GREAT BAY, St. Martin (September 1, 2015)—CARIFESTA 2015, the 12th edition of the largest Caribbean festival of arts and culture closed in grand style in Haiti last weekend with 22 nations participating, said St. Martin cultural activist Shujah Reiph.
Reiph, along with educator and former regional councilor Louis “Lulu” Mussington visited Haiti and attended CARIFESTA XII, August 21–30. It was a chock-full event of art, literature, music, song, dance, theater, fashion, panel discussions by leading artists and intellectuals, and other related activities, said Reiph.
“We were not at CARIFESTA in any official capacity but thanks to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), we had books published in St. Martin about our island’s culture to present to people and institutions that we came in contact with,” said Reiph.
“Some people were very surprised by the number of books and the important authors like George Lamming that are published in St. Martin from other Caribbean islands, including the two books in three languages on Haitian literature,” said Reiph.
Reiph and Mussington presented HNP books by Laurelle “Yaya” Richards (St. Martin), Emilio Jorge Rodriquez (Cuba), George Lamming (Barbados), Howard Fergus (Montserrat), Lasana M. Sekou (St. Martin), and Amiri Baraka (USA) to the National Library of Haiti, the University of Guyana Library, participating scholars such as Dr. Hilary Beckles, and to Haitian tourist office representatives, and officials of the CARIFESTA secretariat, among others.
“With the gift of books, and at the symposia, we got an opportunity to highlight St. Martin’s culture and promote quality book publishing in the Caribbean, especially multilingual publishing,” said Reiph. Only a government can send a delegation to CARIFESTA to represent the country or territory. St. Martin, South and North, did not send a delegation to CARIFESTA 2015.
“Shujah’s coordination of the book presentations was a selfless help to St. Martin writers, like those in Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in St. Martin, to symbolically reach CARIFESTA 2015,” said HNP projects director Lasana M. Sekou.
“Sometimes your book will reach places before you. Sometimes literature will be the only art form at hand for a friendly exchange, or to proudly or humbly present to represent a culture, a people, a St. Martin nation,” said Sekou.
Regionally, CARIFESTA is attracting more non-delegate visitors from throughout the Caribbean and the Americas to the host country. Caribbean carnivals have been doing this for many years. “These visitors are attending the rich array of cultural performances. They are visiting exhibits of national and popular culture and tourism promotion in the CARIFESTA village,” said Sekou.
“Consequently, official delegations, general publics, and Caribbean tourists can engage openly in cultural exchanges beyond the level of governments. That interaction is vital for Caribbean people. HNP wants books published in St. Martin, by authors from our region and from around the world, to be part of that meeting,” said Sekou.
In Haiti, Reiph was also on the look out for authors and speakers for the Conscious Lyrics and St. Martin Book Fair programs. “I invited the cultural people that I met at CARIFESTA to visit the next St. Martin Book Fair, June 2 – 4, 2016,” said Reiph. He is also the book fair coordinator and producer of Conscious Lyrics radio magazine.