Caribbean Beat Magazine

Need to know | Events calendar (Mar/Apr 2020)

Essential info to help you make the most of March and April across the Caribbean — from a film festival in
St Vincent to Carnival in Jamaica

  • At the Hairouna Film Festival, the vibe at community screenings is down-home and laid-back. Photo courtesy Hairouna Film Festival
  • Photo by Dwayne Watkins
  • Photo by a3pfamily/Shutterstock.com
  • Jordan V.P. Martis, one of the 2019 Arte di Palabra winners. Photo courtesy Arte di Palabra
  • The view of Nelson’s Dockyard from Shirley Heights, Antigua. Photo by Quiggyt4/Shutterstock.com
  • Illustration by James Hackett
  • Photo by lZF/Shutterstock.com
  • The Bounce (2012; papier-mâché, oil paint; 37 x 27 x 23 inches). Courtesy Wendy Nanan
  • Idyllic Marriage (1990; papier-mâché, oil paint; 21” x 14.5” x 3.75”). Courtesy Wendy Nanan
  • From the Cricket Drawings series (1984–2011; brush and ink on paper; 9 x 12 inches). Courtesy Wendy Nanan
  • EFE News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo

Event details and dates were accurate as of press time, but the international coronavirus outbreak may result in cancellations and postponements. Check event websites for updates before confirming your plans.

 


Don’t Miss

Hairouna Film Festival

Under starry skies, in communities spanning the length and breadth of St Vincent, the second annual Hairouna Film Festival (HFF) which runs from 5-13 June, will screen some of the best contemporary films from across the Caribbean. There’s something about the relaxed atmosphere of an open-air impromptu cinema that makes a great film even more memorable, and last year’s inaugural edition of the HFF lingers in the minds of those lucky enough to be in the audience. The festival also offers a mentorship programme with filmmaking educational opportunities. Who knows, the next Caribbean celebrity in Hollywood just might hail from SVG. Grab a bag of popcorn and fall in as the HFF shares distinctive Caribbean stories on the portable big screen. hairounaff.org

How to get there? Caribbean Airlines operates three flights each week to Argyle International Airport in St Vincent from Trinidad, with connections to other destinations in the Caribbean and North and South America


Word of Mouth

Kingston bacchanal

A true Jamaican Carnival lover, Vaughn Stafford Gray offers the low-down on Kingston’s annual festival. Just don’t revoke his passport . . .

Carnival in Jamaica can best be summarised by Oscar Wilde’s adage: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, I’ve opened the flood-gates now! I reckon some fellow Jamaican is readying to report me to the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency, and demand that my Jamaican “card” be revoked. To that person, I say: fight me. Facts are facts.

It all started back in the 1950s, on the Mona campus of the University College of the West Indies — soon to be known as UWI. Students from Trinidad and Tobago and other eastern Caribbean islands who missed celebrating Carnival decided to bring their culture to the halls and streets of the campus. Of course, Jamaicans got in on the action also, because Carnival is, in a word, mesmeric. Cue the birth of UWI Carnival, and the genesis of Carnival celebrations in Jamaica — though it wasn’t until 1990 that notable musician Byron Lee established and formalised Jamaica Carnival as we know it today.

Comparing T&T Carnival with the Jamaican version is an exercise in futility. It’s akin to the iOS vs Android debate — there will never be a clear winner. The events are considerably different, despite sharing soca music, bedazzling costumes adorned with feathers, walls of flesh, and taut, sculpted bodies that haven’t consumed a carb since noon on Boxing Day. 

The differences start with timing: Carnival in Jamaica takes place after Lent, and despite being popular, isn’t as universally embraced as T&T’s Carnival, Barbados Crop Over, or the grand dame of all Carnivals in Rio de Janeiro. But, although it’s had its fair share of battles, Carnival in Jamaica is an extraordinary experience.

