A friend of mine recently indicated to me how beautiful carnival was when she was growing up. According to her, in those good old days, Carnival was the event of the year where everyone was looking forward to the melodious steel pan, drums and iron that made music, the whimsical images of sailor suits, fairies and bumble bees that people fashionably adorned, enjoying the fun and frolic that the celebration of carnival offered. Each masquerader swayed to the music in self enjoyment. There were no fears of fights or altercations that would result in bodily harm, injury or even death… it was a safe place for all to demonstrate cultural expression in the open air, unharmed, unaware that in years to come, the focus would be on so much more, while wearing so much less.
The artistic impression of customs was so beautiful and admirable. In those days, people attended in their numbers to look for the beautiful design of customs and creativity which was exhibited. Today, the question is, do we see such beautiful depictions of artistic expression in the current costumes worn at carnival? To add to that, do we see such depictions on a large scale in costumes that are not sexually seductive?
Where are we going today with carnival? Has modern day carnival lost its flavor? Are we educating the youth on the importance of carnival? These are critical questions we must ask if we want to celebrate carnival in a peaceful manner.
Way back when, Carnival was synonymous with happiness, excitement, an abundance of food, drinks and above all togetherness. That was the spirit of carnival – dressing up with artistic expression and creatively putting our culture on show. According to my friend, carnival was not about how expensive or cheap your costume was, it was about being strange, unusual, funny, ironic, or originally depicting nature. The Carnival was full of people drinking, eating, dancing, singing, and just having a good time. It was not a Carnival for the tourists in those days; it was the locals celebrating their culture in a creative way expressing the beauty of nature through culture. Carnival was a community event, it was the way people could forget for a while about the bad incidents happening around the community. Carnival was not meant to be very expensive, it was not meant for the rich or the upper class alone.
Today, it appears that the opposite is true. Most costumes are very expensive and the whole celebration is one where bands are becoming more extravagant and gargantuan which could take away from the fun and the creative part of it.
I am of the view that it is time to look back and bring back the “spirit of olden day’s celebration”. We want to see more of the artistic expression, more decent dancing, more fun, and no vulgarity, no excessive drunkenness, no unnecessary fighting, no stealing, or hyper-sexualization. Let’s go back to the days where the carnival environment was peaceful and fun; when it was less expensive and the entire community was involved.
Carnival has the potential to boost our economy and also could be used as a tool to fight against crime and violence. Our younger generation should be taught about the importance of carnival and how it used to be in those good old days. With knowledge from the past, the youth today could come to appreciate the beauty of carnival. They must understand that carnival is not about exposing one’s nakedness. It is not about illicit drugs, unprotected sex, alcoholism or any other social vice you can think of. It is all about creativity, cultural celebration, unity, love and appreciation of who we are as people.
May God bless this year’s celebration that there will be no casualties!