DARA HEALY, director of Zante Carnival and Theatre Camp and founder of the NGO Indigenous Creative Arts Network (ICAN), feels that there is so much negativity against TT’s Carnival. Healy is also a Newsday columnist.
She wants young people to understand that TT’s Carnival “has value that is beyond what is seen in the media” and beyond “the promotion of pretty mas.” She wants them to also understand that TT’s traditional characters have a story/worth and that it came out of a particular kind of experience.
Healy wants to aid in “pulling back” the trend “toward a frivolous approach” to TT’s Carnival.
She also wants to change the perception that some hold that when “Carnival is over, back to work.” Through Healy’s eyes, Carnival is work. “We create the Carnival. All the pan, all the mas all of that. We create this. But the society has inculcated all of the negative colonial attitudes about our culture.”
ICAN and Zante want to show to young people that Carnival “is beautiful and has meaning” and it is something from which they can create a career, Healy said.
The Zante Carnival and Theatre Camp in part fulfils Healy’s wish to show young people that Carnival is something beautiful.
The camp will run from July 8 to 27 and is for children aged six to 12. The camp will be held at the Bois Academy, Barataria.
On the 27, a showcase (featuring an exhibition and a performance) is put on that shows all of the work done during the period. The performance will be based on one of Healy’s original stories called Anansi and the Spelling Competition.
The camp’s activities include theatre, movement and dance, visual arts and wire bending.
While it is a paid camp, it also offers scholarships to children from “vulnerable communities.” Parents, she added, don’t have to think about paying for the child so the cost of attending the camp, the materials, field trips and attendant activities is fully covered.
Zante was started three years ago out of her idea to continue the work that ICAN has been doing. ICAN does shows like the re-enactment of Canboulay riots every Carnival Friday, it also does work in schools using traditional Carnival characters and works with the education ministry among others.
The NGO “uses culture as a means to transform lives and empower people,” she said. Zante was formed when ICAN took the decision to continue that work beyond “putting on a show or working in the community” and extend it to a “younger demographic.”
Three years later, Healy has seen the camp grow in terms of its awareness and people recognising the value of the work done. The camp has grown from having ten children in its first year to having about 30 to 40 children this year.