band Third World will probably ask “Now That We Found Love What Are We Going To Do With It” when they perform on the final night.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.