Local audiences will get a sneak preview this weekend of the program Cayman is taking to the Caribbean Festival of the Arts in Barbados next month.

Cayman will be sending 36 delegates to Barbados on Aug. 17-28 to participate in the festival of performance and visual arts, which will feature participants from some 20 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Patrice Beersingh, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s programs director, said the Cayman delegation is comprised of the Cayman National Gallery, Cayman National Museum, University College of the Cayman Islands, Swanky Kitchen Band and Cayman National Cultural Foundation. The cultural foundation also will be bringing along fashion designers Isy B and Jawara Alleyne, an ensemble of dancers from various schools on the island, a theater production, “Playground,” written by Frank McField and directed by Cayman National Cultural Foundation artistic director Henry Muttoo, and a Youth Services cooking class.

Mr. Muttoo, speaking at a press conference Monday, said the foundation wants people in Cayman to get a chance to view a showcase of the work that will be presented in Barbados. “I think it is really important the country gets an understanding clearly of what it is we are doing,” he said.

He noted that the weekend shows will be fundraisers to help pay for the trip.

“We are really hoping to sell out all three shows so we can help people even more, so we are encouraging everyone to come out and support the showcase of arts this weekend,” he said.

“[CARIFESTA] is an amazing experience, not just for an artist but for a Caymanian coming from such a small nation,” said Ms. Beersingh, who participated in CARIFESTA when it was held in Suriname some years ago.

“Sometimes we forget the part we play in the global spectrum,” she said. “What it did for me is remind me of how special our culture is and how we differentiate from other Caribbean countries, even though we are so close in proximity, as well as open my eyes as to what the performing arts [are] really about and how it affects us socially and culturally.”

On their first day in Barbados, the delegation will tour the island. At the opening ceremony, the group will wear official jerseys featuring the Cayman Islands flag.

CARIFESTA kicks off with a “grand market,” at which all the nations taking part will present expos, presentations and performances.

Martyn Bould, chairman of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, said the key thing he found from previous festivals was the importance of the event to young people. He said when he asked participants what they learned about themselves and their country while attending CARIFESTA, almost always the answer has been, “I now really now know what it means to be a Caymanian and be proud to represent my country.”

Dancer Melissa McField said attending the festival gives her a sense of pride to say she is Caymanian. Working with young dancers, she sees their eagerness and willingness to dance.

Swanky Kitchen Band member Nicholas Johnson said he had an “Aha” moment at his last CARIFESTA event. The minute they struck up the band, people stopped in their tracks to listen because the songs are unique.

“Here is a fiddle playing on top of a Caribbean beat and people wanting to find out more – that’s the moment it made me realize we have something very special and unique in Cayman with Swanky Kitchen Band that we need to preserve and keep,” he said.

Peggy Leshikar-Denton, Cayman Islands National Museum director, is excited to be part of the contingent. She said the museum, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, has more than 9,300 objects, and curator Debra Barnes-Tabora is taking 16 of those pieces to Barbados, along with copies of the museum’s anniversary publication

Natalie Urquhart, director of the Cayman Islands National Gallery, said she is traveling to Barbados with five Caymanian artists who will also be showcasing their works this weekend.

“Of course, that’s only a tiny part of what is going on in the visual arts in the Cayman Islands,” she said.

CARIFESTA is held every two years and includes performances from more than 4,000 artists. This will be the seventh time the Cayman Islands is taking part in the festival, whose theme this year is “Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves.”

The CARIFESTA Showcase will be held at the Harquail Theatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 28-30, with performances starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, $25, are available at Funky Tang’s, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation office or at www.artscayman.org/upcoming.

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