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Should I pre-register for carnival?

By Posted on 2min read60 views

If you are participating in the carnival for the very first time, you might be confused when you hear about pre-registration. You are already on FOMO mode and you might be wondering if this is something you should do too. Is it a good option to pre-register for carnival for you? But pump your brakes, there are some things to consider.

What is pre-registration?

Pre-registration allows you to put down a deposit for a future costume (that has not been seen yet).  This puts you “ahead” of other masqueraders that do not pre-gegister. 

Typically, the pre-registration deposit in the United States is about $100.  

Once a band launches, those that have pre-registered are able to choose their costumes before registration opens publicly.  This guarantees you your choice and options before everyone else.

Who should pre-register for carnival?

Pre-registration flyer for carnival
Pre-registration annoucement for an Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival mas band

Pre-registration really benefits those who know in their hearts of hearts they will be participating with a specific band or section leader. They have probably played mas with them once before, or over a span of several years.  They could care less about the other bands or designs; they are LOYAL to that brand.  Simply put: Pre-registration really supports the experienced carnival-goer.

Also, if you are going with a person or group of people to carnival that is already set on that band, it may also benefit you to pre-register as well.  Popular bands sell-out very quickly and you’d hate to be left with slim choices when registration opens.

Why you shouldn't pregister for carnival.

If you are not sure what band you are going to want to register with, I advise you to hold onto your money until the band launches occur, or you have made a solid decision.  If you pre-register and change your mind, your funds are forfeit.  To help, start researching the carnival bands early before you observe the band launches so your list is narrowed and you are not so overwhelmed by a decision.

Have fun picking out your carnival costumes!

Band launch season is super exciting! I hope this little bit of information helps demystify any confusion about pre-registration for carnival.  Don’t forget the carnival experience is more important than any band, and don’t forget that you ARE the vibe that helps make a mas band great.

Thinking of going to Atalnta-Dekalb carnival?  Check out the bands here.

See you on the road,

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Is “Carnival En” the next cool-down experience?

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This is a sponsored post.

I remember stumbling across advertisements for Carnival En Cancun earlier this year, but I paid it no mind due to my pending move.  Shortly before Miami Carnival I was encouraged to look at their Carnival En Punta Cana edition. Let’s see what I found out!

Who and what is "Carnival en"?

Band logo of silent morning. Sunglasses on top of silent morning text.

Carnival En is backed by organizers of the silent morning fete and their water colours j’ouvert Boat rides.  Bringing their experience in producing high-quality Caribbean events, they have curated a four-day Caribbean carnival experience with the goal of easing your tabanca and/or providing that hyper-inclusive experience that affords you that a proper cool-down after your carnival jump. Do you miss carnival? This is for you.  Do you want a taste of Carnival but not ready to take the plunge? This is also for you.  Do you feel like you need to relax after a carnival jump? This is for you too!

 So, what does it mean to be hyper-inclusive you ask?  Carnival en guarantees that the moment you land in Punta Cana, every need that you could possibly have would be provided for you in this experience. So pack your clothes, a costume and bring your vibes.  Carnival en has got the rest.

Carnival en Punta Cana

Carnival en Punta Cana is set to take place December 10-13, 2021 at the Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort in Punta Cana, DR. But don’t bring the kids! This adults-only, all-inclusive facility is settled on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and features 10 restaurants, 16 bars and 7 swimming pools.  It also boasts plenty of room for activities with tennis courts, a golf course, casino, and a bowling alley so that you can relax, dine, and bust a wine. Attached are photos from the carnival en punta cana website.

One Experience. Four Events.

Below is a list and description of each of the events with photos and videos taken from their youtube and social media posts.

List of features of the Carnival En Event. Drinks, Events, Food, Bar, 24 hour service
Features listed on the Carnival En Website

The Cure. The signature beachwear cruise of Carnival En. INNOCULATE yourself with soca & alcohol while we sail alongside one of the most beautiful beaches. Freshly made meals prepared on the water by local chefs.

Relive. Bring your carnival costume! Relive the euphoria of carnival past as we recreate the vibe from the road. Pack your headpieces, chest pieces, leg pieces and enjoy the “Carnival En” experience.

Breakfast ‘En. Soca for breakfast, why not? A succinct reason to enjoy our vice, Soca in de morning alongside a hearty serving of alcohol and of course finely prepared “breakfast food”.

