A glamorous, glorious, golden gala

todayNovember 29, 2023 59


The curtains of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts’ (NIFCA) 50th anniversary celebrations officially closed on Sunday, November 26th, with The NIFCA Performing Arts Gala: Barabajan.

After weeks of enjoying the festival’s return in its full capacity, hundreds of attendees at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium were treated to a multi-discipline showcase featuring some of Barbados’ brightest talents – from the festival’s inception to its present iteration.

The show not only represented the evolution of the festival, but a culmination of every NIFCA participants’ bravery throughout the five decades to reflect on society using their gifts.

After a moment of silence in honour of the recent passing of cultural icon Richard Stoute, masters of ceremonies Margaret Allman-Goddard, Maurice Norville, and Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), Carol Roberts, led the audience through the first half of the creative cohobblopot – titled 50 Years of Excellence – featuring thirteen top award-winning pieces they laughed, danced, and sang along to.

NIFCA mainstays, Pinelands Creative Workshop opened the show with their [year] award winning piece, Afro Ship. Theater stalwart Jennifer Walker followed with her witty, interactive NIFCA 2008 winning work Tribute to the Bag. The multi-talented Dwain Gill, whose résumé includes a number of prestigious prizes like The Prime Minister Scholarship award, two James Millington awards (2002 and 2003), and The Ardan Clarke Founder prize, evoked national pride with a groovy violin rendition of Rupee’s I am a Bajan.

Akeem Chandler-Prescod, also known as Stoned with Cupid, unpacked child abuse, domestic violence and masculinity through his 2023 gold-winning piece, Suicide Bomber, and Dr. The Most Honourable Anthony ‘Gabby’ Carter, the first winner of the James Millington Award in 1986, paid tribute to his dear friend Richard Stoute with Emmerton.

The S. Neverson Dance Company showed why they had such a highly decorated debut – Gold award, The Rachel Springer Award of Excellence, Best Newcomer to NIFCA and The Prime Minister award for best original entry – with 2023 entry And So We Danse.

Dr. Cherie Jones read an excerpt from her 2018 NIFCA gold-winning novel How the one armed Sister Sweeps her House which has since been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for fiction in the United Kingdom (2021), the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (2022) and the International Literature prize (2023), and Yolanda Capendeguy continued the theme of literary excellence with her poignant 2007 offering Guard yuh Virginity, which one a silver award and a special award from UNICEF. 

Celebrating thirty-one years of service, Dancin’ Africa – winners of numerous gold and incentive awards, and four Prime Minister’s Scholarships and Madame Ifill Awards of excellence – performed their 2019 mixed-discipline piece, Man Overboard. And Kemal Marshall kept the rhythmic motion going with a tribute to the late Gene Carson, performing his 2005 solo choreography for Metamorphosis which won a gold award, the Prime Minister’s award for originality, and the Governor General Award of Excellence.

Multi-award winning poets Adrian Green and Winston Farrell performed a spoken word medley (Politicians, Dis piece, Hardears, and Heard Work)and De Bus Man (2002 winner of the Prime Minister’s Award)respectively. The next generation of NIFCA emcees – Zara Clarke, Antoine Holder, Devari Springer, and Aliza Jane-McCarthy – introduced Christ Church Foundation’s (who have been participating in NIFCA since 1973) Steel Orchestra,led by Lowery Worrel, to perform their soca medley which this year won: Gold, Best Presentation, Best Performance by a Secondary School, Best Arrangement, Most Entertaining Performance,the James Millington Award, Finalists trophy and The 50th Anniversary of NIFCA Award.

After a brief intermission, the show continued with ‘Barabajan’ an honorary restaging of the late Dr. Kamau Brathwaite’s presentation of the same name. This was the creative vision of Cecily Spencer-Cross with direction by Levi King and featured a jam-packed cast who relived his works through drama, song, dance, and visual imagery. Musical direction was provided by Lowery Worrell and choreography from Olivia Hall.

Under an artist’s impression of Dr. Brathwaite in the heavens looking over the stage, Neil Waite, portraying the iconic Barbadian poet, took Mikhail Prescod (playing Ambala) and the audience through the local inspirations and sojourns in England, Ghana, Jamaica, and the United States which influenced his work – featuring captivating reenactments by Janine White, Jennifer Walker, Yolanda Capandeguy, and Addis Ayele Matthias.

The riveting multi-media production was a fitting finale to an enriching evening of excellence as NIFCA looks towards its 51st year, and beyond.

Written by: Info NCF

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