Trinidad and Tobago takes center stage at Charleston Carifest

  • Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the Caribbean nation the South Carolina Caribbean Culture and Heritage will highlight during its eighth annual Charleston Carifest Caribbean Carnival in June, Caribbean American Heritage Month.

The SCCCH will unveil details of the festival and show the film “Colores del Carnaval Dominicano” during a May 16 reception at the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center.

The reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at Avery, located at 125 Bull St. in Charleston. Refreshments will be served.

The four-day festival begins June 20. Special guests will be the Honorable Dr. Neil Parsan, Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador to the United States, and Dr. Anil Ramnanan, the Trinidad and Tobago consulate general. The emissaries will lead the 2013 Carnival Street Parade from the Charleston Visitor Center down King Street to Brittlebank Park on the Ashley River.

While carnival is considered a time of fun and wild abandonment, Charleston Carifest is unique because it encompasses an educational component along with the frivolity.

Lorna Beck, SCCCH’s president, said, “The Caribbean culture of wearing masks, reverence of the spirits and parading are carryovers from the early Africans who lived in the Caribbean and South Carolina.

“Learning the history of the Caribbean carnival celebration will provide a better understanding of the various activities incorporated into this celebration and will allow for better appreciation of it.

“The Caribbean carnival celebration is rooted in both European and African history,” she said. “The goal of SCCCH is to create unity while embracing diversity.”

Charleston Carifest started in 2006 as a carnival presentation. The festival moved to the park in 2007 during which time organizers focused on the music of the Caribbean. Starting in 2007, the festival has featured St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, St. Lucia, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica in 2012.

Trinidad was a Spanish colony from 1498 until 1797 while Tobago changed hands 30 times among the British, French, Dutch and Courlanders. The island eventually became a British colony although heavily settled by French colonists. In August 1816, a group of 700 former enslaved people from the Southern United States were rewarded with land in Trinidad, and they settled there.

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