Once again that season is here
And ‘we Carnival’ spirit is in the air.
For weeks we have many a pre-Carnival event
Just before we begin the season of Lent.
The cultural practices and traditions of this National Festival
Make it a unique celebration – ‘We Carnival!’
(Fifteen-year-old Rhese and seven-year-old Mic sit with their 65-year-old neighbour Brenda, discussing what is referred to as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ – “We Carnival.”)
RHESE: Aunty B, ent you used to play mas?
BRENDA: Yes chile, dat was a while back. Ah did stop for a while but ah start back now.
RHESE: Why you did stop and why you start back now?
BRENDA: Chile ah did stop when ah see how the skimpy costume was taking over, but now dat ah see the portrayals of fully covered masqueraders, the well-chosen songs and music that is not vulgar and which does not stray from our moral principles…
RHESE: Sorry to interrupt but, it have dat?
BRENDA:Yes chile, The Catholic Band, The Word and Associates. Chile when ah see the pretty costumes and the message of God it is sharing, ah decide to start back to play.
RHESE: Aunty B, tell we more bout ‘we Carnival’ because all we know is what we see being advertised in the media. People getting on loose like Lucy.
MIC interjects: “I is ah vagabond and a hooligan.”
(Rhese and Brenda burst out laughing.)
BRENDA: Children, when Carnival began it was not like this. I am sure that your teachers will give you the history. But I want to let you know that there are many, many skills involved in ‘we Carnival’.
RHESE: Like what Aunty B?
BRENDA: Leh we start with Characters of long ago…The Pierrot Grenade and his ability to spell any word in his own fashion and also to quote Shakespearean characters. The Midnight Robber, a storyteller with distinctive speech called ‘Robber Talk’.
MIC (interjecting): Mark say dat Jimmy does give him Robber Talk when they in the yard.
BRENDA: You see Rhese, Mic and all hear about Robber Talk. Children, there are so many more, like the Jab Molassie, the Burrokeets, the Fancy Indians, the Dame Lorraine, the Bats, the Moko Jumbies……
RHESE: The Sailors!
BRENDA (smiling): Yes Rhese, Sailors, and by the way, this year as the Catholic Band depicts the book of Deuteronomy, they are using traditional ‘sailor mas’ to bring out the various themes.
RHESE: Aunty, that is good. And you know each of these characters comes with its own unique costume, therefore they had to be real creative.
BRENDA: You are catching on real fast. The skills and creativity involved in ‘we Carnival’ are tremendous.
RHESE: Yes aunty, and what about we music – the development of the steelpan, we learn bout that in school.
BRENDA: Yes, and the Calypso, another creative aspect of Carnival – narrative, litany, extempo, social and political commentaries are all areas that are used to teach various disciplines in schools.
RHESE: But Aunty B, I quote from the Catholic News on January 18th by Vernon Khelawan – “Radio stations continue to broadcast what now passes for calypso, featuring lyrics that are either meaningless, compounded by ear hurting repetition, or just outright pornographic.”
BRENDA: That is true chile. As we advance in technology and lifestyle where any and everything passes for culture, we need to preserve our traditional art forms.
RHESE: Aunty, I read where Leela Ramdeen, Chair of CCSJ, said that we must practise the three Rs of Integrity: Respect for self, Respect for others, and Responsibility for all your actions during the Carnival season. Then, someone else said that “Carnival is Freedom”.
BRENDA: You know what? Next week we will put both words together – Integrity and Freedom – and discuss the metaphor “Integrity is Freedom” in ‘we Carnival’.
RHESE: And we could also suggest ways in which we could improve and bring back our values in ‘we Carnival’.
– Julie Jennings-Chan, CERO Central, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office