Last Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) culminated in a grand showcase that put the island’s creativity in the spotlight.
The NIFCA Performing Arts Gala was a spectacular cohobblopot of the artistic disciplines with selections of spoken word, dance, music and literary arts on the night. While it is customary for the gala to highlight select awardees from within that particular year, the special golden anniversary saw a return to the stage of several impactful pieces from throughout the years.
One such piece that remains a Barbadian favourite was the Winston Farrell-penned De Bus Man. When the cultural practitioner took to the stage, the rhythmic piece was as well received as it was in 1992 when it was first performed on a NIFCA stage. Still very relevant, as Farrell recited its catchy refrain many in the audience chimed in with him, swaying and rocking along in tandem in their seats, as they mimicked the movements of the bus.
Spoken-word genius Adrian Greene also held the audience’s rapt attention. He performed a medley of some of his pieces taken from his extensive catalogue of written expressions over the years As he transitioned from piece to piece, Greene utilized a call-and-response engagement where he asked the audience whether he should “Out that” to which they eagerly responded “Light it back” as instructed. The biting content of his pieces and the pace at which he swiftly and accurately dispatched his rolling commentary left the audience in awe, with them still calling for him to “Light it back” even after his finally piece was recited.
Akeem Chandler-Prescod’s Suicide Bomber was also impactful as he told a riveting story through the lens of an abused child, vividly expressing how destructive, negative impressions on his life were responsible for turning him into a ticking time bomb.
Similar themes of violence and abuse were explored by Cherie Jones in How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps and Yolanda Capendeguy’s Guard Ya Virginity.
Tribute was paid to entertainer RPB in Jennifer Walker’s spoken word piece Tribute to the Bag while Cultural Ambassador Dr The Most Honourable Anthony ‘Gabby’ Carter dedicated his guitar-aided rendition of Emmerton to the memory of Richard Stoute. Violinist Dwain Gill also delivered a smooth soca medley which included Rupee’s I Am a Bajan.
Expressions in dance also featured prominently on the night. The S. Neverson Dance Company performed And So We Danse, which captured a number of awards this year including the Prime Minister’s Award for Best Original Entry. Dancin’ Africa’s Man Overboard had a futuristic spinas they told the interesting story of a Barbados where citizens were identified solely by numbers. Kemal Marshall performed the Gene Carson-choreographed Metamorphosis while the Pinelands Creative Workshop opened the show with Afro Ship.
The award-winning Christ Church Foundation Steel Orchestra had the gym rocking as the pulsating strains of sweet steelpan music filled the auditorium. The students’ energy seemed contagious as their upbeat selections had attendees moving in their seats as they closed out the first half of the gala.
The second half of the gala featured a theatrical presentation entitled Barabajan which chronicled the life of literary genius Kamau Brathwaite. Through drama, song and dance, patrons got some insight into the journeys and challenges of the esteemed writer from his years of being locally educated at Harrison’s College, to his university years in London and finally his decade spent in Ghana.
The nearly five-hour-long show drew to close just after 11 pm, concluding yet another season of celebration of the arts under the NIFCA umbrella.