White Sands. The penultimate event of your Carnival En weekend has to be an all-white affair. Let go of all inhibitions on a scenic sandy beach as we dance the night away. Let the ocean breeze & Soca transcend us…

Let’s talk about price point.

The price of packages depends on whether or not you want an ocean view along with how many occupants will be in the room ($940-$1300).  But no stress, everyone is a VIP! All packages include your airport shuttle services, full access to the amenities of the resort, a mini bar restocked daily, 24-hour room service, transportation to and from all events and COVID testing so that you can return home. 

Link up with Carnival En

I think that we can all agree that carnival is not a vacation so a good cool down definitely needed.

Carnival En is on my radar, and I will continue to watch the development of this exciting brand. Who knows? You just might run into me at a future installation.

Meanwhile, you can connect with them by clicking the icons below. If you’ve attended a “Carnival en” event, I would love to get your feedback!

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Atlanta Carnival? Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival? Confused? Let me help.

By Posted on 5min read59 views

There are two Atlanta carnivals happening. I’m here to help you with some information that will help you make your choice for 2022.  (Updated MARCH 10, 2022)

  • Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival route has significant changes. 
  • Intel on a longer parade route.

I’ve been sitting on my hands, waiting on things to be official for 2022 before I would even brush on this.  But news flash: There are two “Atlanta” carnival parades happening on the same date. Why? I won’t get into all that, but this is what you need to know.

Both Atlanta and Atlanta-Dekalb carnivals will take place Saturday, May 28th in different locations.  In the past, many people have gone to the wrong event they intended to seek, so it’s important to me to make you aware.

Two separate "Atlanta" Carnivals.

Atlanta Carnival

atlanta caribbean carnival parade route
Parade route from 2019.
Atlanta carnival 2022 Band launch flyer
Atlanta Carnival Band Launch will be February 5, 2022.

The ACCBA has announced all their bands will launch on February 5, 2022. 

To purchase tickets to cooler fete/band lanch,  click here.

Run by the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival Bandleader’s Association (ACCBA), the “downtown” Atlanta carnival is considered the “original” carnival that takes to the streets in downtown Atlanta.  Since a split around 2014-2015, the “downtown” Atlanta carnival has been on a smaller scale, but also has great vibes. I have been advised to expect MUCH more from the ACCBA this year. You can find out more here. The website is still updating information about the participating Mas Bads and Parade Route, so stay tuned. The links below are to their Facebook and Instagram pages.  You can also find their Facebook group here.

A representative of the ACCBA has advised me that the parade route will be the same as 2019’s route.  However, a little bird told me it is intended to have a longer parade route this year.

Atlanta-Dekalb carnival used to be a four-hour parade route. 

 

Downtown Atlanta Carnival Bands

Listing of the downtown Atlanta carnival bands are listed here and have been verified as current as of 11/19 by an ACCBA representative.  Most of these bands do not have instagram pages or websites listed.

Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival

Atlanta Dekalb Carnival Parade Route
This is the new parade route as of March 11, 2022.

The Atlanta Carnival Bandleader’s Council (ACBC) developed the Atlanta-Dekalb carnival after the split with the ACCBA.  Since then, Atlanta-Dekalb has been the most significant carnival, backed with more mas bands than the downtown event.  You can find out more at: https://atlantadekalbcarnival.org/. 

The parade will take place on a new (but old) parade route on Convington Parkway in Decatur, GA.  It will start at Covington Parkway near Paul Edwin Drive, leading into the Festival village at 4380 Memorial Drive.

The old parade route was about four hours long.  On the other hand, the new parade route will be longer, giving masqueraders more time to enjoy themselves.

Atlanta-Dekalb bands.

Participating bands and launch dates come directly from ACBC.

We Kinda Ting Flyer

Launch date: December 12, 2021 (Virtually)

We Kinda Ting Mas has announced their theme for Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival with NinjaFete and Vaval Weekend as partners. Fonrose, Krave, Experience Nyrvana, David Dewer, and Mirage Mas are identified as section partners.  Still clarifying what that means to each,  It has been confirmed by reputable sources that Krave and Mirage will be private sections.  More to follow on the other section partners.

Note: WKT will close pre-registration on 6 December.

Band Launch January 7, 2022 (Launching Virtually).

