“NIFCA is fuh me. NIFCA is fuh you. NIFCA is fuh all Bajans to show wha’ they can do …” – NIFCA promotional jingle
Barbados TODAY partnered with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) to bring our Facebook audience the live stream of the launch of the NIFCA Online Channel on Monday night.
Weeks prior, we reported that the NCF was bringing the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) this year, albeit in the digital version. Unfortunately, the national festival was not staged last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, news of its return was warmly welcomed.
For years, NIFCA has served our country’s artists and artistes well. Unlike Crop Over, the other festival produced by the NCF, NIFCA plays a far more developmental role. On that stage school choirs, community groups, church groups, budding musicians, aspiring actors, would-be dancers and inmates of Her Majesty Dodds Prisons are all afforded the opportunity to “show wha’ they can do” quoting the lyrics to the well-known promotional jingle.
On NIFCA’s stages, some of our country best-known actors were born. The dance groups are plentiful and the year-long practice and hard work of many are showcased to the wider country in November. Our Bajan dishes and traditional eats also take centre stage at NIFCA. Icons such as Enid Maxwell in visual arts, the creative expression of our country’s artists is laid bare for all to see and interpret.
At a time such as this when the COVID-19 has altered life as we know it, recognising, embracing and preserving our indigenous culture is as relevant as it was in 1973 when NIFCA was conceptualised and first staged.
Back then, Arden Clarke and his wife Jeanette Layne–Clarke, both creative writers and arts activists, first came up with the idea of a national arts festival as a means of nation-building.
We need the spirit of nation-building now more than ever. The pandemic, ash, hurricane and all the other adversities our people have faced within the last year it is important that they see themselves, their struggles, their plights, their journey reflected through art.
Over the years, the arts have proven to be a great way of bringing people together, even in these virtual times. Arts allow the creator to express and the audience to tune into said expression.
That is why we commend the NCF, under the Ministry of Culture and Youth Development, for ensuring that this national festival, now in its 48th is being staged.
As we embark on our 55th year of Independence and on the verge of republican status, a cadre of authentic Bajan talent must be showcased.
And while at the launch weeks ago Chief Cultural Officer Andrea Wells admitted that producing the festival virtually was a “bit challenging”, it has been worth the effort.
She acknowledged that this edition of the festival presented some difficulties for the NCF, given the traditional interpersonal contact between the organisers and participants. But she said the lessons learnt over the past year through several online showcases by artists taking part in several NCF-backed initiatives provide much-needed experience for the cultural agency.
Wells said: “It did have its challenges; we are moving from live productions to an entirely online production but I think we have a lot of good experiences and lessons learned over the last 18 months, and I think we have gotten not just locally [and] regionally, but internationally very positive responses for all of the content we have been producing.”
This week, thousands of viewers enjoyed music programme Reminisce and theatre arts Rewind. Those interested in Literary Arts were logged on to a radio drama, Ashes to Ashes. In culinary they were given tips during the Cooking the Enid Maxwell Way episodes.
The 24-hour channel not only offers new content but also servings of nostalgia with the airing of NIFCA’s past.
NIFCA 2019 – three tribute nights were slotted in as well as NCF-produced local content for the recently-concluded UNTAD19 conference.
The NIFCA calendar of events fit neatly into the national Independence/Republic events announced by Senator Kay McConney this evening.
As we move forward and reshape a Barbados that is more reflective of Barbadians embracing our culture and heritage remains key. However, Barbados is redefined or reshaped the preservation of our nationhood as we continue to be “strict guardians of our heritage” has to be at the forefront.
We owe it to future generations to ensure that our national identity is known, understood, appreciated and passed on. This is what makes us unique. This is what sets us apart, even from our neighbours in the Caribbean. This is what makes the story of Barbados such a special one.
Whatever the future holds, whatever comes our way, we must always have a place for NIFCA or any other outlets of artistic expression that state emphatically, boldly, clearly and loudly: “I am a Bajan”.
In the arts, this is who we are.