The Cayman Islands National Museum’s celebration of Caymanian culture is a feast for all the senses.
By Elke O’Donnell
If you are looking for a spectacular celebration of Caymanian heritage, then look no further than Looky Ya, a family-friendly event held on select months throughout the year. Locals and visitors alike are delighted to a showcase of art, food and culture that keeps them coming back again and again.
Launched in the 1990s by the Cayman Islands National Museum, the event highlights the cultural achievements of Grand Cayman’s five districts, as well as the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. It is an exciting opportunity for the community to come together and learn more about each district’s unique contributions to food and art.
Set against the backdrop of the historic museum building, the surrounding streets are closed to accommodate tents filled with artisans showcasing their talents and creations, which range from handmade crafts to paintings.
The tantalising aromas of native foods fill the streets, and coconut water and other beverages made from local fruits titillate your taste buds. Visitors can enjoy myriad demonstrations of Caymanian culture, like watching artisans weave the leaves of our endemic tree, the Cayman thatch palm tree, into a stunning basket, fan and other decorative or practical art pieces. There are also dance performances with dancers dressed in traditional clothing and live music performances by Caymanian musicians. The sounds will beckon you to immerse yourself in the experience by dancing or banging on steel or bongo drums.
Children are invited to explore and take part in a host of games and quizzes that teach them about the culture of the islands all while having fun. For example, kids can gain first-hand experience in setting a trap for the native agouti, a rodent similar to a large guinea pig, or learn how to carve a coconut husk into a boat. They can also play with tops made of wood and rope, join a soldier crab race or try out different sized sling shots carved from tree branches. Where else will they be encouraged to learn how to crank a rope twister and understand the skill needed to make rope, just like they used to back in the day?
Take a piece of the experience home with you. Hand-made Caymanian arts and crafts make the perfect gifts for everyone in the family or special occasions. You will be moved by the art of local celebrity artists Randy Chollette and John Broad, among many others. Chat with elders and catch stories of the early days in the Cayman Islands, or observe them creating beautiful art out of dried leaves and pieces of vibrant clothes.
Catboats and unique art pieces borrowed from museum exhibits or community organisations are occasionally part of the programme, rounding out this special event that captures the true essence of the Cayman Islands and its people. Coming up in November, there will be a large scale Looky Ya, which will coincide with the museum’s 25th anniversary. For more information, visit museum.ky or call 345-949-8368.