The celebration is one of the few in the country that dissolves Kingston’s socio-economic lines, lowering the drawbridge over the moat that separates “uptown” and “downtown” experiences. For a few days, celebrants come together without having to overly obsess about postal codes and skin colour. Whether you play mas or not — there are three main bands: Xodus, Xaymaca, and Bacchanal — Carnival in Jamaica is a truly democratic experience.

So, how should the uninitiated make the best out of the Carnival experience? Take a deep breath, jump into those skin-coloured tights, apply some baby oil and glitter — I’m taking you for a ride.

Hot tip: don’t miss the breakfast parties. The name on the tin says what it does. These are some of the best events of Carnival season. Whether you wake up early to do a full face at dawn, or do an outfit change after partying all night, there are few other instances in life where you won’t be judged for having rum with your pancakes. Then there’s Beach J’Ouvert. Each year, attendees regale those who didn’t make it with stories of the goings-on — only to stop midway as the storyteller realises that it was him- or herself who did indeed bruk out. No need to self-incriminate: what happens at Beach J’Ouvert stays at Beach J’Ouvert.

On Carnival Sunday, the day of the street parade — which Jamaicans call the road march — it’s best, in my experience, not to touch alcohol until the parade culminates. Don’t be that person carted away by event paramedics forty-seven minutes in. Stay hydrated with water, friends, and wear comfortable shoes! Buy an inexpensive pair of sneakers, and decorate them to match your costume. Don’t get fooled by the pageantry — Carnival is not a catwalk. And if you don’t enjoy yourself — you’re doing it wrong.

Carnival in Jamaica 2020 runs from 15 to 20 April. For more information, visit the Jamaica Tourist Board website, visitjamaica.com


How to . . .

Have a meaningful Earth Day

The only constant in life is change, and our natural environment is doing that rapidly — with dangerous results for mankind. In recent years, the Caribbean has experienced several overactive and destructive hurricane seasons, while experts warn that the sea level is rising, coral reefs are dying, and increased fossil fuel use points us down the path to further climate change. So what can ordinary people do to make a difference to Mother Earth — and our own lives? As the world marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day on 22 April, Trinidad-based Barbadian Shelly-Ann Inniss checks in with environmental groups in both of her home countries for constructive tips.

Eat mindfully

Passionate about environmental sustainability, Slow Food Barbados works to educate and inspire the public to reconnect with farmers, fisherfolk, artisans, and the environment to produce food responsibly. Ultra-processed and imported products have a heavier impact on the environment than whole and locally grown foods. Furthermore, when we consume crops or fish in their natural season, it gives the environment and marine ecosystem a chance to replenish properly. 

“None of us are merely eaters,” says Slow Food Barbados. “When we actively participate in sustainable food production, we also support livelihoods, and sustain vital culinary and traditional practices.” Their website and Instagram page offer seasonal produce guides to help you shop for groceries and plan daily menus. You can do this in your neck of the woods as well, by looking out for farmers’ markets and local producers who implement sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices. Slow Food Barbados also recommends creating gardens in schools: getting children involved from a young age shapes and ingrains customs so that they become habits. Remember, eating is an environmental act.

Plant trees

In Trinidad and Tobago, the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) focuses primarily on restoring natural forests, as well as forest fire prevention. Forest fires, apart from damaging natural ecosystems, add to the volume of carbon in our atmosphere, while healthy forests are one of the best ways to sequester carbon emissions and foster climate cooling. In many countries, you can join community tree-planting events around Earth Day, or — if getting your hands dirty isn’t your thing — you can also join in by making a financial contribution towards a reforestation project. Or start at home: fill an empty corner of your front garden or backyard with a sapling which will grow into a beautiful tree offering shade, delicious fruit, and a home for wildlife. FACRP organises ongoing organic nursery sessions to get you started. 

