"My “Tantalize in Teal” last year was simply that, tantalizing the eye with shiny teal and my glorious big black behind, nothing more."
I also found it insulting that the adults had to be the portrayers of the world’s problems "Cries of Despair" and the children (Rosalind Gabriel’s band) got to be the sole bearers of the “Wings of Hope”. What are they trying to say exactly? I’m sorry but I do not support relegating the responsibility to the next generation for making this earth a better place. In fact, without our guidance, they are completely lost and unable to turn things around. Or perhaps I am intellectualizing this whole thing way too much.
Okay, so of course, I appreciate Mac Farlene’s conscious and artistically sound work. How could I not? But after five years of living abroad (3 years in staid St. Lucia and 1 year in the bleak UK) I did not want my reunion with my darling Merry Monarch lover to be anything but jubilant. So in 2008, for the very first time, I choose pure frivolity and forked out thousands for a costume that would shame meh mudda.
But when I played in my beads and feathers it was with a band that made no attempt at an intellectual statement, historical representation or artistic portrayal. My bikini band was Evolution and the theme was Colours. There was Red, Teal, and Silver etc. You can’t get more honest than that. Let me explain.
When you and your partners playing with Mc Farlene or Minshall, a typical conversation would go like,
“I playing Fulani Woman, I hear you playing Zulu Warrior yuh better hurry cause it almost sell out.”
On the other hand, in a bikini band, no matter the theme, Birds, Persian Empire, Candy Shop, it always boils down to,
“Ah playin in de green section yes, the price cheaper than the gold section.”
The band leaders may be trying to fit into the judging mould with exotic themes and the judges play along but the bandleaders are not fooling anyone really. That was abundantly clear this year when on Carnival Tuesday, a certain male television commentator had to be repeatedly nudged out of his boredom by his female co-anchor as he struggled to come up with original things to say about the endless sea of sequined sameness in front of him. The bandleaders are not fooling us masqueraders either. We also know fully well why we choose beads and feathers. We prepare for it for months in the gym, some of us at least. We know we are just there for party and pappy show, not any kind of profound portrayal. My “Tantalize in Teal” last year was simply that, tantalizing the eye with shiny teal and my glorious big black behind, nothing more. I had a great time and I found the spiritual energy in my joy. I didn’t even care to cross any stage or be judged. Besides, I knew Brian Mac Farlene was taking top prize and deservedly so. He is now his own competition. Unless Minshall returns (we can only hope).
"If these were ancient times the contribution of people like Minshall, Bailey and Mc Farlene would be the invocation ritual with all the accompanying ceremonial pageantry, conducted by the priests and priestesses before the masses joined the festival with their drunken orgy."
At this point, we really need to separate the party bands from the artistic bands. Give them separate routes and separate audiences because they really do serve two separate purposes. Brian Mac Farlene and Minshall like the great designer poets before them, pay homage to the Muse and all Gods and Goddesses of wisdom, art and expression. This too is integral to our festival and its traditions.
If these were ancient times their contribution would be the invocation ritual with all the accompanying ceremonial pageantry, conducted by the priests and priestesses before the masses joined the festival with their drunken orgy.
I would never forget a story by Margaret Samuel about playing with Minshall’s River. Masses in a sea of pristine white were passing through downtown on Carnival Monday and lo and behold were greeted by the oily pitch black, diabolical looking Burrokeets on South Quay. For a moment, there was a hesitation. Would the drunken, misbehaving, black oiled devils soil the river of purity? To Margaret’s great surprise, the Burrokeets parted like the Red Sea (or Black Sea in this case) and a river of white ran through, untouched, serenaded by Pak! Pak! Pak! If that is not a magical ritual, I do not know what is!
Only Divine art conjured up by high priests and high priestesses can disperse the darkness and clear out the ritual ground before the colours of the Dionysian revelry can be unveiled. Perhaps, the early morning, right after J’ouvert is the time for Mac Farlene and Minshall. Their presentation should be viewed with all the national pride of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. In fact, in my humble opinion, the televised climax of Carnival for general audiences (Rated: PG) should be Traditional Mas, Ole Mas, Artistic Mas, Kings and Queens on the road and all the small artisans who lovingly put together original presentations year after year accompanied by the splendor of Panorama’s finest. This is the true artistic foundation of the Greatest Show on Earth on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
The other part, is really an annual fertility rite that releases the kundalini energy of hundreds of thousands into our cosmic space. First within a context of darkness, chaos, earth and water (J’ouvert), then within a context of light, creation, air and fire (Pretty Mas). The dutty, diabolical, debauchery of J’ouvert as it presently is (all-inclusive, secure bands) and the masses of near naked beautiful bodies in a frenzy of bacchanalian release on Monday and Tuesday should be treated and marketed for what it truly is- a fantastic, transcendentally beautiful ADULT street party. That does not make it any less poignant.
