To begin, Canboulay comes from the “Creolization” of the french words, cannes brulées, or burning canes. Burning cane fields as I understand it, was another form of African resistance as the fields in which they toiled under inhumane conditions, belonged entirely to their oppressors.

Some assert that Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is a pre-Lenten festival, influenced by the French because of the European presence in the 19th century colony, and its occurrence before Ash Wednesday. But there are several reasons why this festival, which is similar to those in occurring during August, or December other Caribbean islands is prior to the Christian Lent.

How about convenience? How about colonization, adaptability and ingenuity. Think about it: in 1881, or 1800 or 1700, who was going to let African’s observe Egungun, or Gelede, or a true Ashanti funeral? Anybody hanging around with an Ibo or Hausa surname out there? Oh wait a minute, they didn’t permit those either did they.

Between 1881 and 1884 riots occurred in Trinidad, propelled by the British police captain’s antagonizing the African people who fought for the freedom to publicly wear masks, have stick fights, drumming and other ceremonies – to have their own carnival. The Governor General at the time (Britain’s representative to oversee the governance of the colony) had previously managed the situation by restricting policing during the carnival period. When the people rioted in 1881, the violence, the overpowering of the police force, and the deaths that occured caused a big embarassment for the Crown, and ultimately Carnival was allowed.

Each year in East Port-of-Spain (and now in San Fernando) in the neighborhood where much of the original rioting ensued, a re-enactment takes place.

And if you pay attention, you sing, dance listen and feel, you may shed a tear for those who suffered, you might feel for a moment the true meaning of the anguish suffered by those “bois women” and “bois men” referenced in the Canboulay script. Your spirit might just be shaken by the sheer might of what our ancestors experienced and what they accomplished.

3 thoughts on “Canboulay – This Myth that Carnival is About Lent (BdC 7/36)”

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