A woman wearing traditional clothes participates in pole plaiting during the 2019 Dolores Christopher Festival of the Arts. (Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

The territory will host its first-ever Lit Fest over the next week as part of the second annual Culture and Tourism Month.

An opening ceremony on Monday kicked off the month-long celebration of activities.

During the event, guest speakers, singers, dancers and musicians took turns inviting residents and tourists to participate in the activities to come.

“The goal of this entire effort is to develop our creative industries and of course develop our cultural tourism,” Culture Director Dr. Katherine Smith said during her opening remarks.

Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley also gave an opening statement, stressing the importance of highlighting culture throughout the month.

“The linkage between tourism and culture with this month-long group of activities is not a coincidence,” he said. “It is a part of the vision that we have for culture to ensure that our culture is more prominently displayed to our visitors and our residents.”

He encouraged residents to enjoy cultural experiences as tourists do and to experience the food, music and dance of the Virgin Islands.

“Our culture is alive and vibrant,” Dr. Wheatley said.

BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association Executive Director Keiyia Jackson-George spoke of ways to develop tourism, encouraging residents to help support local businesses and creatives.

“Businesses are the backbone of our economy,” she said. “We have to look at businesses to support businesses.”

Also during the ceremony, Julia Leonard sang cultural songs, Poet Laureate Dr. Richard Georges read one of his poems, and the Nouveau Royale Dance Ensemble performed.

Upcoming events

More events will take place in the coming weeks.

Dr. Smith highlighted the first-ever BVI Lit Fest, consisting of workshops, panel discussions and other events (see sidebar).

The poetry and nonfiction workshops were filled and closed by Monday, but she encouraged people to enroll in other workshops — including museum and photography workshops — later in the month.

Panel discussions on essays, poetry, nonfiction writing, and literature will take place next week.

The Lit Fest ends on Nov. 13 with a book fair at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and an evening of music and poetry featuring the Callaloo Poets. On Saturday, a genealogy workshop will be facilitated by the Virgin Islands Communal Association and VI Studies Institute at HLSCC at 3 p.m. Dr. Smith encouraged anyone ancestrally linked to the VI to attend the event and trace their roots.

The same workshop will be hosted at HLSCC’s Virgin Gorda campus on Nov. 17.

A Cultural Food Fair will take place on three islands on Nov. 12: one at the pier park on Tortola, another on Jost Van Dyke, and the third on Virgin Gorda.

On Nov. 20, there will be an evening of Sankey and storytelling performed by the VICA, and the annual Dolores Christopher Festival of the Arts will be held the following day.

A new book titled The 1949 Great March by Gabrielle Skelton-Bardo will be launched on Nov. 24.

Culture and Tourism Month ends with the Anegada Lobster Fest from Nov. 26-28 and a panel discussion on the tourism industry on Nov. 30.