Sokah Fetters mas Band Logo

Band Launch January 8, 2022, open for pre-registration.

Poison Mas

Band Launch January 9, 2022, open for pre-registration.

There have been hints on social media of a collaboration with Panache. More to follow.

inferno

Band Launch January 16, 2022.

Feters Army Mas Logo

Band Launch January 15, 2022

Sesame Atlanta Carnival Logo

Band Launch January 29, 2022

 

Band Launch January 22, 2022.

 

Reggaematic Mas has been listed by the ACBC as a band participating in Atlanta-Dekalb this year.  This band prides itself on playing music from all over the diaspora– Soca, Zouk, Afrobeats, and Dancehall.  No further information has been announced yet.

Feters Army Mas Logo

Band Launch January 15, 2022

Sesame Atlanta Carnival Logo

Band Launch January 29, 2022

 

TNT Garage Boys Flyer

TnT Garage Boys has a Band Launch February 5, 2022.

Image pending for Entice Mas.  Band Launch February 12, 2022.

 

Madd Colors has a band launch date of 2/19/2022.

We Live Carnival Flyer

Band Launch February 20, 2022.

Band Launch February 26, 2022

Band Launch January 23, 2022.

 

Mas with Panache Logo

Bamd Launch January 30, 2022.

Band Launch March 5, 2022. Vibez and Vision is open for pre-registration.

Band Launch January 19, 2022 (Launching Virtually).

Unity Mas Band

Band Launch March 12, 2022

Panyarder’s Mas Band Launch March 19, 2022. (Image Pending)

The VI all stars majorettes has been on the road in Atlanta for 16 years. They are a specialty group of majorettes, which is a huge staple of VI carnival since 1952. Children will learn history, teamwork and all about participating as a majorette in Carnival. This is for children ages 4-17.  They have had parents, so if you are interested as adult, feel free to contact.  If you want to register your child as a majorette, please shoot a DM or you can email Nicole Roebuck Warner at: nicoleroebuck34@gmail.com.  Registration will close early January 2022.

Don't ask me which to attend...

Well, you must know, I will not tell you all that, but I will continue to keep you abreast of the developments and information for both carnivals. The websites are in the process of updating, so it is not officially announced which band will turn up where (but if you’ve played Mas there, you’ll know).  Classically, band launches can start as early as December, all the way through March of next year.  A lot of bands had launched their costumes before 2020 was cancelled.  Likewise, let’s not forget that COVID-19 still has an impact on public events, so I anticipate there might be some differences.

Either way, I have attended both and can make recommendations whichever event you choose!  Would you believe I started playing Mas in Atlanta-Dekalb??  And so, It has a special place in my heart ❤️.  Either way, I will keep you guys in the know so you can make informed decisions.

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The Carnival Glam Hub Experience

By Posted on 4min read85 views

Stick to what you know.

When it comes to Carnival, this was a lesson I learned early on. From mas bands to other services: Once you do me right, I am yours forever.  Carnival glam hub (CGH) was no different. Trinidad was a whole experience: makeup, hair, breakfast, changing rooms, costume/bag storage, and even seamstresses on site to modify or repair your costume as needed. Even help you get your costume on. And let’s not forget the photography service! Everything I could possibly need to get ready for the road and capture the moment was there. It was so well organized that CGH left a solid impression.

Note: There is an affiliate link on this page! I love promoting products and services that I love.  Thank you so much for your support! 

I was so happy with CGH that I registered with them once again for Jamaica 2020.  Of course, we all know how that went.  When Jamaica was initially cancelled, I rolled my funds over with optimism although CGH offered refunds. But we really didn’t know better at the time, did we?  After two more cancellations after that CGH fell a little quiet.  Something told me however that as a customer I was still in good hands.  

When Miami was announced, I sat on bated breath wondering if CGH would be there.  Eventually, CGH made it official and I immediately contacted them via email to discuss if I could roll over my deposits from the Jamaica event, and they locked me in for an early appointment with those deposits.  I was able to jump on Eventbrite and pay the remaining balance.  They offered Makeup, Makeup and Photo Shoot, and Full Glam package which included Hair, makeup and breakfast.  While Trinidad had way more options, I totally expected for their service to be on a smaller scale.  

They just don't disappoint.

