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Thursday 22 August 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Revive great Carnival festival

THE EDITOR: Without an understanding of what Carnival is, any attempt to "save" it is misguided and will ultimately be fruitless. The term is a conjunction of two Latin words that together mean "meat farewell." Carnival is a Catholic pre-Lenten festival stemming from the consumption of meats and sweets (fats) so that they will not be available on Ash Wednesday and during lent. Hence the terms Dimanche Gras, Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras (Fat Sunday, Fat Monday and Fat Tuesday).

Carnival is about dressing up not down - about dancing not ‘wining’ - and there are still those of who recall the many dances and rhythms that emerged from it and the strong community and family involvement that typified the festival.

It follows therefore, that the festival’s attrition is linked to the demise of critical incubator areas such and Belmont which is now quite ‘Brooklynised’ and Woodbrook which is rapidly losing residential status and can no longer serve as a traditional incubus for that Carnival spirit which made the season unique, relevant, refreshing and worthwhile.

Discussions about how to fix Carnival, fail persistently to distinguish between two approaches – i.e culture as an expression of identity as distinct from culture as a product (ting to sell and make money). In my view, it is a fool’s errand to think that throwing money and ill-conceived strategies at a dying festival are going to improve it.

Attempts to monetise Carnival have only served to destroy it. Profiteers who are ignorant about the essence of Carnival, have supplanted it with their cheap and tawdry caricature, designed solely for profit and appealing to what is base in human nature by encouraging others to dishonour themselves with brazen vulgarity.

The profiteers appear reluctant to accept that we are not interested in their bogus product and persist with their delusional and destructive agenda. The success of Kiddies’ Carnival underscores the point since it represents a deliberate effort to preserve our laudable Creole tradition of selfless service in the best interest of younger generations by shielding them from this destructive profiteering element which has been waging a relentless war against our cultural traditions as well as our built heritage by ruthlessly tearing down, quite recently, yet another historic and priceless architectural asset.

They remain clueless that they themselves are to blame for the declining participation about which they complain. Instead we should be reviving the memory of our once great Creole festival by educating the general population especially the young, about the origin and history (not revisionist) of the festival, as well as the many benefits we have derived from it, including the international success of our calypso, soca and steelpan.

Steve Escalier via email

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