Dr. Ian Bethell-Bennett (for The Guardian) published a delightful review of Carnival, Junkanoo, and the three exhibitions that opened at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB)—including EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean—on Thursday, April 28, 2016. Here are just a few excerpts; see the original in the link below.
[. . .] Carnival, much like Junkanoo, is a rich cultural performance of community participation. Santiago de Cuba, Santiago de los Caballeros, Havana, Cien Fuegos, Jacmel and Port of Spain all come alive with Obatala, and Ochun, The Virgin of Charity, Lazarus and the other deities and saints. This may cause the Christian community to recoil in horror, but so much of us flows from a mixture of suffering and celebration, of joy in pain, and of survival over hardship. In Carnival in Salvador do Bahia the folk are out and engaged. Junkanoo in Nassau, Marsh Harbour, Rock Sound or Governor’s Harbour articulate the culture of letting go of the pain of the day-to-day and celebrating life En Mas o en masse. [. . .]
A visceral connection
EN MAS’ and From Columbus to Junkanoo speak to these realities through vibrant colors and somber tones and themes. The fact that we as a nation choose to exacerbate differences of gender, to make women inferior to men, to make some men inferior to others, to celebrate homogeneity as opposed to diversity, underscores a lack of self-acceptance. To declare that the movement to a more engaged, more egalitarian nation is a waste of time tells us that we have forgotten the Junkanoo of our souls. We have tuned out the Carnival in our hearts. We have succumbed to Babylon and have chosen to kill those who look like us.
One of the most impassionate yet powerful images was all the nuance of ethnicities and races seen on those carnival and Junkanoo roads, performing popular culture without a care in the world.
Earl Lovelace’s “The Dragon Can’t Dance” embodies this unifying rhythm of carnival that seeps in through the pores and out through our soles and toes, as we perform the dance of centuries of struggle and oppression but survival. Dance the memory! Dance like tomorrow will never come, knowing that it will be here sooner than we want, but embracing the chance to dance. Dance! The drums beckon and the feet move.
Junkanoo Carnival may not be indigenous to The Bahamas, nor should it be confused with Junkanoo, but engineered events can be enjoyed for what they are. Sideburns’ cartooned woman boasting 265 pounds of KFC indulgence will squeeze herself into a micro-costume, stretching at the seams and bursting. But let her be for this one weekend. We cannot fault her for her desire to be. We all want to be.
The nuances of colors, classes and participation came out loudly in these two exhibitions. It was also clear, though totally unintended, that we celebrate motherhood but not women. Mothers are only women in as far as they are less equal than men. Dance equality! That is one thing Carnival allows, and Junkanoo?
What a joyful noise was made on Thursday evening as En Mas met up with From Columbus to Junkanoo, travelling from New Orleans, a Caribbean city, and Santiago de Cuba to Nassau to show us our motion and catch us in the dance. Let go of the inequalities and embrace life, as we dance our way to the grave, don’t lick nobody! Burma Road Riots may be a thing of the past and so apparently is the desire for any kind of equality or equal pay.