In the Cayman Islands, the Patapano Festival brings creative communities together

    Palm Heights united artists across the Caribbean diaspora, redefining luxury in the process

    It’s Carnival weekend in the Cayman Islands, and the Palm Heights hotel has a raft on display—a buoy to be exact, which makes it absolutely present. The first is larger, with stacked speakers and a DJ booth, and a green plastic canopy. It’s decorated with palm fronds, tropical flowers, and rotating fans that keep the Caribbean sun warm.

    The second buoy followed, equipped with a full rod and a few parachutes. Friends of the Highlanders hop from building to building, or walk among them, dancing, drinking and generally partying as the procession makes its way down West Bay Road, parallel to the islands’ coveted Seven Mile Beach. I was supposed to watch the Batabano – the caimans’ patriotic performance of the Caribbean Carnival – from the sidelines. But by chance or misunderstanding, I ended up in the thick of things, talking to float artists and calling themselves “attractive curators” as in the afternoon.

    Palm Heights has been around for a while, but changed ownership in 2018. Gabriella Khalil, founder and creative director behind her current formation, is an authority in the field of contemporary art; Walking on the hotel grounds, it is clear to see. The hotel has it all, to almost perfection comic and paranormal. Each suite overlooks the blue pool and ocean, as well as the two sprawling swimming pools. Yellow canary umbrellas scattered on the white sand beach. The rooms—plus the lounge, restaurants, lobby, and shops—are decorated with design fanatics in mind: Marcel Breuer and Pierre Chapo, an Ettore Sotsass rug, charming pieces by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Gijs Bakker and Jay Aulente, and stacks and stacks of art books.

    Left: Bambi Grimotis. Right: Lafond.

    In Patapano, I learned that most of the individuals on the buoy were part of the residency program that is central to Palm Heights’ mission: “accommodating and nurturing artists, writers, and athletes with direct or indirect ties or interests in the Caribbean.” There were painters like Gabriela Sanchez and Addie Roberson. Dancers of various genres, including Tariq Boom, Patricia Choo and Si Nichols. And many of the designers and designers responsible for creating the vibrant outfits that gave the event its character: Tara Hacken, Raul Lopez and Jonathan Johnson. The night before the festival, Trinidadian director Maya Kozir hosted a screening of her latest film is heavenIn its heyday, DJ Crystallmess and Pressure Point set the mood.

    It was refreshing to see a luxury resort full of young creatives, and wonderful international kids, especially in a way that is never read as artful or contrived. The resident artists were the heart of the place – and yet to be thought of among the other guests. I asked Gerardo Gonzalez—the head of food and cultural programs at The Heights—and Los Angeles-based coordinator Erin Cristóval about the intentions behind the programme, which they were both instrumental in developing. They emphasized the idea of ​​”luxury without pretension.” Compared to establishments like The Ritz, Palm Heights feels like home – a place of total and complete relaxation, without having to prove your belonging through fancy dress or other status connotations. And for artists, Christofal stresses, it’s the ultimate setting for a reset. “For a lot of people, who might feel stuck or in the same space and need something new—on a very basic level, [the Heights] It provides a new way of thinking, sort of all that is needed in someone’s practice.”

    Specifically in the context of Patapano, they worked with an expanded definition of what carnival – and the Caribbean diaspora more broadly – might actually include. “You think of, like, Mardi Gras in Louisiana, or different points of cultural celebrations across the United States,” says Cristóval. “We wanted it to be a reflection of that global diversity, and to think of the Caribbean as such a story of the origins of the Americas. The culture can extend to many different people who can relate to it.”

    There is interest in the idea that if you are going to create a world-famous tourist destination, particularly within a small community like Grand Cayman Islands, it is necessary to provide space for people with claims and connection to the land on which you operate. Moreover, engage in the traditions of that land in a valuable and meaningful way, take its art forms and festivities as a basis and move forward from there.