For more information or to get involved, visit slowfoodbarbados.org and facrp1.webs.com


The Read

Papiamentu’s young voices

Although Papiamentu is the most widely spoken language in Curaçao, it became a compulsory subject in secondary schools only twenty years ago. To mark this milestone, Ange Jessurun approached other Papiamentu teachers to create a literary event celebrating the inclusion of the mother tongue in the education system. The result was the annual Arte di Palabra competition (running this year from 14 March to 4 April), in which students in two age groups write and perform original pieces, vying for national titles. Elvira Bonafacio — a Papiamentu teacher and current competition co-ordinator — tells Shelly-Ann Inniss what it’s all about.

How did you become involved with Arte di Palabra?

I decided to help as an extracurricular activity linked to my studies. I went once, loved it, and remained so fascinated by the effect it has on the youngsters who participate that till this day, I have remained a part of the organisation.

Papiamentu is also spoken in Aruba and Bonaire. Does Arte di Palabra encompass these islands?

Yes, and after the contest on each island, we have Arte di Palabra ABC — a final competition between the three islands. This year it will be in Bonaire. One of last year’s highlights was an invitation to present at Carifesta [in Trinidad and Tobago], so besides Arte di Palabra on the ABC islands, we crossed the border!

What literary genres does the competition explore?

It covers short stories and poetry. Junior high participants have the option of presenting an original or existing piece for each genre, whereas seniors can do an original piece in both genres.

What’s been the impact on participants?

The impact is immeasurable. Each presentation allows the participants to overcome their insecurities, fears, any other inhibitions, and grow into a writer and artist. They get more appreciation for literature, and their feeling of patriotism flourishes. Writing and performing serve as therapy to free their emotions.

Does Arte di Palabra extend beyond the competition?

Every five years, we publish a collection of the winning pieces in a book called Pòtpurí. High schools on the three islands receive a free package, thanks to the sponsors, which can be used in class. You can imagine the pride this inspires, since it is written by the youngsters themselves. Additionally, throughout the year, the winners perform at radio and television stations, as well as different social, cultural, educational, and government events.

What do you love the most about Arte di Palabra?

I love to watch the development of the child who did not like to write, and who has a piece on paper now — or the one who used to be shy, who now presents his work in front of his peers. Those things are priceless. Watching the three islands present, listening to each national anthem at the beginning, hearing the different variations of Papiamentu on one stage, is special. 

An excerpt from “Bida” [“Life”], by Jordan V.P. Martis, 2019 Arte di Palabra winner

Sinta pensa un ratu di bo bida.
Suku ta dushi pero no ta bon pa pone den sòpi.
Grandinan sa bisa ku papiado di bèrdat
nunka no ta haña stul pa sinta.
Mi ke bo djis para ketu i analisá.
Den bida bo tin ku plania, prepare, i praktiká.
Tin hopi hende ku ta bai ku moda
tambe tin ku moda no ta bai kuné.
Ban kuminsá biba segun nos forsa.
Sanger ku awa no sa midi.
Haa . . . Lei di naturalesa ta Dios su promé minister. Pero kiko ta bo meta.
Purba daña nòmber di mi pida klòmpi di tesoro. Laga kada kos ku pasa nos den bida
ta un lès pa nos bira mas fuerte.

Sit down for a while and reflect on your life.
Sugar is sweet, but it ain’t good to put in soup.
Elderly people say that a speaker of truth
Will never be offered a seat.
I want you to pause and analyse.
In life, you have to plan, prepare, and practise.
A lot of people follow fashion trends
There are also those who don’t fit with fashion trends.
Let’s start living according to our capacity.
Blood and water don’t go together.
Ahhh . . . The law of nature is God’s prime minister. But what is your purpose.
Trying to damage the reputation of my pride and joy. Let every life experience
Become a lesson to make us stronger.

For more information, visit artedipalabra.com or artedipalabra on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube


All About . . .

Nelson and Antigua

At the end of April, as sailors from around the world converge at Antigua Sailing Week (26 April to 1 May), the prize they’ll all be eyeing is the Lord Nelson Trophy — named, like Antigua’s Nelson’s Dockyard, for one Horatio Nelson, the most celebrated naval commander in British history.