CGH was postured at the Nuvo Suites, a short 10 minute drive from the Miami Carnival grounds.  They started their makeup appointments as early as 3am that day.  The hotel was super-cute was the lobby was dressed with lush green backdrops that actually made a perfect spot for me to do an inpromtu live before I hit the road.  They advised us to arrive already in our body wear, and I believe that reduced the congestion in the lobby and the bathrooms significantly. I was greeted with a spot to hang my backpack and within minutes I was whisked to a room to get my makeup done.  No waiting, no delays. Seriously, my appointment was at 8 am, and I was in the seat and getting primed at 8:03.  Admittedly with my short height I struggled to get myself in her chair, but shortly after getting my cheeks in the seat, I was offered a mimosa while my makeup artist started.  Soca music was playing and to my left and right was a sea of eager and happy faces. Sista girl behind me was getting her hair curled. Admittedly it was a bit tighter room to maneuver  but it was nothing that caused me any type of internal distress.  I showed Mari my costume and she generated an absolutely stunning look.  Shortly after I finished my mimosa, I was offered another.  Sparking random conversations with ladies to my left and right, and getting makeup tips from the kind MUA, I overall had a LOT of fun with my experience.

Getting dressed.

The bathrooms available to us was easily overcrowed.  It did however have a large open area with three private toilets and two very large mirrors.  Ladies were busting out glue guns and helping eachother tie on thigh and arm pieces. Compliments flowing left and right.  I found myself helping someone with feathers that were loose and making some recommendations on tying a wire backpack and bra.  While a crowded bathroom would usually induce stress, the relaxed atmosphere and happy customers that CGH had created made everything easygoing and lighthearted.

Photoshoot, Pose...

I met up with Aryanna Fortune by the pool and we went to snapping some photos.  I was a bit nervous about the lighting as the miami sun was rather violent, even at 9:30 am.  She promised one week turn-around.  I actually got a link to review proofs from her website not four days later.  IT WAS I WHO DELAYED HER DELIVERY because I couldn’t make up my damn mind.  Two photos were included in the package and each additional was $10.  It took me almost a week to finally decide. But when I did,  she had my photos the following day.  She even threw in an extra because it was her favorite. After everything was set, I hopped on live for a bit and made my way to the Miami Carnival grounds.

Consider Carnival Glam Hub for your next Carnival experience.

Once again, CGH did not disappoint.  Services were rendered in a speedy, organized and professional manner, and I received my photos rather quickly. Considering they were up and running at 3am, I was impressed with their efficiency and energetic atmosphere. The mimosas and vibes was a bonus as well.   With the quality of the photos and how well my makeup was done, I would definitely say it was worth every penny.

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Discussing Carnival with Friends and Family

By Posted on 5min read68 views

The fun side.

After a few years of playing mas, I found myself visiting my dad and his wife at home in Harlem, NY.  Because the Army has loved stationing me no-where-near my hometown, I only go home maybe once or twice a year.  I remember sitting on my dad’s couch petting his dogs and catching up on what I had been up to since we last physically saw each other.  Somehow, I ended up discussing carnival.  My dad’s wife had seen the photos of me on social media and initially had some reservations going into a full blown discussion because she was HEAVY into the church, and anything not related to the Lord was “worldy”.  I initially imagined her telling me that I needed to give up the feathers, and come to church with her.  But I braved the discussion anyway about Carnival, what it meant to me, its cultural significance and was shocked to find her very supportive.  She even mentioned that maybe one day she would get in costume and join me on the road.

My best friend is a strait-laced Catholic.  Seriously, I do not understand how we ended up as best friends. But in natural best friend fashion, she loved to see me happy and admired the photos and videos of my joy.  Watching me closely as a best friend should, she found herself in awe of my confidence on the road even as my weight fluctuated with the life changes. My bestie is also Brazilian, and very much in tune with the African-influence of her culture.  She felt inspired and wanted to know what it was like to feel that free.  Last year, she registered to play mas with me for the very first time at Atlanta-Dekalb…but of course, COVID-19 had something to say about that.  She is still desiring to experience that infectious joy and hopes to be able to get on the road with me in the future.  I can’t wait to see her in costume.

A High-Five in the Face.

Dating a non-masquerader was touched on in a previous blog, so hit the hyperlink if you’d like to learn about my experience there.

