“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”.*

Today’s post is dedicated to the Sankofa spirit of Carnival. And to “open the way” to any good African ceremony, one must give a blessing, a libation. So I ask the Creator Spirit, the Creative Spirit, the Eternal Source, to open the way for this series I give thanks to my ancestors and elders especially the unknown ones who carried the essence of things important in their souls across oceans, across violence and despair, transformed it into resistance, rebellion and celebration. I give thanks for the Mas Men/Mas Women past and present (especially EGR, DAR, ZBG), the griots (specifically CYR), the musicians (RR), and the care givers (especially JPF) without whom we could not have what exists today. I give thanks for the crazy, dedicated, passionate pilgrims who toil for months making costumes, arranging music, practicing, organizing, feting, dancing, singing and preparing for another carnaval.

In many interpretations dis is WE carnival, return and get it!

E. G. Robertson, King Ahab: Photographer unknown, edited by L. Robertson Toney, Studio Lafoncette Photography

Masking and Mas

To “play mas” is the term used by Trinbagonians to refer to what we do. Not not march, not parade, not masquerade. According to Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, for Africans mask and masking are “interlocking aspects of most African celebrations.” A masquerader becomes that which he or she inhabits. It’s not a man playing a dragon, or a woman playing a jamette, it is The Dragon, or the Jamette, The Midnight Robber or the King. My grandfather would say that long ago, people went to pick up their costume with a hired car, and today, they go with an envelope. Here he is, EGR as King Ahab on Carnival Tuesday, circa 1948. My grandmother tells stories of taking the children to the Savannah to see mas, waiting excitedly for “Daddy” to pass, and they would shriek in delight the moment he crossed the stage. He was a worldly royal figure in his robes, unconcerned with anything and anybody but dancing de mas.

Mas to make mischief on Jouvert Morning

Mas to protest and take action: February de Mas Avenger, A Black Power Superhero

*Quotation taken from the W.E.B Dubois Learning Center, http://www.duboislc.net/SankofaMeaning.html

14 thoughts on “Return and Get It – Blogging de “Canaval” (1/36)”

  1. My father, 21 years old. I didn’t come along until much later though B-)! He played with all the greats. His costumes were amazing. I remember one of heavy robes and copper breastplate and the variety of the bands and costumes, it all seems formulaic now!

  2. it was my pleasure to know egr when he would regale me with his stories. His costume is amazing and looking at it connects me to the artistry that was and is tt carnival.

  3. Wonderful post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more

    on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Bless you!

    1. Hi, thanks for commenting. That’s a huge but important question. If you could tell me a bit more about what you are looking for I’d be happy to research it. In the mean time feel free to check the links to other articles and books that are posted in this blog, particularly in the Blogging De Carnaval series (February to March 2011 and February 2012) for more info.

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