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International Cultural Weekend: 18-19 October [Nassau]
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Posted by:Oct 9th 2003, 05:45:57 pm
chapelInternational Cultural Weekend

By Glen C. Nairn
First Published: 10/1/2003

This is a very big moment for all people living in The Bahamas because we have to be as one," says Gloria Bretana, cultural representative of the Philippines. "Look at it: We have peace with each other. Before, there was no organization like this – we didn’t know each other very well, but now we come as if we were brothers and sisters…It’s uniting."

If you attend the 9th Annual International Cultural Weekend at the Botanical Gardens, Chippingham, from 10:00am to 6:00pm on Saturday October 18th and Sunday October 19th, you will witness the spirit of Bretana’s testimony. You’ll see nationals of about sixty countries, about twice as many representatives as in the maiden event, display various aspects of their countries’ culture – from food to dress, to music and dance, to history.

Your entry fee is only $2. (Children are $1.)

And you need not worry about parking, as there’s ample parking at the garden’s northern entrance.

Further, to enhance your comfort, you may consider taking a folding chair or a towel so you can sit on the grass.

This year Fast Ferries is the event’s major sponsor. Its other sponsors are Barcadi, Coca-Cola, and Island FM.

As customary, its proceeds will go to various local charities.

To throw in a little history, or "back- back" as we say in Bahamianese, the cultural extravaganza is the brainchild of James Catalyn, its committee chairman. In 1993 when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that he chair a committee to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, he drew on his observations at a Commonwealth Arts Festival in Auckland, New Zealand.

A participant in the festival, he observed that over a two-day period, representatives from all of the Commonwealth countries performed for about half-an-hour.

Convinced that a similar event could be held here, he and his committee organized a one-day cultural festival. However, due to the myriad of activities, coupled with expansive enthusiasm, the event was held for two days instead"– October 21st and 22nd.

Its initial success prompted organizers to make it an annual affair, says Gene Hayes, a forty-three plus-year resident of The Bahamas, who has highlighted the culture of her native Barbados from the inaugural show.

Although Strnst Rumer, an Austrian native, who himself has resided in The Bahamas for over forty years did not become a committee member until three years after the initial event due to his Harbour Island residency, he has always been impressed by the club’s formation. Says he: "I was so impressed by the first (International Cultural Weekend) that I promised James (Catalyn) that whenever I came back to Nassau even if I had to do it alone (have other shows), I would do it.

"I came back from Harbour Island and I jumped on the bandwagon!"

Well, you may not wish to jump on the bandwagon and become a committee member, but perhaps you may wish to join hundreds of others"– residents and tourists – who enjoy the cultural displays.

Among the highlights you can expect are performances by delegates from Cuba, Haiti, and several African countries.

In addition, you can also view "an entire" Indian village, courtesy of the Canadian participants, as they showcase Indian aspects of their culture.

Of course you’ll be able to sample the national and popular cuisine of all of the participating countries – for example, alligator from Australia, bamboo stick rice from the Philippines, coucou and flying fish from Barbados, and crab’n rice from The Bahamas.

On Saturday a number of events are scheduled. Among them is a performance by the royal Bahamas Police Force Band from 11:00am to 12:00noon. Just in case you haven’t heard yet, this band is truly world famous; it’s always a crowd favourite.

The band will be followed by the opening ceremony, at which time the Honourable Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will officially open the event.

"The parade of Nations" will follow, when you’ll see participants showcasing their national costumes. Rumer puts it this way:’"If you want to see what countries’ nationals are in this country, come out there (to the Cultural weekend). And there you’ll see people that you never knew were here in The Bahamas."

Also during the opening ceremony, trophies for the Regional Booth competition will be awarded. This is the first time for regional trophies. In the past, trophies were only awarded by country.

Following the opening ceremony around 2:30pm, representatives will make cultural presentations, including dance and other entertainment.

But that follows a number of happenings. First, at 11:00am, The Royal Bahamas Defence Force Band will woo you with its splendid renditions.

Then comes the closing ceremony at around 5:00pm. At that time, the trophy for "the best overall boot" will be made.

If you’d like additional information about the festival, or if your country isn’t represented, telephone Catalyn at 393-8239. He’d be happy to accommodate you.

As Haynes says, "The event is one that the whole family could come to"– nice clean healthy fun… and experience around the world, basically, in two days!"

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