I remember shortly after either my first or second jump in Atlanta-Dekalb carnival, I got a phone call from my sister.  She was clearly pressed and I asked her wha had happened.  A family member on our father’s side had seen our photos on social media.  He was so upset by what he saw that he had to call my own father to tell him that we were “parading half naked in the streets” and that we needed a talking to; a check on our morals if you will.  At that time, I had not completely done my research on the culture and frankly had no rebuttal about what I had heard other than its part of a culture. Im a grown ass woman and I’ll do as I please.  Luckily, said family member never fixed his fingers to dial my number, and my dad is just happy that I am doing well in life, and could care less as long as I was safe, sane and happy.

Sometime after a deployment, another family member visited me to help me put my home together.  We spent approximately one full week together catching up on life and getting my affairs in order.  I told him about Carnival and he found himself excited all the WRONG REASONS. Showing him photos from carnival provided a different type of reference that was not intended.  For him, Carnival was something purely sexual, and an opportunity to objectify women.  Although I had educated him on its significance, his mind was fixated on sexualizing masqueraders and I was not going to have any of it.  My invitation to share this experience with him was immediately rescinded.

An Educated Advocate.

Over the years, I have engaged many perspectives and have handled them in unique ways.

Having been an uneducated masquerader myself, I genuinely see both sides of the coin. Over the years, my defensiveness with snide remarks and misunderstandings has waned and I have chosen an approach that would welcome conversation.  Rebuttals with frustration or irritation would only permit someone outside the experience to stay fixated in their sentiment.

At this point, I have come to listen quietly and ask them questions such as, “what makes you feel that way?”  Immediately, most people are thrown off guard my approach but find themselves in the hot set to answer, and they do.  Their responses such as “because it’s just not appropriate” or “I could never do that” or “ its just unprofessional” or “I think its just_____” is responded to with a place of understanding. I bridge the gap by telling them that I see how they might view it that way, followed by “but did you know_____?”  Most often, they hadn’t.  

                                       “It’s just the culture” is never going to be an adequate response.

I remember when I started on this journey of learning asking many people in groups about certain aspects of Carnival.  The response “its just our culture” always left me feeling empty and slightly confused.  Imagine how someone else on the outside might be?

Understanding a little more about Caribbean culture and Carnival not only helps you tap into the significance of what could be an cathartic experience, but it also helps you engage in discussions with the people that you care about — friends, lovers, or family.  

Minds Can(t) be Changed.

For sake of my personal peace, I prefer to be very open about my life as a masquerader.  I understand how some may feel differently because I too was once in your shoes, and had the same reasons for not discussing my participation.  Discussing the masquerader life with someone not of the culture,  or who has not experienced it can be very daunting and at times, UNCOMFORTABLE.  I have found that coming from an educated frame of reference not only boosted my confidence in discussions, but it also made people feel a bit more comfortable, and encourages the open-mindedness that you want.

Just know that there are some minds that can’t be changed– your friends, your family, or your lover.  Only you can determine how you wish to navigate your life with these people.  Whether you choose to remain quiet about your experience or discuss mas freely, all I care about is what is genuinely best for you.

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Carnival Returns: How will you do things differently?

By Posted on 4min read68 views

COVID-19 allowed us to experience a different kind of tabanca.

Im not the same without Carnival.
One of my old IG posts.

In 2020, we witnessed the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic…on bated breath hoping that our beloved carnival would soon return after strict adherence to social distancing protocols, the use of a mask, curfews and closed businesses.  As we all banded together to “flatten the curve”, we saw our morale flatten as well with the loss of our beloved Carnival.  One by one, we saw anticipation for mas in Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda and the like fall like dominoes. With time we would all witness the pattern: First the event coordinators, next, the road march.

I remember viewing posts about how humbled people have been made by the pandemic. Appreciating the simple things… from block parties to times with friends and the energy of a bustling city.  To be specific, I took in all the reminiscence of CARNIVAL right along those who wished to post on social media.  I realized how different my life was without carnival, and how i had not been the same person without it.  I found myself challenged to find new coping skills; a complete upheaval of my personal mental wellness plan.

During this period, I continued to learn about Caribbean culture and Carnival.

Image of Onika Henry
Onika Henry.

 Onika Henry is a sexologist and sex coach most known for her TED talk on reclaiming sexual identity through carnival. If you have not seen it, I strongly encourage you to do so and have your mind blown and expanded in 14 minutes or less.  Anyhoo… this past February, I read a powerful commentary from her calling for “A Mindful Approach to Mas”. 