Born in 1758, Nelson was just twelve years old when he joined the Royal Navy, sailing across the Atlantic to Jamaica and Tobago. But the West Indian island he’s most closely associated with is Antigua, where he was stationed at English Harbour from 1784 (complaining bitterly about the mosquitoes). His friendships with West Indian plantation owners influenced his staunch pro-slavery views, which have made him a controversial figure in the post-Independence Caribbean. He later won fame for his service in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars, before being killed at the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Lord Nelson Trophy

First awarded at Antigua Sailing Week in 1968, the Lord Nelson Trophy — an impressive silver bowl — has been taken five times by teams from Antigua and Barbuda, but Puerto Rico is the Caribbean territory with the most wins: nine in all, including the inaugural year. Boats registered in other Caribbean territories account for eight other victories.

Where history docks

English Harbour on Antigua’s south coast, naturally sheltered from Atlantic hurricanes, was used as a refuge for British ships as early as 1671. In 1743, the Royal Navy dockyard was established at its current site — the chief facility for the repair of naval vessels in the British West Indies, built with the labour of enslaved Africans. Famous for its heavy fortifications, the dockyard was never attacked, not even at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. Closed in 1889, the dockyard was more or less abandoned for half a century, till the British governor of the island launched a restoration initiative in 1951. Ten years later, it was officially opened as a historical site, now named for Nelson, becoming one of Antigua and Barbuda’s most popular tourist attractions. Said to be the most complete surviving example of a Georgian dockyard in the world, it’s now a national park, headquarters for Antigua Sailing Week, and a working dockyard for yachts. The surrounding hills are dotted with the forts that once protected the harbour — Shirley Heights being the most impressive, with its breathtaking views and Sunday sunset parties.

Yo-ho-ho and a barrel

Famously, after Nelson was killed at Trafalgar, his body was transported back to England in a barrel of brandy (rather than being buried at sea — the usual fate of less celebrated corpses). The incident was prefigured years earlier when Nelson departed Antigua for the last time. Ill, and concerned he might perish on the transatlantic journey, he travelled with a barrel of rum to preserve his body if needed.

Hero or — ?

Nelson’s best-known monument is the statue atop the column in London’s Trafalgar Square. But that was predated by almost thirty years by a similar monument in Bridgetown, capital of Barbados — for generations, the point from which distances on the island were measured. In recent decades, debate about Nelson’s role in British imperialism and his views on slavery have fuelled a campaign to have the statue removed. In 1999, the surrounding square was renamed National Heroes Square, in honour of Barbados’s ten officially recognised National Heroes. The statue itself was subsequently turned around 180 degrees, and has occasionally been splashed with paint and bedecked with placards, but thus far remains standing.

For the Antigua Sailing Week schedule and other information, visit www.sailingweek.com


Word of Mouth

Breakfast with a view

David Katz eats his fill at the popular West Indian Breakfast in Mt Moritz, Grenada

Like many other places in volcanic Grenada, the close-knit hillside community of Mt Moritz is reached by a steep climb up a twisting road, a ten-minute drive from the capital, St George’s. The village has five churches, a sports ground, and a breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea. After the dramatic crest of Campbell Drive, there’s a winding descent to a large playing field, where — if you arrive on the right Sunday morning — you’ll find the irresistible aroma of bubbling pots, as vintage soca music wafts in the breeze.

For the past eleven years, Mt Moritz has been home to a popular monthly West Indian Breakfast, where authentic local delicacies are offered to the public in a festive and communal atmosphere. Launched by Nicholas Harris of the Mt Moritz Community Development Organisation, the West Indian Breakfast was started to encourage community togetherness and to stimulate revitalisation, as all proceeds remain in the village, contributing to its upkeep.

