You’re going to leave footprints.

Carifesta XIII was recently held in Barbados Aug 17th to 27th officially, but TS Harvey had other plans. The result of which was a new date for the opening ceremony - Sunday 20th August; cancelled flights for arrivals, a re-work of an 11 day schedule into 8 and the ramifications each change had on the organizers and participants. At the best of times this event is a logistical challenge, none the less in an era when everyone has a phone to make them smart, or at least able to publish their opinions.

My flight landed Monday 21st August, just at the peak of that day’s solar eclipse, 3:49 pm and yes, I did look, just for a second, well maybe two. Our delegation, from St. Kitts-Nevis was finally in Barbados, despite our own, pre-departure hiccups.

Tuesday morning we arrived at the Grand Market and got our first taste of what others had experienced, mis-informed decision making. Because our arrival was late, the Carifesta crew, - who had organized our transportation from the airport the night before and sent a Liaison Officer to our hotel at 7am that morning - thought we were not coming, so there wasn’t a booth for our country. By end of day Tuesday we had two. The convention management team were fantastic in the way they picked up many a slack! Allison and Isreal were always on top of everthing!

As a self taught artist, I wanted to see the visual arts presentations. So with the coordination of our Liaison Officer Joycelyn Blackman, and bus driver Gregory John, off I went to see the Regional and National Art Exhibition.

Well the work did not disappoint however, I was deeply moved by the art on show for the Haitian art team. Upon entering the room marked Haiti I saw the same 4 or 5 large white panels that every other country had used for their presentation. This time though the artwork was of a different nature. Instead of a showing of pieces in different styles about different subject matter in an assortment of realistic and abstract, these white panels had cardboard pieces attached. Some were painted with such tension and emotion that the blue paint they used spilled onto the panels while the last presentation had cardboard pieces with bare dabs of paint as a mark of an exhaustion of the emotion as well as the materials. This work was hurriedly done, but, it was in the regional show of Carifesta, a showcase of the best the Caribbean had to offer. Can this be right? I looked back at the pieces as I left the room, unsure of what to think. I even saw blue paint in the outer area where it seemed they worked.

You have probably guessed by now what I found out afterwards, the intended art did not arrive. However, instead of being absent from the exhibition, the artists announced their presence in a very bold way. The only way they could, with their medium of choice, and the emotion of the moment. They were literally Blue Vex and they wanted you to know it.

Without that presentation Haiti wouldn’t have hung on the door of a room. They most likely wouldn’t have been missed. After all there were only 5 rooms dedicated to a country, while 25 countries were present at Carifesta XIII. No, the determined Haitians, who hosted Carifesta XII 2 years before said, we are here and we will be seen. Their insistence on being present, being seen, being heard even, brought tears to my eyes.

Later that same day I tried to use a bathroom where the floor was still visibly damp from cleaning. The young attendant stopped me. I said, I will take responsibility if I fall but I need to go. Without skipping a beat, framing her words as we do in the Caribbean she said, “You’re not supposed to leave footprints.”

It’s because the Haitians refused to entertain that thought process why I felt their presence at Carifesta XIII. This area of the Caribbean has always stood for resistance, determination, resourcefulness. At Carifesta XIII, this meant they were leaving footprints.

Well done Haiti! Well done to Barbados for allowing Carifesta to come in and leave its footprints. Well done my delegation, despite setbacks and push backs we made our presence known and left our footprints at CarifestaXIII. Well done Caribbean for showing up, well done indeed, well done.

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