As we kick off the major activities of our 2019 Carnival festivities, beginning this weekend, let me ask your indulgence in sharing once again comments on aspects of the Festival, raised in previous columns but which are still relevant and call out for attention and action.
One continuing concern over Junior Mas and Pan, is the need to involve the schools more in our Carnival thrust. Last year at this time, my column entitled “Carnival and World Cup…” (July 4, 2018) expressed the following thoughts on the subject:
“As we look forward to the future, the idea of greater involvement of schools in Junior Mas, as in Junior Pan, must now be taken seriously. Our major bands have made a tremendous contribution to Junior Mas and deserve every credit for it, but if we wish to widen and deepened participation, their expertise can be solicited in carrying mas to the schools. Junior Mas cannot just be another field of competition for the big bands, it can also accommodate school bands. It is not a good sign to see results being announced for individual competitions and in some instances, only the names of the bands and portrayals being mentioned with no name of the children being announced”.
Another relevant aspect of Junior Mas is the need to pay attention to the nature of the guest performances at the Junior festivals. This is how it was raised in the same article”
“One final point about Junior Mas, shouldn’t the organisers brief the guest entertainers about the content of the songs and performances they deliver to our precious youth? Yes, fun and enjoyment are the order of the day, but we do not have to further contribute to the negative aspects which are already plaguing our soca and contaminating our youth”.
That theme of moral degeneration was addressed again as recently as March 6th of this year in the column entitled “Ah still love me Carnival”.
“What is clear is the level of concern about the degeneration in public morality and behaviour associated with the Festival and how this can be addressed. The dress, or lack of it, of our females in particular, of all ages, and the explicit display of lewd behaviour in public and on camera, is a source of consternation, not only among religious fundamentalists and prudes, but also of decent-minded Vincentians of all ranks.
“This is not unique to our country and is in keeping with modern trends of dress and behaviour…………Striving to be the ‘Hottest Carnival’, no one is willing to buck the trend. But, moralities aside, what of trying to cater not only for the desires of the ‘party crowd’ but also to be inclusive so as to accommodate persons of different persuasions who also love mas”.
WHITHER GOES OUR CARNIVAL
The direction in which our Festival is going was also an issue raised in previous columns. The same “Ah still love me Carnival” was one of those. This is how it made reference to the matter :
“Carnival has changed dramatically in my lifetime, especially since the changeover in 1977 to June/July Mas, heralding our post-independence era. There have been numerous positive changes but there is always the danger of ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’.
“Commercialisation of the Festival has brought economic benefits to the country as a whole, to Carnival-makers, entrepreneurs and promoters, even though not in proportionate value.
“Each year we have the debates and discussions as to the direction in which the Festival is going, or being propelled, and whether the trend fits in with our traditional values or indeed advances the best interests of our people as a whole”.
The article went on to make reference to Trinidad where the same commercialisation has changed mas yet there are still elements of the original Carnival.
“It still caters for a wide range of artistic expression, leaving space for the traditional mas, the ‘boozy back’ and ‘monkey mas’, the minstrels and robbers, the Indian and African mas, the sailor bands and original presentations.
“We have unfortunately dumped all of this, so we have little to offer from our traditional culture, when patrons were invited to come to the Park early to watch Tuesday mas. It may be almost too late to stop it, but our mas cannot be just about booze and ooze. Can we spare the time and effort to reflect? How does our mas fit into the development of the arts and culture? Do our Carnival practitioners find space in our out-of-season entertainment and hospitality industries?”
The thoughts linger on.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.