“…The use of the term “a mindful approach” …is necessary because the present-day, heavily commercialised and diluted version of our Carnival celebrations, is devoid of the kind of mindfulness originally intended by our ancestors; the kind of mindfulness that makes the experience of this community joy practice even more transformative and healing.”

I reflect  on when I was first introduced to Carnival. I was told it was just something sexy and fun to do.  Not much context was given other than pick what island country you want to represent, wave that flag, “blend in” and enjoy. The sexual energy was emphasized so much so that I felt that I needed to ask my then-husband if it was okay if I could go. I immediately felt that the mas life was something exciting to experience but something to keep on the hush for sake of my professional image. And that was all the context I got. Social media did not help. All I could take in was bikini, feathers, and bumpas, very little cultural or historical context.  Gotta love commercialization.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I was made to realize I really needed to learn more about the culture and the experience.  Doing so allowed me to tap into the healing experience of Carnival, and solidified my place in this experience as an African American woman honoring pieces of my ancestry.

“…Carnival is an opportunity to unmask, through masking; to learn how to live authentically, through learning how to play; to learn to live without fear, by taking the risk to be vulnerable. The best sex and healthiest sexuality one could ever have, is when one is open and honest – unmasked and authentic – and when one feels safe to play and be vulnerable.”

Learning a bit more also allowed me to use the Carnival experience as a practice of transformation and healing.  Learning of its ties to liberation, freedom of expression, shedding the pain of the past and celebrating life’s triumphs brought intention to Carnival. For me, Carnival is no longer just an event, it is a spiritual practice.

Setting your intention for carnival.

Onika Henry recommends that one approach mas first by setting an intention that may fall in to any or all of the following categories below.  For me, I am a blend of all the intentions!

Healthy Resistance/Rebellion.

Mas is an affirmation of survival, especially in a society that is designed at the demise of Black people.  When I play mas, I celebrate every hurdle that I have jumped and every glass ceiling that I have broken with the guidance of my ancestors.

Resilience.

My job is demanding and life can be very difficult.  I look to Carnival as my spiritual and mental reset button.  When return from playing mas, my body may be fatigued, but my spirit renewed, ready to take on the challenge ahead of me.

Surrender and Joyful Acceptance.

In my previous blog, I discuss how the carnival experience has afforded me the space to celebrate and accept my body openly regardless of the reading on a scale.  

Somatic Release.

There is something magical about the culminating energy of all the masqueraders together in this moment. The bass from the truck permeating your spirit and the freedom of movement and expression.  It’s catharsis.

There's more to mindful mas than what i've listed.

Onika Henry recommends finding a space or tradition that aligns with your intention and then immersing yourself in your own process in preparing for carnival.  For sake of brevity, I prefer not to completely dissect her commentary and I do hope that you will read it all for yourself on Newsday TT.

Having said that, how do you intend to do Carnival differently?  Have you been engaging in “Mindful mas” without realizing it? If you haven’t been engaging in mindful mas, do you think there are some ways that you can? How will you play mas differently now that it is back?  Feel free to share below!

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More than bikinis, beads, and feathers.

By Posted on 5min read136 views

My realization that I didn't know sh*t.

There was an experience that I had in 2018 that made me realize that I needed to read up a little bit more about carnival and Caribbean culture. I first started my discovery by asking questions but was left a bit deflated by the responses.  “It’s just my culture” didn’t really seem to suffice, so I decided to start with a basic google search in hopes to find some more information from better sources.

I remember when I first googled “Caribbean culture” I went to the images. I’m a visual learner so reading text is not my thing If I can help it. The first few images that were listed in the feed were from…. Carnival. 

What a google query currently looks like.

I was just starting my initial discovery in the culture, but based off my experiences and discussions with other West Indian/Caribbean people, I already knew that there was more to the culture than bikinis, beads and feathers. What gives? I found myself constantly having to weed out a lot of carnival-focused topics online to really get to the traditional perspective of the experience and not so much the view of commercialization/advertisement.

If I was blind, so are other masqueraders.

