Carnival: Culture in Action – The Trinidad Experience

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger


According to traditional carnival theory, carnival can be either inversive or subversive: it can mix up the previously-accepted order of things, or bear pitchforks of revolt against the system, pushing change to the forefront. In Carnival: Culture in Action – The Trinidad Experience, a collection of essays and perspectives edited by Milla Cozart Riggio, the beliefs run less concretely than this. Carnival, these scholars and masmen alike proclaim, need not be centred on the institutions that are (supposedly) at the top of  a societal food chain. Carnival is everyone’s, in Trinidad… and if it isn’t, then it should be.

Sectioned into four parts that map the birth, growth and exportation of Trinidad Carnival, the collection features Kim Johnson’s “Notes on Pan”, side by side an essay on the reinvention of calypso by Gordon Rohlehr. Earl Lovelace writes on “The emancipation jouvay tradition and the almost loss of pan” — and yes, this is all in one section, titled “Pan and Calypso – Carnival Beats”.

If you’re of the opinion that books on Carnival can be made (or broken!) by their photosets, this publication will pass that particular test. It features a panoply of black and white photographs of Trinidad Carnival, including two photo essays by veteran photographers Jeffrey Chock and Pablo Delano. A valuable title to add to your collection on Carnival scholarship, this anthology is likely to prompt several reconsiderations, and maybe a spirited debate or two while you’re chipping down the road in a couple weeks’ time.