National Carnival Bands Association President David Lopez says it is clear that the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association does not understand what Carnival is about. He said while he understands that people may be affected economically, it is essential to think of the health of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
On Monday, DOMA released a statement deploring what it called the apparent ease with which Carnival was cancelled with no consultation or effort put into salvaging the festival, which it said was part of the economic, cultural, and psychological DNA of TT.
“It represents our creativity, exuberance and fun-loving nature that has made us the popular Carnival destination that we are. To discard Carnival 2021 without any effort to find an imaginative alternative is to say that we have also discarded our creative thinking that we so often pride ourselves on. We, of our own volition, seem to be giving back the cultural 'trophy' that the world gave us and standing on the sidelines without any effort at innovation.
DOMA proposed several ideas to allow Carnival to continue, including a limited-edition costume which would enforce social distancing, a parade with reduced numbers, a moving Panorama competition, an open-air calypso tent and the creation of a Carnival covid19 mask to protect spectators and masqueraders.
It said the Caribbean islands that depended on TT for leadership in the Carnival arena would not be let down if all agencies and participants banded together and initiated a new covid19 Carnival for 2021 to set the stage for their own scaled versions.
"No one is underestimating the danger of covid19 but we can be given credit for having lived with it and survived with very admirable results for almost ten months and deserve the opportunity to give ourselves a cultural 'pat on the back' while adding some 'slight-pepper' to our blasé national psyche and economy.”
In response, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell said, “Carnival 2021 was cancelled as announced by the Prime Minister. This decision was based on the best health data, science, and expert advice in order to protect the lives of our citizens and to reduce the spread of covid19. The decision was certainly not whimsical in nature.”
On Tuesday, Lopez said DOMA seemed to think that Carnival was created to make money for them.
“But we have to think about the health of the people, and DOMA has to understand that while Carnival is in our DNA, we have to be more responsible as to what is going on in the world at this time.
"While I agree that covid19 is affecting some people in the Carnival, DOMA is talking about the upper echelons of the people who would just give a banner or a trophy or some credit to a bandleader to bring his band, but the amount it takes to produce a band and if it doesn’t come within the competition, what happens? It’s hitting DOMA hard economically, because they can’t indicate to the government that they give this or do that to this Carnival for their financial gain.”
He said clearly Carnival is on its deathbed and needed a serious revival. He said the Carnival which was exported from Trinidad was for tourists and did not reflect the true origin of the festival.
“The world didn’t give us Carnival, Carnival was born out of a struggle, a resistance of slavery, and the colonial masters and the different cultures that came to the shore, and the Mardi Gras that the French brought under Christianity, and the Canboulay.
"It is time for us to go back to the drawing board, to sit down and decide what we want our Carnival to be, if it’s only to have people parading. They talk about the Jab Jab and the Blue Devils – our Carnival has become a bikini-and-beads street party, with no creativity.”
Lopez said this is a time for government to reflect on what it wants its role to be.
“If they want to take up their role as facilitator or have their role as facilitating the financiers of the political parties through the NCC, and the creators of the Carnival, the people who produce the Carnival, or if they want to focus only on a competition – competition is not our Carnival. Where is the development of our Carnival, what are we doing to make it relevant?”