The event is renowned for its range of bona fide local foods, cooked the traditional way and served without the fuss and pomp of hotel restaurants. So, rather than starched white tablecloths, there are communal benches in a massive tent, allowing attendees to meet the “Mung-Mungs,” as Mt Moritz residents are affectionately known, along with islanders from other communities. And the food is not aimed at foreign palates, either. Everything on offer is the genuine unadulterated article, including dishes like pig-foot souse, blood pudding, and saltfish souse. Smoked herring is shredded and cooked with onions and peppers, yielding a delightfully savoury treat. There’s also cornmeal cou-cou, and although the giant trevally or jackfish is typically cooked whole in adult form, at
Mt Moritz they often serve it young, similar to fried whitebait.

You’ll find an abundance of steamed ground provisions too, with a variety of yams, sweet potato, breadfruit, and plantain, as well as the bulky green banana known locally as “bluggoe.” And breakfast wouldn’t be breakfast without a choice of bakes, either baked in the oven or fried — with everything washed down by a cup of warming cocoa tea or an herbal alternative such as lemongrass. Grenada is known as the Isle of Spice because so many spices grow here in abundance. As Grenadians like their food well-seasoned, breakfast at Mt Moritz is guaranteed to be flavourful — and excellent value, as the entire meal costs a mere US$11.

Since Grenadians tend to rise early, the Mt Moritz breakfast begins at 6 am. Even if the food typically finishes by 11.30, visitors often find themselves lingering into the afternoon, enjoying a friendly lime with the locals. The West Indian Breakfast is normally held on the last Sunday of every month, but before making the steep drive, make sure to check the community Facebook page for scheduling updates.

For more information and the schedule for the monthly Mt Moritz West Indian Breakfast, visit www.facebook.com/Mt-Moritz-Community-Development-Organisation-202684563081687


Great Outdoors

Hash it out

Every two years, Hash House Harriers from around the globe assemble in one location, for a grand jamboree of this international non-competitive running club. And this year, the World Interhash comes to Trinidad and Tobago for the first time, running — literally — from 23 to 26 April, as hundreds of hashers arrive to join the “Carnival of Hashes.”

So what is hashing, for the uninitiated? Imagine groups of runners and joggers following trails (marked by “hares” with sprinkled flour) through challenging terrain, over hills and rivers, through forests and beaches, with the reward of copious amounts of cold alcoholic beverages at the end — hence the hashers’ self-imposed nickname, “drinkers with a running problem.” Over a hundred countries worldwide have hashing clubs, and in the Caribbean, it’s especially popular in Grenada, Antigua, Barbados, and T&T.

Being fit is not a prerequisite for hashing, but it is a fun way of getting in shape at your own pace. If you’re a good sport, effervescing with energy and enthusiasm, Interhash Trinidad and Tobago is an exceptional way to explore the twin islands, with loads of laughter, meeting new people, and breathtaking sights along the way. The schedule includes an opportunity to run the trails of Les Couteau and Arnos Vale in Tobago, an inaugural Interhash J’Ouvert run in Chaguaramas, northwest Trinidad, and the signature Red Dress Charity Run, raising funds for T&T’s Shelter for Battered Women. Finally, for the hardcore, there’s the notorious five-hour Ball Breaker Run, over gruelling trails — the better to work up a thirst.

At hashes, drinking alcohol is a normal activity, but when the beverage is dispensed from your shoe under the watchful eyes of your new hash friends, everyone will know you’re a hash virgin. Consider it a rite of passage. You might find yourself rechristened, too: hash nicknames are often bestowed after a designated number of runs, on special occasions, or when the hasher has done something memorable. Happy Feet, Rigor Mortis, and Never Knees are some of the more printable nicknames.

As you can tell, hashing is less about athletics and more about fun and camaraderie. T&T’s World Interhash could be your chance to join in. On, on!

