When my mother fathered me, I was taught not to use a certain four-letter word, and I have since never used it in my vocabulary. But for the life of me, there doesn’t seem to be a synonym to match my emotion.
It’s a feeling of contempt, desperation, malice aforethought, all wrapped into one word—hate. Maybe it’s too strong a word in this context, but what the heck!
Every time Carnival comes around and ends with the Kitchener “anthem” on Tuesday night—“The Carnival is Over”—this catharsis hangs in suspended animation like a cloud of locusts or Sahara dust, knowing doom is imminent.
The difference, however, is that this phenomenon has been going on for decades, year after year, regardless of government change or administration.
I have seen no creative perspective, no national concept, nothing but trite epilogues, “we have had the best Carnival ever”; “The Carnival is in good hands when you see the explosion of colour and the number of children’s bands”.
But the warning signs are there. If Minshall is absent, thousands of people—home and abroad, in town or country, masquerader or viewer—feel depressed and withdrawn from participating to see, hear, play and verbalise their empathy. Minshall represents theatre.
The signs are there when tinsel takes over theatre. I fully understand the profit-and-loss scenario faced by bandleaders, but the most damning of all is when the masquerade is allowed to dwindle from a country-wide festival to some square metres of space in the capital city fuelled by the “market-place” and its side-kick—television.
So Carnival in Trinidad, similarly in Tobago, boils down to a Mardi Gras parade centred around the Savannah and a couple other venues to be watched by millions from the confines of their living room.
Within two generations, Carnival with its unique, vibrant, creative aura has evolved into an insipid happening. And this is not confined to the Mas alone. Pan, calypso, dance all have been and are suffering because of self-inflicted myopia.
Having reached this point, I recognise that I touched on this theme before—the distillation of our Carnival into a one-city televised parade, so why repeat the obvious? This time, this period, this moment is pregnant for new birth.
How ironic, a word with the letters “pan”—pandemic—could be the harbinger of change. There have been baby steps, I must admit—innovation in pan; cinematic productions—but alas, I expect my hopes would be shattered. Why?
I have made the point before, rhetorical as it maybe, and will do so again. Where are population centres like Point Fortin, Princes Town, Fyzabad, Tunapuna and others that used to have “home grown” celebrations in today’s mix?
What makes T&T Carnival so attractive and how could we encourage this unique concept? Annual all-embracing discussions are not just essential, but mandatory. If anything less is allowed, those responsible must be condemned. If not, my emotional response to how Carnival is regulated remains a four-letter word. Amen!