I think about where I once was on this journey. I also think about the new and seasoned Masqueraders that can sum up Caribbean culture by the experience of carnival.  That’s disheartening, because there is so much history and a deep connection to our African roots that we should all be aware of.  By understanding the culture just a little bit more, I have found  an enhanced experience every time I get on the road , and I genuinely connect with my ancestors and revel alongside them (spiritually) in that moment.

“Carnival is our iconic artistic experience because it captures so much of what we do...We understand that our culture is the most significant asset that we have and it’s limitless unlike oil which is finite. Culture is a sellable commodity.”

Dr. Lincoln Douglas, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism (2014). Tweet

Carnival is what drives tourism and MAJOR revenue in the island countries. Many people survive of what they make from carnival season, so I completely acknowledge and respect the hustle.  But the commercialization of this cultural experience is a blessing and a curse.

The curse: Consumption of a cultural experience without initiatives in place predisposes its traditions and historical roots to be long forgotten.  Let’s think about this— Do you really think that “bikinis, beads and feathers” is how carnival started in the first place?  Or was the evolution of the carnival costumes supported to bring in more revelers? Although the scantily clad costumes are a lot of fun to wear, being “skin out” is not the spirit of carnival.

Take your time to learn about the culture.

Most people make their trips to experience the popular fetes, jouvert and carnival. But if you are culture conscious, there are a few things that masqueraders can do to really embrace the culture and the locals, especially when you hop to an island country for your next carnival jump. And, its actually fun to do! These examples are specific to Trinidad but might  be applied to other islands as well:

Immerse yourself with the locals.

Visit the “locals” fetes.  I remember walking through downtown Port of Spain with my travel mates and people were LITERALLY fetting in the streets.  People were in plan clothing, not dressed to impressed and were vibing in the spirit of Carnival. No stush vibes, everyone was carefree and happy.  It was a warm, welcoming feeling, and I put that energy over any fete that I attended while I was there.

Abandon your diet for a few days and eat the food.

I don't even like beer. But for the culture experience I tried it and liked it!

Eat the food.  You can get the best doubles right outside the airport in Port-of-Spain, but the best corn soup I had was on the corner of a small town in Arouca. The locals I spoke to really enjoyed the conversations I had with them about how they prepared the food for us to enjoy.

Doubles on my taste buds is pure joy.

Visit the Carnival Villages

Did you know that there are SEVERAL Carnival villages in Trinidad? Interact with the people, check out the merchandise, listen to the steel pan, Wave hello to the Moko Jumbies, listen to the night robber speak, Take pictures with baby doll, the dame Lorraine and EXPLORE… and ask questions!

Attend the local shows/competitions.

Stickfighting is an old African tradition, brought to Trinidad by the slaves. In TT there are two types of stickfighting tradition: kalinda and gatka. The kalinda which is the form that is observed in National Stickfight Competition. Kalinda is based on martial traditions that can be found in Central and West Africa and also among the Oromo people of Ethiopia. The competition did not happen this year due to payment disagreements between the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and the fighters.  Maybe we will be abe to see it again at the next Post-Corona Carnival.

The Trinidad Panorama is the largest steelpan competition in world. This annual steelband competition takes place in Trinidad every year during Carnival, culminating the Saturday before carnival Monday and Tuesday. The championship band is chosen from the 60 to 80 bands who enter the preliminaries. Each band consists of 75 to 200 musicians. The competition brings out the best steel pan players (known as pannists) in the world and lasts for several weeks. The finals take place on the Queen’s Park Savanah, which is also known as the Big Yard.

A massive cultural show, Dimanche Gras is held the Sunday night before Carnival at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain. In addition, on the night of Dimanche Gras, 10 to 13 calypso singers battle for the title of Calypso Monarch against the defending title holder from the previous year. 

The King and Queen of the March is a competition to determine the best costume of the Carnival. Each band is lead by a King and a Queen who wear very large costumes which are often so large that other masqueraders have to help them carry it through the streets. Many of these costumes will move on wheels. The King and Queen are always chosen on Carnival Sunday  (Dimanche Gras).

Visit the Museums

the National Museum and Art gallery has displays depicting the evolution of carnival, national festivals and other interesting artifacts.

Forward Thinking.

A lot of people attend Carnival overseas primarily for the fetes, j’ouvert and Carnival.  But there is so much more to the culture. I hope that this helps you consider taking a moment from your next excursion to really immerse yourself in an experience that will bring you just a little closer to home.

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