When it comes to Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, it is safe to expect roughly 1.4 million opinions on any related subject. The fact that every Trinbagonian has an opinion runs the gamut of issues, problems and challenges we face on a daily basis.
This is the case among many of those in our midst, whether they play mas or not. In this particular case, it is an expression of the deep identification that every Trinbagonian has with what we have proudly come to regard as the national festival.
In one of the many salutes to the spectacle for which we are known by large numbers of people in far-flung destinations equally as to others close by, one calypsonian many years ago described it as a “Creole bacchanal”.
It is, therefore, completely normal for Tobago’s pioneering Carnival in October to be the object of great debate and emotion. Consequently, the air between the islands has grown heavy with comment on the Tobago House of Assembly’s pioneering decision for a Tobago Carnival. The stage has been set for such an event in October. This is roughly two months away.
In so doing, the challenge is to produce a spectacle that is uniquely Tobagonian. The objective here is clearly to present a version of this ever-popular mix of culture, creativity, colour and splendour that will take its place among the rest.
Rightly, the organisers have been given a mandate to fashion an event which has the stamp of its people’s uniqueness all over it.
What is at stake here is the bold ambition to create, and have evolved, something that will take its place among the many such extravaganzas in different parts of the world. This includes, of course, the acclaimed Trinidad Carnival. Something authentically Tobagonian is what is being called for.
Just as other carnivals in the region have taken their shape and their form from insights picked up from our national festival, what is envisaged as the Tobago Carnival will draw inspiration and insight. There can be no doubt about this, judging from the manner in which such other similar events as the Grenada Spice Mas, the Barbados Crop Over and the Jamaica carnival have drawn significant inspiration from the T&T model. In similar ways, Tobago’s addition to this stock will come into its own.
We know of the deep cultural roots which helped shape the island’s identity, and which were displayed to such acclaim during the heights of the now-defunct Best Village competitions.
It would make little sense for the island merely to replicate what already exists. This is given the sufficiency of ways in which something different and more emblematic of the island’s sense of its artistic, creative and cultural self can be harvested in this regard.
For these reasons, Tobagonians should be encouraged to explore the boundaries of possibility in this assignment.
However it turns out, one thing is certain—Trinis will descend in droves on the streets of Tobago, come those dates in October. With this guarantee, the planners and the executors should already be seeking to cast their nets further afield, in the pitch for new markets.
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