Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Friday, March 12, 2004  

The Carnival is well and truly over, but in today's Express, Terry Joseph has a few last words on the festival, addressing, specifically, the argument that all creativity has gone out of the mas, and that our so-called national festival has been reduced to no more than a flesh parade. Joseph says, among other things:

"Critics of the [bikini] brigade say mas has been reduced to bikinis, boobs, bum-bum and beads... as they mourn the loss of the "good ol' days"....

"Apparently none of the traditionalists noticed... [any of the] causes of radical changes, some of which have been with us since the early 1970s, when bikinis first joined the parade....

"The once 90 percent male masquerading component dwindled to less than one-tenth of that figure, as women's liberation simultaneously dismantled the fabled male monopoly on drinking liquor and wining in Carnival bands....

"Add to that the phenomenal rise in the number of working women, controlling their own finances, able to act on impulse and then top out all this with the fitness craze, which made participating females eager to show off their bodies....

"Moaning about indecency constitutes an even larger curiosity, when one considers that Carnival is, by definition, a feast of the flesh and, on the evidence, milady doesn't seem to mind her boobs and behind hanging out of deliberately flimsy harnesses...."

Now while I believe the sexual revolution had its negative aspects (though the plusses far, far outweight the minuses), and I'm not sure that Carnival is a repast of the body temporal "by definition", I find myself quite in agreement with Joseph's position. To bemoan the loss of creativity (which I don't deny) and decry the crass commercialisation of Carnival (which I don't deny either) to a large extent misses the inescapable shifts in society over the years that have brought the festival to where it is today.

Like it or not, the most noticeable aspects of mas today constitute a celebration of the female body. Yes, as a spectator, I missed Peter Minshall's imagination and artistry this year. My favourite memories of mas will always be of some of the amazing bands our greatest living visual artist has graced us with; I do hope he brings out a band next year.

Yet either way, the Carnival will go on and nothing will change that. And why should someone not jumping up in the streets care whether or not the woman who does is playing a mas, or simply playing herself? As Joseph says, "How anyone upholding the principles of freedom can summon up the temerity to tell her what to play is well beyond my comprehension."

"Carnival is Woman", a soca hit some years ago jubilantly proclaimed. And if bikinis and beads is what women in Carnival want, who am I, or anyone else, to disagree?

posted by Jonathan | 8:39 AM 0 comments


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