So I’ve heard, carnival is over, but it’s okay to still blog about it. And I’ve also heard, I owe de people 7 (which I fully intend to offer up). So today I give you two thoughts: one is about how the master narrative is defined in today’s carnival – which leads to the absence of some elements, and the other is my simple formula: highlight an element of “we carnaval” and “we mas”.

First thought: Events such as the Nostalgia Parade, the Traditional Carnival Characters Festival, and the Dragon Festival populate the National Carnival Commission (NCC) schedule of events each year. I think it’s great. A photographer like me can go directly to those events and find all the “traditional carnival characters” I want. However, it bothers me that these elements of mas appear to have been relegated to these special events, cordoned off like zoo animals – rare, endangered, captive and not free to roam as they please on Carnival Monday or Tuesday. Of course, the NCC is to be given credit for doing something, to include them in the annual festival, albeit an artificial inclusion. But how is it that our carnival, once defined by free, rebellious people defining themselves through their mas, now need a special pulpit, a bligh, to own the streets? And the feathers and beads roam as the normal, as the master narrative of the day? Just a thought.

 

Taureg – built like a burrokeet, from Spoilt Rotten Kids 2011 presentation: Nomads

 

A mas that was hard to find this year was the Burrokeet. The word burrokeet comes from the Spanish burroquito – little donkey. The costume is made with a large skirt with reigns, legs and a donkey’s head attached at the top and an opening for the masquerader to put over his/her head. When worn it gives the appearance of someone riding a donkey decorated with a skirt. Burrokeet is attributed to Venezuelan and East Indian culture. Another figure, Soumaree, is very similar and attributed to East Indian culture as well.

2 thoughts on “Hard to find this Carnival season: Burrokeet (BdC 30/36)”

  1. A bit belabored & academic (forgive me my training!) but here’s Gerard Aching in Masking and Power:

    “It might seem fortuitously ironic that the state… should now promote a festival that the ruling classes and government vigorously, both by public ordinance and armed enforcement, sought to suppress after emancipation in 1838 and until the 1930s when the Creole middle class began to take greater interest in participating in carnival. In fact, because it has successfully asserted itself within the postindependence nation, the Creole middle class tends to place a great deal of investment in emphasizing and celebrating this irony. From its purview, the legislative attention to carnival should be taken as unequivocal proof of the country’s wherewithal to stage national culture on its own terms.

    “That there should exist so uniquely privileged a historical irony is debatable. An acceptance of this ironic reading of Trinidad’s contemporary carnival presumes the agency of an ahistorical, hegemonic state

    that remained untransformed until the emergence of the Creole middle class. Previous groups have enjoyed the socioeconomic power to record and champion their own roles in the island’s festival, but this ironic reading

    marginalizes the cultural contributions of the mostly black, urban lower class to carnival. It is also a version of the facts that conceals the gradual transformations in which this group’s contributions to the national

    festival are, through various state and commercial subsidies, being relegated to certain nostalgic formats that are assigned their place and visibility in the street celebration….

    “More complex and intriguing than the suggestion that [the NCC] directly corresponds to a middle-class agenda, however, is the

    notion of “middle-classization” that Koningsbruggen introduces in his argument. Middle-classization in contemporary Trinidad, he states, no longer limits itself to the class where it originated but has become, in

    varying combinations of attitude, taste, and morality, “the common property of every group in Trinidad society””

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