New to hashing? Unfamiliar with the lingo? Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

Hare The person who lays the trail

Are you?: Yell this when you’re lost and cannot find the trail

Kennel: Hash club

BN: Hash mark indicating a beer stop is nearby (“Beer Near”)

Down, down: A ceremony of “immaculate” consumption administered for the fun of it, or for various hash transgressions, like being competitive. The “holy fluid” might be poured on your head, shirt, or simply guzzled

On, on: You’re on the right track. Yell this when you spot a marker, or at the sacred end where more drinking begins

For more information, or to register for World Interhash 2020, visit interhashtrinidad2020.com


On View

Wendy Nanan at the AMA

Over four decades, Trinidadian artist Wendy Nanan has created a quietly subversive body of work, tackling issues of cultural hybridity, gender, and sexuality — letting her visually arresting work speak for itself, and rarely venturing into the spotlight. A new retrospective show at the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) in Washington, DC, running from 19 March to 14 June, assembles key works from all the stages of her career and offers an overdue survey of her oeuvre — and its implications for the unstable canon of contemporary Caribbean art.

The eponymously titled Wendy Nanan includes one of the provocative, gaudily painted papier-mâché works from her Idyllic Marriage series of the early 1990s, depicting an uneasy union between the Hindu god Vishnu and the Roman Catholic Madonna — “an interrogation of the necessary discomfort of mixing in the Americas,” writes curator Andil Gosine. The exhibition also assembles a large group of Nanan’s celebrated cricket drawings, a series begun in the 1980s (and a selection of which were published in this magazine back in 2002) — “sensual depictions of the sport and male athleticism,” says Gosine.

Rounding off the show are six new works from Nanan’s recent Pods series, wall-mounted sculptural works made from papier-mâché and sea shells collected by the artist on Trinidad’s Atlantic coast — “concerned with anxieties about women’s bodies and sexualities.” An accompanying short video by the curator depicts the creation of these new works alongside Nanan’s recounting of her upbringing in Trinidad and the deep roots of her work in her home island.


Datebook

More highlights of March and April across the Caribbean

Caribbean Fine Arts Fair

11 to 15 March, Barbados

Over fifty artists exhibit their work at Barbados’s Central Bank in historic Bridgetown. An exciting itinerary of spoken word, theatrical performances, and fashion showcases kickstart the fair’s tenth anniversary, as it intertwines with the inaugural Bridgetown International Arts Festival. cafafair.com

Carriacou Maroon and Stringband Music Festival

24 to 26 April

A maroon, in Carriacou, is the name for a festival of gratitude: giving thanks for the most recent harvest ahead of the new planting season. It opens with the blowing of a conch shell, continues with mesmerising drumming, and the menu is “ancestral” smoked food. Then follow two days of unforgettable musical performances. carriacoumaroon.com

International Drum Festival

23 to 29 March, Cuba

The world’s best in rumba, percussion, dance, and art come together at Havana’s leading cultural venues to showcase the talent that each country has to offer. The festival is a loving tribute to musician Guillermo Barreto, one of the first Cuban drummers to play Afro-Cuban jazz and a major figure on the Cuban music scene for over fifty years.

Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival

4 April, Grand Cayman

From delicious street food to cocktails and gourmet masterpieces, there’s something for everyone’s tastebuds. Over eighteen thousand portions of Cayman’s diverse cuisine will be served up, as forty-five restaurants join this culinary celebration. tasteofcayman.org

Easter goat and crab races

14 April, Tobago

Family-friendly adventures are some of the best ones to have, and Tobago never disappoints. While most Easter celebrations end on Easter Monday, Tobago adds an extra day. On Easter Tuesday, wake up to the sweet sounds of steelpan and soca rhythms as a street parade gets underway. Then the races begin on the field in Buccoo. Goats — not horses — are released from the starting gates with their strapping “jockeys” connected to them by a rope. The crabs, on the other hand, would make easy targets for a pot. They are tethered by a string and prodded with a stick to the finish line, but not without haphazard jumps and comic manoeuvres from their handlers.