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Caribbean Festival of Arts, commonly known as CARIFESTA, is an annual festival for promoting arts of the Caribbean with a different country hosting the event each year. It was started to provide a venue to "depict the life of the people of the Region, their heroes, morals, myths, traditions, beliefs, creativity and ways of expression"[1] by fostering a sense of Caribbean unity, and motivating artists by showing the best of their home country. It began under the auspices of Guyana's then President Forbes Burnham in 1972, who was inspired by other singular arts festivals in the region.


According to the CARICOM Organisation, CARIFESTA aims to:[2]

  • depict the life of the people of the region - their heroes, morale, myth, traditions, beliefs, creativeness, ways of expression.
  • show the similarities and the differences of the people of the Caribbean and Latin America
  • create a climate in which art can flourish so that artists would be encouraged to return to their homeland.
  • awaken a regional identity in Literature.
  • stimulate and unite the cultural movement throughout the region.

Performing arts

The festival includes both a cultural opening and closing ceremony.

Presentations range from elaborate musical productions to comedy, fantasy, ritual, history, folk plays and legend. Some of the artists from the first CARIFEST include Conjunto Folklorico Nacionale of Cuba, the Ol'Higue and Baccos of Guyana, Shango dancers from Trinidad, Shac Shac musicians from Dominica. Concerts, recitals and musical shows provide folk rhythms, jazz, as well as pop, classics. There are Indian tablas, African drums, Caribbean steel pan, piano, violin, flute and guitar. Traditional dance reflecting the wide array of diversity in the Caribbean including Javanese dancing, intricate ballet, earthy folk plays, dramatic modern choreography, classical Indian movements, spontaneous improvisations and pop.

Visual arts

Exhibitions include sculpture, graphics, paintings, drawings, and photographs. Craft demonstrations of ceramics, wood carving, painting and drawing.


An anthology of new writing from the Caribbean region is produced for CARIFESTA, and authors often launch their works at the festivals. There are also poetry recitals and lecture discussions at universities and Conference centres.

Culture education

Host countries such as Guyana and Suriname that boast diverse heritage showcase historical exhibits and anthropological studies of the indigenous people. There are events and activities for children and families.

Host countries

Ed. Year Host country[3] Dates[3]
I 1972  Guyana Aug 25 – Sep 15
II 1976  Jamaica July 23 – Aug 2
III 1979  Cuba July 16–22[4]
IV 1981  Barbados July 19 – Aug 3
V 1992  Trinidad and Tobago August 22–28
VI 1995  Trinidad and Tobago August 19–?
VII 2000  Saint Kitts and Nevis August 17–26
VIII 2003  Suriname August 25–30
IX 2006  Trinidad and Tobago August 10–15
X 2008  Guyana August 22–31
XI 2010  The Bahamas Cancelled[5][6]
2013  Suriname August 16–26
XII 2015  Haiti August 21–30
XIII 2017  Barbados August 17–27
XIV 2019  Trinidad and Tobago August 16–25
XV 2021  Antigua and Barbuda August 6–15


The idea of CARIFESTA was based on a similar event that took place in Puerto Rico in 1952. When Georgetown, Guyana hosted a Caribbean Writers and Artists Convention in 1966 and 1970, it encouraged President Forbes Burnham to host an arts festival on a grander scale, thus CARIFESTA was created and took place in 1972. Guyana had recently gained independence, which prompted a need to "develop a Caribbean personality." The success of this festival led to the "establishment of a permanent unit within the Secretariat" under the new CARICOM organization, grating them oversight and establishing different hosts among the territories of the Caribbean.[7] A commemorative stamp was issued in Guyana to mark the occasion.[2]

In 2008 a task force was set up by CARICOM to develop and identify financing for cultural industries in the region. Dr Hilary Brown, CARICOM Secretariat’s Programme Manager for Culture and Community Development, made this announcement at the 21st Meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee (RCC), which opened at the Courtyard Marriott in Paramaribo, Suriname, on December 1.“The Caribbean Community welcomes the offer of the Government of Suriname to host CARIFESTA XI in 2013 and we are all looking forward to the event with great anticipation, she stated,” noting that CARICOM was at a “crossroads in the development of this highly valued regional expose’ of Caribbean arts and culture.”

In 2009, CARIFESTA returned to Guyana, attracting over 1000 participants of all ages.[8]

In July 2012 in Saint Lucia, Haitian President Michel Martelly expressed interest in hosting CARIFESTA to increase cultural relations with other neighbouring nations.

2013 - Apart from the 15-member CARICOM grouping, the event plans to attract countries of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), of which Suriname became a full member. President Dési Bouterse anticipated that Suriname would host more than 2,000 participants, given the fact that the contingents from each country should number at least 50. The festival was held in the historic wooden inner city of Paramaribo and the organisers said “from the Independence Square and the Presidential Palace, down to the heart of town, people are supposed to feel that CARIFESTA is in town. Paramaribo is going to be a Festival City that week”.[9]

Trinidad and Tobago hosted the event in 2019 from August 16 to 25 for the fourth time under the theme "Connect, Share Invest". Twenty four countries registered to attend, including non-CARICOM countries such as Curaçao, Colombia and Guadeloupe. The hub of CARIFESTA XIV was Caribbean Grand Market located in Queen's Park Savannah with over 100 events across both islands.[10]


  1. ^ "History of CARIFESTA". CARICOM. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  2. ^ a b Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat. Archived April 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "CARIFESTA through the years". CARICOM. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Boletín del Portal de la Cultura de América Latina y el Caribe". Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  5. ^ "Off to The Bahamas for CARIFESTA XI". CARICOM. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Bahamas unable to host CARIFESTA". Kaieteur News. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  7. ^ "History of CARIFESTA". CARICOM. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  8. ^ "UNICEF - Guyana - Digital Diarist Bernice Akuamoah reports from 'Carifesta' in Guyana". 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  9. ^ "CANANEWS - CMCfeature-CARIBBEAN-CULTURE-Suriname's wants largest, all…". 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  10. ^ "Welcome to CARIFESTA XIV T&T - Connect, Share, Invest". 2019-08-29. Retrieved 2021-03-15.

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