R. Rose
August 6, 2004
Carnival ramblings – Part 2

I left off last week on the issue of carnival and politics, quoting De Man Age in the process but also tracing the historical roots of this.
In a perverse way we end up getting the worst of both worlds – too much politics in we carnival as well as too much carnival in we politics which often ends up in a bacchanal. {{more}} So there is this fixation on the part of our politicians with trying to see how Carnival productions in whatever form can advance their narrow interests.
The CDC has long been the chief victim of this sort of approach, dependent as it is on handouts and therefore consciously or unconsciously aware of the provider of this largesse. Many have been the advances and even more numerous the setbacks over the years, often resulting in difficult periods in the relationship between administrators and masmakers. It is of vital importance that we all make efforts to place this relationship beyond the pale of party politics, real or imagined, if we are to build that solid platform of trust and co-operation on which our Carnival development can flourish and prosper.
Culture Minister Rene Baptiste seems very much aware of the necessity to adapt, change and compete. As custodian of the tourism portfolio as well, she must be very conscious of the fact that we are not the only ones on the market.
Gone are the days when it was automatically assumed by most Vincentians that the only Carnivals to have an edge on us were those of Rio and Trinidad. Even the late starters in the region have been putting their act together and even if not always possessing the same innate quality, make up for it in presentation and customer/visitor satisfaction.
With the festivals of Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada all in close proximity to ours, nothing but our best foot forward will suffice to keep us ahead of the game.
In the area of mas, SVG certainly has an impressive array of talent and skill. Our Mardi Gras (Tuesday) speaks for itself, and here I must congratulate Dragons, not only on the feat of recapturing the Band Of The Year title after a drought, but also on the quality of their on-stage presentation. This is an aspect of our Carnival that needs addressing, whether it be mas, kaiso or pan. Another area is our choice of themes for the band. What do we bring to the Park that is uniquely Vincy or Caribbean? Colour and costumes we have a-plenty, but since the lumping of all bands into one category, we have lost the originality, variety and even vitality.
It has long become a fact of life that the gender composition of the bands is overwhelmingly in favour of our females. Unfortunately, too many of them forget that, in addition to their own fun (of which quite a few seem to have a warped view), they are also part of a band making a presentation, a statement on a theme. Lots of costumes, are therefore never properly displayed as our sisters choose to emphasize only their rear-ends in not even tempting, but coarse gyrating motions. Perhaps our designers should save the best decorations for those “batty mamsels”, the rest of the costume is lost on them.
The name “tent” has long been synonymous with Carnival, whether kaiso, pan or mas tent. It is today more and more of a headache for the Carnival-makers. A mas tent now appears to be compulsorily housed in some derelict building. When are we going to treat this right? A manufacturer wishing to produce quality goods, including for export, must be concerned about the quality of his plant – location, state, appearance etc. Shouldn’t our mas-makers also see this as a priority?
Pan and kaiso are also in a similar state. Kaiso in particular has the additional problem of not only the physical location but the whole presentation of its product. We can argue for years about who is to blame, but it is important that we begin with the acknowledgement that what we produce as a kaiso tent in the 21st century is no longer an attractive, nor even acceptable product. If we can at least admit that to ourselves, then we can begin analysing the whys, apportioning the blame (not that it would do much good in itself) and seek corrective measures.
The tasks before us are herculean, but not beyond us. It needs an appreciation of our true state of affairs, a recognition that while we are potentially capable of great heights, our glory days have been dimmed somewhat and we need to rekindle the fires, to refigure what is it we are and where we want to go. I was amused, and bemused, for instance, when the Youlou Pan Movement was, early on in the CDC – Insomnia row, threatening “No Pan” if the CDC backed down.
Are we still under the illusion that, as it stands now, Carnival will be no Carnival without Pan? That’s how I would certainly wish it to be, but in order to get there, we all must go back to the drawing board, to start again on our foundation. But this time with clear goals and objectives, mindful of the reality of our situation, what constraints we face, the nature of the competition and clear faith and confidence in our ability to succeed. That approach will do us a lot more good than all the finger-pointing.