Welcome to Blogging de Carnval 2014. I’ve been messing about, procrastinating, deliberating on where/how to begin this year’s series. I had another post in mind but clearly it was not to be so. To be quite honest, it just didn’t “feel” like “The One”. I couldn’t drum up the enthusiasm for what I still think was a great post (and which I’ll still do). Today it was revealed why. So before I give it all away, let me act like I know better and begin properly as I have begun for the past three years.
“Se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki.”
Literally translated it means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”.
Sankofa, the Adinkra symbol of the Akan people, from what is known today as Ghana, “teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of, can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated”.*
I am delighted, excited and proud that this is the fourth year of this series. I give thanks to the creative spirit and my ancestors, the people who gave me life, the people who survived against some amazing odds and hardships in order for me to exist. I’m especially grateful as always for those from whom I inherit my creativity, my love of “mas” and people who’ve nurtured me with loving kindness so that I could do this. If you’d like to brush up on the the history of this blog see here and here.
Today’s images are of the ILE ISOKAN EGUNGUN (ANCESTRAL) FESTIVAL 2014 that took place in San Juan, Trinidad yesterday. It’s a relatively new thing to have a real Egungun festival here I’ve heard. Certainly I didn’t know of these growing up. As the procession went through the streets I thought about the fact that less than a century ago it was illegal for people to (publicly) worship any African traditional religion. This is a part of why we have Jouvert and Carnival as we know it in the Caribbean and Latin America. The festival occurs around the time European enslavers held their pre-Lenten feast season of parties and masquerades. But for African people it was another means, similar to traditions of voudou, candomble, santeria, martial arts such as capoeira, to practice traditional religion and culture in subversive ways, masqueraded as carnival or as dance, and to use these “new” hybrid rituals as methods of resistance and rebellion.
Egungun is essentially a masquerade. It comes from the Yoruba people of what is now known as southwestern Nigeria but Yoruba culture lives in the area known as Benin today too. Specific egungun represent specific ancestors and take the form of elaborately costumed figures that process through the streets guarded by specially dressed handlers and accompanied by people singing praise songs known as oriki.
Several traditional festivals originate in West African (e.g. Akan, Ibibio, Igbo, Fulani) culture that serve to venerate ancestors and celebrate with masked processions of song and dance through the streets. Although today’s carnival, particularly the widely publicized mega bands, are a far cry from these celebrations, they are not the only narrative. In this space we will continue to explore some of the different expressions of African rituals as the evolved into carnival today.
For more photos from yesterday’s festival go to the Studio Lafoncette Photography Facebook page.