Under the overarching framework of the CELAC-China Forum, Chinese President Xi dubbed 2016 the China-Latin America and Caribbean Year of Cultural Exchange, with the goal of promoting greater understanding among the people of China, the Caribbean and Latin America.
In collaboration with the Embassies of The Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana and Suriname, the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China recently launched the Latin America & Caribbean Music, Film and Art Exhibition Series in Beijing.
Caribbean Food Festival and Rum Tasting
Beijingers feasted on an array of tantalizing Caribbean delicacies. Caribbean cuisine is an amalgamation of a variety of influences from Europe, Africa, China, India and the Middle East. The region’s dishes are certainly a cultural ‘melting pot’ with some staple ingredients and spices including coconut, thyme, bell and scotch bonnet peppers, onions, garlic, tarragon and masala.
The buffet line up for the 2016 Caribbean Food Festival held at the Beijing Marriott Hotel Northeast, included a sumptuous array of mouthwatering delights some of which were prepared by internationally acclaimed, Bajan, five-star chefs Michael Hinds and Paul A. Griffith.
Guests dined on Bahamian Baked Macaroni and Cheese and Chicken Souse; Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Escoveitched Fish; Grenadian Oil Down and Johnny Cakes; Trinidadian Curry Goat and Corn Soup; Bajan Creole Salt Fish and Cou-Cou; Guyanese Pepperpot and Channa Masala Aloo and Surinamese BB & R Suri Style. Providing a welcome respite from the cornucopia of Caribbean cuisine, were the finest Caribbean rums including Grenadian Coconut Rum and Jack Iron; Bajan Mount Gay Rum; Jamaica’s Appleton Estate Reserve; Trinidad’s Old Oak, Angostura and Single Barrel; Suriname’s Black Cat and Borgoe 82 and Guyana’s Eldorado 12 and 15 Year Old Special Reserve, D’Aguiars extra mature rum, Banks DIH’s V.X.O and XM White rum.
“The food is very delicious and it is so nice to taste traditional foods from so many different countries. I would really like to thank the organizers for such a good event!” remarked an excited Iris Jiao who currently lives and works in Beijing.
The free, three-day Beijing- based music festival featured top Caribbean and Latin American artists, some of whom were visiting China for the first time. Participants were fully engaged and encouraged to ‘get loose’ and ‘jive’ to the hip-swaying, rhythmic beats of Soca, Calypso and Reggae music.
Two Bahamian bands, Visage and Ting Um Dem, along with Goombay Dancers entertained the Beijing crowd. Rupee, hailing from Barbados, performed his crossover hit Tempted to Touch and got people moving to an age-old favorite Jump, while Lil Bitts from Trinidad and Tobago had the crowd ‘jumping up and down’ to Bump and Hold Meh. Grenada’s Mr. Killa took his charisma off stage to lead a massive Congo line in tune to Follow di Leader, Leader, Follow di Leader. He whipped the crowd into frenzy with a performance of his break through hit Rolly Polly. Other acts included Jamaica’s Everton Blender, Grenada’s Tizzy, Dominica’s Daddy Chess, Guyana’s Big Red and ILambi from Vizion Sounds Guyana, Suriname’s Mitchell Brunnings and several other artists from Latin America.
“The beautiful thing about music is that it’s a universal language. There is no barrier … I performed here and I felt as if I was back home in the Caribbean,” said an enthusiastic Rupee. “This is my first time in Beijing and it’s been an absolutely phenomenal cultural experience. It is a good way to exchange energy, exchange ideas, exchange love and it’s time to boost the musical and cultural relationship [between China & the Caribbean] … hoping to do this again next year.”
This was also Everton Blender’s first trip to Beijing, “I’m looking forward to learning about Chinese culture and teaching them about Reggae music and letting them know that Reggae music is quality, down to [the] rich and down to the poor, everyone can learn from it. Performing is my life and today I’ll be doing Ghetto People Song, Lift Up Your Head and Why do we have to War.”
The Inaugural Caribbean Film Festival
Documentaries and dramas created by Caribbean showcasing their vibrant culture, heritage and lifestyles struck a positive chord with Beijing audiences over a three-day period. Representatives from China’s Ministry of Culture have described the film festival as “one of the most remarkable events within the China-Latin America and Caribbean Year of Cultural Exchange.”
A total of twelve films produced by internationally-acclaimed Caribbean filmmakers including the works of Anita Chandradath Singh (Trinidad and Tobago); Gina Rodgers Sealy, Kevin Taylor (The Bahamas) and Paula Williams Madison (Jamaica) made their debut in Beijing for the 2016 Inaugural Caribbean Film Festival. Bahamian films included Trailblazers—The Mychal Thompson Story, My Father’s Land and Gentle Giant—The Andre Rogers Story. Yatra – The Journey of the Indian Presence in Trinidad and Tobago, Chine Girl and Fortitude were the top three out of Trinidad. H20, Auntie and Keeping up with the Joneses from Barbados were both informative and entertaining. Jamaican films included two documentaries and a drama namely Finding Samuel Lowe, The Bakers of Oriental Gardens and Gravediggers.
Art Exhibition Series
Under the themes of “Magic and Reality” and “Sharing the Beauty” the 2016 Latin America and Caribbean Arts Festival Exhibition is well underway showcasing the works of more than 20 artists from countries like Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and Colombia. There are over 150 pieces being exhibited including paintings, sculptures, photography, traditional attire, masks, videography, among other artistic displays. Art lovers can continue to enjoy the vibrant hues and textures of the Caribbean as the Art Exhibition will run throughout the months of June and July in Beijing, Shanghai and Hunan.
“I am so proud to see Caribbean culture on display and embraced so enthusiastically by people from all walks of life in Beijing. I see art and music as a universal language that unify and inspire us so I am looking forward to a continuation of this bridge to deeper understanding among diverse cultures and peoples,” remarked Tameka Lundy, a Bahamian student pursuing her Masters in International Communication at Communication University of China.
Activities under the banner of the 2016 China-Latin America and Caribbean Year of Cultural Exchange are geared towards fostering more effective multilateral cooperation, while promoting friendship and a greater understanding of Caribbean and Latin American culture and traditions.
For more information visit the Ministry of Culture’s Organizing Committee of the China- Latin America and Caribbean 2016 Year of Culture Exchange website at http://www.cla2016.com/