I usually play mas in more than one carnival during the year. For this year 2020, besides Trinidad, I was planning for St. Vincent, St. Lucia and of course Notting Hill. There were festivals too: Soca in Japan, Uber Soca Cruise, Summerjam. Then Covid-19 came full force and everything stopped. Almost with a domino effect, carnivals and events were being postponed or cancelled. St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Summerjam were cancelled for 2020. Notting Hill is cancelled! I understand the cancellations. Yes, absolutely that is the right thing to do. This is a health war and we must retreat first to the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of physiological and safety needs. Absolutely understand the necessity of it. Doesn’t mean I like it. I don’t like it.
Initially, I didn’t fully realise the implications of Corona. Then it hit me in the first week of lock down. I REALLY may not be going to anymore carnivals this year! I had to think about flight exchanges, accommodation, refunds for fete tickets, find out what it means to have things to be postponed to next year. That was not fun!
For those who just see the popularised ‘skimpy costumes’ and wining and think ‘That is all what carnival about nowadays’ (I inwardly roll my eyes and sigh every time I hear this) and miss all that it is, they might just think carnival is a frivolity I can live without. I argue otherwise. Besides creating jobs and industry for others, in fact creating its own mini ecosystem, carnival is so much more.
It’s spiritual. It can’t really be explained but if you know, you know. The excitement of getting my costume the days leading up to carnival day for me is the excitement of getting a Christmas present. There is the celebration of shared culture, West Indian history, a shared ‘knowing’ that in that time and space, ‘YOU’ can be freely expressed. This becomes of added value in the diaspora where my culture is the minority. Being on the road dancing, singing, jumping, being free; this shared experience with friends and strangers is a spiritual joy. I get a serious rush travelling to new carnivals in countries I have never been to before, to see their interpretation of carnival. Carnival is my emotional outlet. It is so different from my formal work; it has become a necessity for the balance of my life.
Look, everyone has their thing. Some find their joy in church, acquiring businesses, making money, their children, fashion, sports, cars, music, computer games, make-up and more. That’s their thing. I don’t knock it. ONE of my joys is carnival. But with Covid-19, that can’t be done now.
During lock down, with so many cancellations and the way corona is swinging? Yeeaaahh another carnival might not be seeing me this year. So what do I do? I started going through my costumes. I wear my favourite costumes inside my home, play soca and dance around like a mad woman. Anyone who walked into the house would think that I have gone off. I go through my various pics and vids of Trinidad carnival 2020 to relive my most recent carnival experience. I re read my blog articles of the various carnivals I have been to; Haiti, Brazil, Japan, Grenada, so many more. I work on my various social media sites to keep my spirit of carnival alive. I try my hand at make-up. I make cloth masks. I go for runs and walks. I go back to my other love, writing. I write. I write in my journal. I write not for it to be published, not for it to be seen by anyone. I just write.
The carnival and music community have adapted somewhat. There are online concerts, fetes. Sounds like there will be online carnivals. DJs have adjusted to the new platform. Masqueraders participate in all sorts of challenges, don’t rush etc. Designers have turned to making masks. Artists have shown other sides of themselves. Who knew Skinny Fabulous was so funny? And I have interviewed the dude. Lyrikal turn chef. Freetown has really stood out for me and I’ve truly discovered the range of Ryan Sayeed. Think I’m a solid fan of his now. There are many conversations going on. I liked Barrie Hype’s and Freetown conversations. They are always enlightening.
As much as I love carnival and socialising, admittedly, I’m a bit of an introvert. So, you won’t find me posting a vid of me wining. Tik Tok and me don’t really gel as yet. And the zoom parties? I will join for a bit, but I do get bored watching people or watching people watching people. So, I will tend to listen to the music whilst doing other stuff. But my thoughts go to the future as well; what will carnival look like after corona?
Will we be wearing masks us for a long time? Although there is some debate about the efficacy of some, will they become the latest fashion must have? When will the next carnival be? WILL there be carnivals in 2021? A decision has to be made about Trinidad carnival 2021 within the next two months or so. Will the immediate fetes and carnivals in 2021 be ‘strictly local?’ I have read certain bits and pieces and had certain conversations which imply that just might be the case. Will we need a vaccine to travel? Will airline prices skyrocket to cover loses in 2020?
What else am I doing? Planning, saving for carnival, writing down my experiences of past carnivals. Although I can’t play mas as yet, I am keeping carnival in my heart, soul and waistline.