Carnival Diaries: Caribana 101

"This is Carnival: a force of love and happiness to be reckoned with!"

By Camille Wilson

 

Have you ever wondered why, Carnival is held on either the last weekend of July or the first weekend in August? On August 1st , 1834, slavery was abolished in the British West Indies through the, “Emancipation Proclamation,” providing freedom to those, enslaved upon sugar plantations! Correspondingly, the idea of Carnival, in Trinidad and Tobago, introduced by the French aristocrats, was a celebration of the Lental Season. The French would dress up in masquerade style, while the enslaved would partake in jamboulousie, characterising themselves as “de devil” with the intent of comparing and mocking their slave masters.

Through time, the idea of carnival became an annual tradition, transforming costumes into beautiful pieces comprising of colors, gems, glitter, and feathers. In the same fashion, through the migration of Caribbean nationals, carnival made its way throughout the globe, bringing a taste of the islands to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a waist line to whine!

As I prepare for the big day, in addition to my costume, I always make sure my carnival boots are spray painted and gemmed-out, ensuring that I have enough sleep for the big day as it is a high-energy filled day. I also make sure I got my skin tone carnival tights that just add an extra pop to my costume! I love playing mas! It is all about celebrating my culture and having a good time on the road with great vibes!

As every intricate detail of the costume is made by hand from the cutting of material and the placement and gluing of gems and feathers, masqueraders go home with excitement within their bodies, and a boost of self-esteem within their spirits, preparing for the grand parade. Once I am on the road, those sleepless nights from building costumes and the glue gun burns all become worth it!

Band launches happen as early as four months in advance to the big parade, giving masqueraders many different options of what costume they want to wear. It is a pleasure for me to model one of these costumes every year and help to encourage people to play! Modelling at different events adds to the excitement and brings me joy to see the expression on people’s faces once they see the beautiful art created!

As the sun rises over the city, speakers begin to blare the sounds of sweet soca music, masqueraders of all races, places, shapes, and sizes, come together as one, jumping up to the rhythm of the West Indies, in the name of celebration and freedom, for hours upon hours, until the sun sets- 

This is Carnival: a force of love and happiness to be reckoned with!

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