The Ambassadors of Barbados and of Trinidad and Tobago Visit Yenching Academy of Peking University

On March 15, 2019, the Ambassadors of Barbados and of Trinidad and Tobago visited Yenching to share with scholars their Caribbean country's unique cultural and creative industries. Being geographically close to each other, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago share rich histories with many similarities as well as differences. As a region, the Caribbean is a crossroad of world histories and a mixture of a variety of cultures and post-colonial countries. Politically, there are several economic groups with many different spoken languages. In the region, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are among the most developed countries. However, what these countries are known for in the world is their distinct and rich creative industries. During the two ambassadors visit, they spoke about the fashion, film, and festival industries of their countries, as well as the inroads these sectors have made or will make in China.


In fashion, both countries share a vibrant, colorful, and flowing style. Because of the hot climates of the region, the producers of high fashion and mass fashion garments from these countries have created beautiful yet functional items that match the region's climate. Although the fashion scene is still young and developing, its growth is spurred and inspired by the heritage and the tropical climate of these Caribbean countries. Trinidad and Toboggans have also started making waves on the international fashion scene. The famous fashion designer, Anya Ayoung-Chee, a Trinidad and Tobogonian of Chinese descent, was a winner of Project Runway's ninth season in 2011 and had also presented her fashion line in Shanghai in 2012.


In the film sector, these Caribbean countries also display strong producing capabilities. For example, “The Right and Wrong” was the first film to be produced in Trinidad and Tobago in 1970. Other up and coming actors like Winston Duke who starred in Black Panther also hails from Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago is planning to strengthen and formalize their film making industry. With rich geographic diversity, from the sandy beaches and deep blue oceans to historic castles, Trinidad and Tobago hopes to market its geographic locality for its wonderful film making opportunities. Concurrently, although much smaller in population size, Barbados is also growing its film industry. Together, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are also bringing film into China. With the Caribbean Film Festival held in Beijing in both 2016 and 2018, there is much to look forward to in the exchange of the film sector between these Caribbean countries and China.


Beyond the film and fashion industries, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are also renowned for its popular, colorful, and vibrant carnivals. Between these two Caribbean countries, their carnivals share a lot of similarities. In Barbados, the carnival of the year is the Barbados Cropover, which is a festival that has grown from one day to one month and attracts visitors from around the world. Originally a festival that marked the end of the sugar cane crop, it has since developed into a national cultural festival featuring all of the arts that the country has to offer. Rihanna, a renowned Barbadian singer, songwriter, and actress, is also known for making annual trips back to Barbados just to participate in the revelries of the Cropover. To promote this rich cultural festival, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago also collaborate in their participation at the Annual Beijing Arts Festival, where they share and promote Caribbean's Carnival culture.


The two ambassadors explained how the way forward in their exchanges with China will include education through fashion, film, music, and experiences through Carnivals like Cropover. The Ambassadors of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados are also happy to be celebrating the 45th and 42nd Anniversaries (respectively) of their diplomatic relations with China. Following their culturally rich presentation, they opened up the floor for questions. Scholars asked a variety questions, to which the ambassadors responded by touching on topics of soft power and how education is an important tool for cultural exchange: “education is a way of equipping our young people with the tools to prepare themselves to negotiate with this new partner [China], and that's why educational exchange is instrumental.”


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