The UWI Museum is a deliberately regional space and our new cameo exhibition focuses on the relationship of Caribbean people to their region. The exhibition is titled People & Region and we timed it to start alongside the SALISES UWI 2013 Regional Integration conference taking place upstairs the UWI Regional HQ from October 7-9.
The regional project, which the Caribbean has been engaged in for decades, has been through choppy seas. Its first full expression was the West Indies Federation (West Indies and Caribbean is pretty synonymous, though the term West Indies goes back to the days of European colonization). The Federation fell apart in 1961. To their credit, leaders of the individual countries, most of which became independent in the 1960s or 1970s, kept on talking. The Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) had a brief life before becoming the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) in 1973 – 40 years ago!
Since then, though, many people have questioned how much progress has been made. The leaders talk. The business people argue – frequently – over relative advantage. But over time, people across the region have forged connections beyond a common geographic region and sea, and a common history of European colonialism. Through the communication media and through travel, people have adopted aspects of each other’s cultural difference to create areas of regional fusion and overlap.
The exhibition therefore focuses of these areas – common education through the Caribbean Examinations Council and the University of the West Indies, common spaces through sport (West Indies cricket and the CARIFTA Games), and cultural exchange and melding through music, carnival and the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta). Some of that music came to the museum during a brief launch on October 9, when UWI Panoridim tenor section leader Kerel Warrick of Trinidad & Tobago played a steel pan recently donated to the UWI Vice Chancellery by the PM of Trinidad & Tobago.
The exhibition runs until November 8. Special thanks for inputs from Salises, which gets the idea that the museum can collaborate with UWI departments and units to bring academic expertise into the museum exhibitions, CARICOM’s culture and library staff which assisted with information resources, and co-curators Dr Julian Cresser, Dr Terri Gilbert-Roberts and Dr Khitanya Petgrave.