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by Joe Public
Every 12 months, post carnival, the carnival gurus, assessors, purists and purveyors of morality gather to supply the standard criticisms of carnival. These criticisms often focus on the shortage of creativity, lack of culture and after all the hyper sexualization of the festival.
The dialogue surrounding carnival is commonly parsed out – there may be the music, critiqued by some as ‘koshonee’; the fetes, the word most related to carnival fetes is ‘expensive’; after which after all, there may be the parade, the 2 days on the road, to the more righteous amongst us, nothing in need of a public display of debauchery. These parts come together to form the sum of what’s carnival, our carnival, Saint Lucia Carnival. What’s Saint Lucia Carnival by the best way? We’ll return to this query at a later date.
This text just isn’t intended to present a counter argument to those typical criticisms, but slightly to broaden the conversation across the festival and hopefully arrive at a more workable middle ground. It could be useful to look at briefly, a few of the common talking points of the more vocal carnival assessors:
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Carnival as an art form has disappeared. “The art form has disappeared.” How is that this objectively measured? Who defines what carnival is as an art form? The Oxford dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visible form comparable to painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for his or her beauty or emotional power.” By this very definition we are able to argue, although we won’t, that the work put into the costumes of the much-loathed party bands, is art, it could actually not be the actual brand of ‘art’ of the carnival purist, but it surely is art all the identical. Art, and by extension carnival just isn’t, and shouldn’t be limited to just one sort of artistic expression, the very essence and root of carnival is that of rebelling against the established order. Based on this premise, why then is the argument to maintain revelers conformed to mas of old, the nostalgic days of standards and glossy long pants.
We’ve got lost the culture of our carnival. Have we actually lost the culture? It appears with regards to the conversation of carnival, more specifically the parade of the bands, we sometimes conflate, or perhaps confuse tradition and culture. “The important difference between culture and tradition is that traditions describe a bunch’s beliefs and behaviors which might be passed down from one generation to one other. Culture describes the shared characteristics of all the group, which has been amassed throughout its history.” While nuanced, tradition and culture will not be the identical, at the danger of oversimplifying the 2, tradition is static, while culture is fluid, culture builds on the traditions of old, reinvigorates, rethinks, reinvents consistent with the present times. It just isn’t the intent of the ‘neo-carnivalist’ to completely abandon the traditions of carnival or the inspiration set by our carnival icons; all these new carnival enthusiasts want to do is to take the tradition and make it more theirs, with the music, the fetes, and yes, confidently displaying their bodies.
Carnival is not any longer for the locals. What’s the qualifier for that statement and whose responsibility is it to be certain that the carnival product is indigenously inclusive? 2022 was somewhat of an unusual 12 months for carnival 12 months, it just isn’t often that a carnival is hosted while navigating a pandemic, a war, and the resulting global increases in the associated fee of products and services. Event promoters and carnival band owners weren’t resistant to these increases, increases (as can be expected) that are passed on to the shoppers. Does a rise in the associated fee to attend an event or purchase a dressing up mean that carnival is not any longer for locals? Is it even the responsibility of an event owner to be certain that events are priced at a degree that each one and varied can afford? Notwithstanding, every event for the 12 months was well attended and positively, weren’t overrun by foreigners. We tout carnival as our biggest cultural event, we are saying it’s a significant economic driver – then the responsibility to grow the carnival product cannot solely fall on the shoulders of personal individuals. Food for thought.
The main focus is on the foreigners. This talking point seems somewhat at odds with the important economic driver of Saint Lucia. Are we not a tourist destination, can we not want, need foreigners to go to our shores? That talking point tip toes around xenophobia or is just blatantly ignorant. We wish people visiting our shores for carnival and spending money at our hotels, Airbnbs, bars, restaurants, shops, supermarket, automotive rentals, Gros Islet Friday etc. The 2013 report titled “Economic Impact of Carnival in Saint Lucia – Results of a study to evaluate the economic impact of carnival activities for the aim of informing policy on the production of carnival.” stated: “The visitor exit survey indicates that there have been 2,497 arrivals that got here to Saint Lucia specifically for carnival, with a mean length of stay of 8.3 days…the results of the exit survey suggest that the individuals who got here specifically for Carnival 2013 from outside of Saint Lucia spent, on average, XCD 3,602.20 while here, for a complete expenditure of XCD 8,994,693.40.” I’ll hazard a guess that in 2019 and 2022 we far surpassed these figures. Saint Lucia just isn’t exactly replete with economic drivers for the time being, it might be advisable to explore ways to construct industry around this kind of economic activity. If these figures will not be enough to persuade you that we’d like to provide more thought to the carnival industry, within the article “Carnivals: A Celebration for Development” by Daniela Pena Lazaro written for the Inter-American Development Bank states: “ …carnivals are an expression of enormous potential of creative industries an ecosystem that produces revenue of over US$124 billion a 12 months…” Have we maximized our collective abilities to carve out a greater share of that billion dollar pie?
Carnival is just ‘sex on the road’. Who’re they seeing having sex on the road? Perhaps we may argue that revelers dance in sexually suggestive ways. Nevertheless, we may also argue that sexually suggestive is a matter of perception – the reveler(s) may consider their dancing as nothing greater than “pelting waist”, waistline exercise, with not the slightest considered anything remotely sexual. The spectator together with the road, or the person viewing on their television or computer will perceive the actions of the reveler(s) as lewd, disrespectful, and unbecoming. Each views are true to each groups, since it is framed by their lens and their beliefs and perceptions, neither of their truths must be foisted on the opposite. Carnival at its core is the expression of self, once that is kept away from the infringement of the law and customarily acceptable behaviour inside the context of the festival, we must always make a greater effort to respect people’s right to enjoy their well-earned carnival.
If we proceed like this there will likely be no carnival for the subsequent generation. As our carnival has evolved over the generations, how again and again has that statement been made? Within the article “Carnivals: A Celebration for Development” the creator states: “Although they represent traditions and heritage, they’re characterised by their ability to evolve with the times…As times evolve, carnivals – as another tradition – must sustain the pace, not only to secure their existence, but to search out more ways to learn the communities they serve and interact greater audiences.”
There will likely be carnivals for this generation and the subsequent, what’s more essential to this conversation is how can we define Saint Lucia Carnival in a way that’s balanced between what got here before and where we would like to go
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