Island hopper (September/October 2006)

What’s happening in the Caribbean in September and October 2006

Illustration by Jason Jarvis

The biggest cultural event in the Caribbean in September and October — in fact, for the whole year — is the ninth Caribbean Festival of Arts and Culture, Carifesta IX (22 September to 1 October), which is hosted for the third time by Trinidad and Tobago. For ten days, at theatres, galleries, halls, parks, libraries, and museums across the two islands, the best of the arts of the entire Caribbean region will be showcased, continuing the traditional started by the first Carifesta in 1972. That’s not all: from September 14 to October 26, Trinidad will also host Galvanise, a new contemporary arts programme aimed at providing a platform for emerging visual, performing, and literary artists. And for two glamorous days in mid-September, the Caribbean’s best fashion design talent will be centre-stage at Makin’ Style 2006 (20 and 21 September), at Port of Spain’s landmark Queen’s Hall. And Trinidad’s sister island gets in on the act too — the 2006 Tobago Fest runs from 28 September to 1 October. As if that weren’t enough: the music keeps playing almost till the end of October at the 2006 Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival (23 to 28 October).

If you can’t make it down to T&T, you don’t have to miss all the fun. Stuck in sweltering New York? The Brooklyn Labour Day Parade (2 September), the largest celebration of Caribbean culture in North America, is right on your doorstep: music, food, thousands of costumed masqueraders, and the spirit of the islands in the middle of the big city. Or celebrate a different aspect of the Caribbean at the Caribbean Gift and Craft Show (14 to 17 September) in St Kitts. The finest handcrafted items from across the region — from apparel to cosmetics to household items and culinary delicacies — will be on display for buyers from around the world.

Maybe you’re an outdoorsy type, the kind who really enjoys a physical challenge. The Tropical Power Coast 2 Coast 2006 (7 and 8 October) is a two-day multi-sport stage race which consists of cycling, trail-running, and paddling across a set course from Trinidad’s east coast — the race begins at the Toco lighthouse — to a finish-line on the north-west peninsula. Racers from Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, and even a high-profile international multi-sport champion are expected to compete for over US$10,000 prize money (for more information, see www.ecoadventurestt.com). A couple of weeks later, at the St Croix Five-Mile Coral Reef Swim Race (22 October), solo and team swimmers compete for glory in the crystal waters around Buck Island off St Croix in the US Virgin Islands.

September is Amerindian Heritage Month in Guyana, a celebration of the culture and history of the country’s indigenous peoples, who make up over ten per cent of the population. From the opening ceremony at the Umana Yana in Georgetown to events at communities all over the Guyanese interior — most notably, the 2006 Heritage Village, Santa Rosa — there are dozens of opportunities for visitors to experience the traditions of modern Guyana’s nine Amerindian peoples. And for the Caribbean’s Hindus, October ends with Divali, the festival of lights (21 October; date to be confirmed), a public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname, and celebrated by Hindu communities in other islands as well. A season of fasting and prayer ends with celebrations uniting families and friends, traditional food and music, and the ritual illumination of houses, temples, streets, and parks. (In Guyana, people even light up their cars.) People of all faiths join in, as whole neighbourhoods are transformed by tens of thousands of lights representing hope, prosperity, and joy.