‘Covid Carnival’ a second thought; T&T can show world we aren’t cowering from virus


So Gregory Aboud jumped out of his corner and suggested that we have a carnival celebration and everybody wants to kill him because, primarily, they say it is too little too late. 

Is it possible that he is too far away from our perceptions of who can speak about carnival with authority? Are we being biased?  

Photo: DOMA president Gregory Aboud (left) talks to Elizabeth Montano at TedxPOS in September 2019.
(Copyright TedxPOS)

On this occasion, I am jumping up behind the ‘Textile King’ because he has a point.  Trinidad and Tobago must put down a marker and establish a placeholder if we are to live up to our boast of being ‘The Mecca of Carnival’.

While the notion of curating our carnival history is admirable and necessary it is insufficient. We need to think through how to have a carnival which provides the annual catharsis that more than 300,000 citizens voluntarily engage in.  More importantly, how to retain our place as the world carnival leader?

The issue of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has been at the back of our minds for many years now and Covid has simply brought it, so to speak, right to the stage. Instead of writing it off as undoable, let’s dream of how it can be done safely.

In the absence of guidelines or conditions under which to have our Carnival, I assure you that there will continue to be ‘zesser’ and ‘wesser’ parties and other forms of gatherings that could result in more community Covid spread.  

Photo: Partygoers held by police in Kelly Village in November 2019.
(via TTPS)

We do not have enough police to police the people. Our leadership has obviously not bought into the notion that form follows function and may have taken the view that it is easier and cheaper to just write off Carnival. But is it?

We are unlikely to ever be able to calculate the psycho-social cost to the country of doing so.

Here is an opportunity to engage the entire country, including businesses and schools, in addressing and answering the question: how can we celebrate Carnival 2021 safely and without government funding while following the rules of wearing a mask;  keeping sanitised; keeping in clusters of ‘x’ and maintaining a physical distance of ‘y’.   

We may not agree with the DOMA president’s view of two-metre-wide costumes, but what he is expressing is a feeling that many of us share. And that is our Carnival is as necessary as going to church.  

Let’s use our ingenuity to place a marker in the sand and really own the carnival space of the future.

Photo: Dancers parade during the Virtual Notting Hill Carnival in 2020.
(via The Blup)

The fly in the ointment of this kind of thinking is that there is no obvious way of making money and too many of our ‘Carnival czars’ can only create on the canvas of dollar bills. 2021 is not the year for making money. It is the year for making magic for future money.  

Let’s not simply consign Mr Aboud’s idea to the dump heap but find a way for it to stimulate us into re-thinking Carnival as a one love experience in which we engage in mutual respect and love for each other; and demonstrate that we can be disciplined in our behaviour and still find a way to have the catharsis that the festival gives us.  

It can be our opportunity to show the world that we are living with Covid without cowering from it.

I am reminded of a scene from the movie ‘Matrix’ where Neo and Morpheus are in an empty white area and Neo asked where they were. Morpheus said it’s called a ‘construct’, and they can put into it anything we want. 

We need to view Carnival in that space. It’s a construct into which the stakeholders can put anything

Photo: A carnival masquerader at the Toronto Caribana.
(via Torontoist.com)

We do not have to be tied to the traditional forms of Carnival which may no longer be as valid as 100 years ago. Mr Aboud is simply asking us to think!

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