WELCOME TO Carnival 2020! The J’Ouvert warriors have arrived to usher in another celebration of our tradition and creativity, and it is a mighty statement of the courageous traditions that have sustained this island nation. Every year we put our energy into celebrating two joyous days, but this is a celebration of tradition, history, theatre, music, art and fashion that should be sustained for the entire year.
If we can muster that energy and commitment to harness such innovation for Carnival Monday and Tuesday, why not carry that spirit of innovation through the entire year?
We are a creative people with a rich and vast history, which displays African, Indian, European and Middle Eastern culture. We have stirred up a potent concoction of creolisation that defines us. We are a force to be reckoned with because of this rich blend of cultures that no politician has ever succeeded in undermining.
Carnival is a time to celebrate the peaceful co-existence of these many cultures and religions – a remarkable feat that we should never take for granted. We are indeed a model for peaceful co-existence and a mighty statement that small is beautiful.
The freedom to play mas is not one to be taken lightly – especially in a world increasingly defined by crime and violence. We are no exception. We have our issues with crime and violence. Carnival is not a reprieve from escalating crime, but it is a model for coming together and celebrating all that makes us unique and powerful.
The freedom to walk these streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday is a blessing to behold. Carnival is a massive cultural statement, but it is in many ways a major political statement too. Through the blaring music it screams one of our most beloved mantras, “All o’ we is one.” It is a stunning display of togetherness, a mighty image of thousands of people demonstrating peacefully in the street for the right to pursue tradition and happiness.
Carnival is a way for us to view our history and traditions as powerful forces that sustained us through slavery, indentureship, colonialism and independence. We lose sight of the history that defines us sometimes, but it surfaces in our many ethnic holidays and in Carnival where we conjure up images of the past to ponder our present. Let us not forget that our history is about more than these themes as well. We have wielded great power in the world – especially considering our size.
On these streets we find everything that we should be honouring every day of the year. There are invaluable lessons that transcend any classroom on teamwork, creativity and empathy. The message is loud and clear – make every day a connection to the art and history that define us. Our education must be more creative. It must entice and captivate us like Carnival.
In many ways, Carnival is one big protest. Masqueraders and panmen chipping through the streets make an important political statement that people have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” if I may appropriate a line from the US Constitution.
Carnival says, “You cannot kill my spirit. We will celebrate, and we will survive as a people because we honour our history, culture, creativity and traditions on these two days.” Just think what a mighty force we would be if we could carry this through the entire year instead of tossing it away to return to the grind after Carnival.
But Carnival is far too powerful to be reduced to a mere memory on Ash Wednesday. That energy and joy needs to be harnessed for the entire year so we can be reminded that light does prevail over darkness. Happiness is important. We don’t have to accept mediocrity, divisiveness, pettiness and bitterness next week. We can carry the many lessons of Carnival with us and apply them to our lives. We can harness this positive energy and come together in our work places and our communities to build happy, creative communities.
We need not be cynical and pessimistic after we have removed those costumes. Make this the year where the entire country transforms with the ease of moving from mud mas to pretty mas with its sequins and feathers.
This is Carnival 2020, and if there is ever a time for a new vision for this country it is now. The J’Ouvert warriors have arrived. Be safe. Be happy. Be creative every single day of the year. Happy Carnival!