Tantric yogis and priestesses of Goddess worship rotate their hips to connect to Mother energy. So really, a wine is not just a wine. Imagine the collective power of tens of thousands of people rotating their hips down into the ground and up again, summoning that energy and perhaps you can understand why Trinidad is not yet an entirely corrupt despotic Venezuela or a ravaged, impoverished Haiti. The fact that two “respectable” career-women I know, like many others, make it their business on Carnival Monday and Tuesday to wine like there is no tomorrow; wine with a mission; wine with a vengeance, wine till every bad vibe is exorcised is why we have every reason to hope we can turn this country around.
"When the Minister of Culture, the Honorable Marlene Mc Donald, announced (to an audience that was obviously a little brain-dead and sycophantic judging from their immediate applause) that she intends to, “Separate Carnival from bacchanal” I wanted to burst out laughing."
Yes indeed, when they say God is a Trini, it ain’t the Old Testament Jehovah for sure. It is only when we do full veneration to our TRUE patron God, and lift our culture up on high as worship, that the world will finally give our country its rightful seat up among the great nations. Just as they flock to casinos in a tacky neon covered dessert in worship to the Goddess Fortuna, they will flock here to bow before Bacchus, Anansi, Loki, Shiva, Pan, Dionysius, Isis, Aphrodite, Ashanti, Jah Rastafari and all the Dieties of music, art, revelry, creation and sexuality. If we keep on running from Them, we will never find ourselves, our true selves.
When the Minister of Culture, the Honorable Marlene Mc Donald, announced (to an audience that was obviously a little brain-dead and sycophantic judging from their immediate applause) that she intends to, “Separate Carnival from bacchanal” I wanted to burst out laughing. She is a hefty mama but I doubt she has the stock to take on the wrath of a scorned Carnival Jumbie, which by the way, is a real Entity. We can either honor It and receive It’s gifts or repress it and feel Its wrath. Besides, how exactly does she intend to take the bacchanal out of Carnival? If we allow the Government to dictate our Carnival, they will do to it, what they do to everything else, f*** it up.
"What always amazes and amuses me every year post-Carnival are the graphic details in the complaints of the sanctimonious and prudish. They were WATCHING the debauchery and could not look away. That says something."
We may not yet grasp the powerful concept that the Government belongs to “we the people” and they are our servants. We may still treat them like anointed tribal chiefs with powers to which we must helplessly submit. But for damn sure, we Trinis grasp that Carnival belongs to WE, every man jack, who navel string, real or symbolic, buried here. Even those who wish to disown and distance themselves from the festival for religious reasons still cannot resist the pull, if even to pass judgment.
What always amazes and amuses me every year post-Carnival are the graphic details in the complaints of the sanctimonious and prudish. In one letter to the Editor, a lady waxed poetic about the bum bum angle, leg position, duration and intensity of a particularly naughty grind on television that riled her righteous soul to the core.
But the real question is, why was she watching it to begin with and kept watching once the man purposefully mounted his mampee? I could just imagine it too because it reminds me of my childhood with my evangelical Christian family watching TTT’s coverage and all the comments by the hypocritical, secretly titillated adults.
“Eh eh! Look at that! My God!”
“Look at how these people behaving! Disgraceful!”
“Lord ha mussy! What is dis?”
Yet they LOOKING and cannot stop LOOKING.
For that poor woman and possible endorser of the Minister of Culture, that heat stirring her soul was displayed as outrage only because of her own guilt, shame and self-righteousness. Under different circumstances that same heat might have instead stirred her loins and left her (and perhaps someone else) with a lovely post-orgasmic smile on her face instead of the dry-up expression I imagined her having while penning that detailed letter.
"If all that is needed is some form of skimpy costume, security, food and drink. Why can’t we just recycle? Or make membership in a “party band” about the security, food and drink, offer an unadorned bikini and headpiece frame for a pittance and allow the masqueraders to customize it themselves or hire someone to customize for them?"
The one complaint I would have against bikini mas, apart from the sham of “artistic themes” is the waste it creates and importation of pre fabricated costumes, denying thousands of local craftsmen a source of income. If a bikini mas bandleaders can find a way to make it more eco-friendly and use more local craftsmanship, I would support them wholeheartedly more often. I still have my costume from 2008 and I do not see why we need to keep making sequined sequels of the same old thing.
If all that is needed is some form of skimpy costume, security, food and drink. Why can’t we just recycle? Or make membership in a “party band” about the security, food and drink, offer an unadorned bikini and headpiece frame for a pittance and allow the masqueraders to customize it themselves or hire someone to customize for them? Not only will more people play Mas but craft and mas supply stores now have added business and craftsmen now have independent employment dealing directly with masqueraders. “Finished Costume Making Done Here!” signs will appear all over the place. It becomes personal between masquerader and mas maker once more. The masquerader can spend a little or a lot for an extravagant display. They will conserve on materials and re-use where they can to avoid wastage too.
In the spirit of fun I accepted the soca lyric challenge by Winston C Kam from Toronto in his Letter to the Editor “Only Boobs and Bums in Bikinis” in Tuesday 3rd March Express Newspaper and wrote this little ditty. Maybe someone will give it a melody one day and give bikini mas celebrants their rightful due. So ends my Carnival-post mortem this year. Till the Jumbie bites again!