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No one sought to meet the residents to explain the plan or seek to understand the impact such a plan could have on them…To make matters worse, it now seems Gary Griffith, National Security Minister, has bypassed the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and Woodbrook residents to cater for a select group of mas players… I support moves to ease congestion for the masqueraders, but it should not be at the expense of a residential community…Some years ago, J’Ouvert celebrations were discontinued in St Clair after complaints from the residents. Woodbrook residents have a right to be affronted by this latest incursion on their right to peace, quiet and the enjoyment of their property. The use by the bands of the proposed route can be expected to leave a trail of noise, vehicle exhaust, garbage and urine through the area.


Award winning author Earl Lovelace will speak on the idea of Reclaiming Rebellion this Thursday February 20th at  Martin’s Piano Bar at 6 p.m.
Lovelace has written extensively in his novels and plays about Carnival traditions and rituals.
This is the fourth in a series of Carnival conversations and actions titled Unconquered. Since January 30, the weekly conversations have focused on creating a space to interrogate what Carnival means and where it is going.
Also speaking at Thursday’s event will be Dr. Kevin Browne, Assistant Professor in Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University and author of Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean. A native of Trinidad, Browne explores the “Caribbean Carnivalesque” as a representative framework for rhetorical activity that occurs in the Caribbean and wherever people of Caribbean descent reside.

Thursday’s event is free of charge and open to the public.

For more information on Unconquered or to take part in their band Black I - a 21st Century exploration of the traditional Black Indian masquerade, please check the blog or call 794 4547.

Once upon a time, Carnival was an expression of rebellion. Stickfighters assembled to keep alive the practice of a warriorhood born in them. Devils moved along the streets with horns on their heads and tridents in hand. Jab Jabs, men in jester costumes with tinkling bells, cracking long whips in the streets, lashed each other with full force, proclaiming they could receive the hardest blow without flinching. Suddenly they were all gone, outlawed from the city, or just died. The Dragon alone was left to carry the message. It would be lost now among the fantasy presentations, drowned amidst the satin and silk and the beads and feathers and rhinestones.
Aldrick, the central figure in Earl Lovelace’s novel The Dragon Can’t Dance. 

There are many stories to be told about the genesis of our Carnival. One story in particular broadens the traditional origin myths. Through anecdotal and archaeological evidence, it suggests a tradition of masking reaching beyond the classic tale of European arrival and its role in the spreading of Carnival to islands where, after Emancipation, in an act of social resistance, Afro-Trinidadians appropriated it.

A good place to start the story is where I first heard it 15 years ago with local historian and anthropologist John Cupid. For Cupid there was “a tradition of celebration” on our islands long before the French arrived, and before that, long before the Spanish came too. A “tradition of celebration going back to the Warrahoon.” 

As many might know, the Warrahoon were and are a group of Amerindians from the Orinoco delta who, the archaeological record states, were here in the 500-year period before European arrival. They were also involved in the Trinidad Carnival of 1848 documented by Charles Day, who, when discussing the initial period of Carnival after the beginning of French immigration, recorded his observations of a “Warrahoon masquerade” played by “half-Indian peons and Africans” on the streets of Port-of-Spain that appeared well-established. 

According to Cupid, this was not surprising. “There were always celebrations on the island. Where we are here, on these hills and high valleys of Lopinot, there were people…long before the Catholics came, there were celebrations on the island of Kairi (Trinidad).” He went on to say the Warrahoons’ animal masquerade involved a headdress made of animal skin, painted face, and animal skin worn on the shoulders and ankles. And that the Capuchin monks who arrived in the late 1600s as missionaries to Trinidad “observed these celebrations.” 

Is there evidence to back up his story? Historical anecdote and oral histories do describe the Warrahoon playing an animal mas and painting their faces with roucou berries and red ochre. Also, Cupid’s version of events makes sense. It does not erase the presence of the Amerindian population, its culture and genetics on the island, which we know existed in plain sight into the early 19th century. Nor does it erase their cultural influence and how a tradition of celebration may have existed here long before Europeans began their colonial conquest of the Caribbean. 
This is an easy observation to support because anthropologists and historians have demonstrated the world over the long-established, cross-cultural human capacity for celebration. Celebration does not suddenly appear with colonial immigration. For example, we know as far back as 525 BCE that the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the spring solstice celebrations he witnessed in North Africa. He mentioned Egypt, where celebrations were held to mark the opening of their crop season and honour the fertility of both the earth and women. 

He wrote, “The Egyptians were the first people in the world to hold general festive assemblies, and religious processions and parades, and the Greeks learnt from the Egyptians.” Support for Cupid’s suggestion that a tradition of celebration has long existed on the island can also be found in the diaries of Bartolomé de las Casas (one of the first European settlers to the Caribbean) who recorded seeing Carnival-like behaviour. 

In terms of archaeological evidence, it is agreed that roucou berries and vegetable substances like cashew nuts were being used as facial and body decoration at the time of Spanish arrival in the region. This idea then, of festival and celebration on our islands before the arrival of Europeans, is not a huge leap. 

That “Wild Indian” masquerades—a mixture of Warrahoon and North American Indian influences—are also a recorded sight throughout the 19th and 20th centuries at Carnival time and are still seen on the outskirts of today’s bikini-and-beads Carnival is further evidence of an Amerindian strand and connection. 

Anthropologically all of this is important because it suggests the dominant and simplistic European origin myths about our Carnival are incomplete. Cupid’s story does a similar thing to later narratives of Africanisms that surround Trinidad Carnival in the 19th century.

And lastly, the story also supports ideas of cultural mixture and process in understanding our society, opening the way to including other cultural influences in the story of our Carnival such as East Indian, Chinese, and American, over the more simplistic, familiar and traditional European and/or African origin myths that most often dominate.

Carnival in Trinidad is a cultural object. Its evolution from the early 1800s to today reflects our social history. For example, during the 1980s, state involvement in Carnival increased as attempts were made to expand the economic potential of the festival. Trinidad Carnival was mobilised as a global brand and industry plugged into the global movements and forms of capital accumulation. Think “production” in China and “entertainment” out of the all-inclusive Las Vegas handbook. 

At the same time, there also developed the marketing of “cultural tourism” with its “authenticity versus change” narrative. This helped to mask the question of who would now become the labour force supporting the new service culture of the festival. 

The business model changed from populist art form in the lead-up to Independence and into the late 1970s, from those of the likes of Bailey, Saldenah, McWilliams and many others, to a more salacious and eroticised pretty mas commodity form (bikini-and-beads masquerade portrayals) by the late 1980s. 

The economics of pretty mas reflect the libido of Euro-American capitalism—profit, mass production, luxury, sex appeal, service oriented. The high art aesthetic that led some commentators to describe mid-20th century Trinidad Carnival as a “theatre of the streets” diffused into various layers of local cultural production with each becoming commodities for the “desiring machine.”

From the mid-1980s, band fees and the cost of individual participation grew. As commodification of the festival increased, exclusivity (participation based on the ability to pay) overcame ideals of inclusivity (participation rooted in Carnival as a national commons accessible to all). 

The timing of the shift correlates roughly to the upsurge in local petrol and natural gas revenues, and T&T’s insertion into global flows of capital and the cultural politics of neoliberalism from the 1970s to 1990s. These politics included: the upward redistribution of wealth, the marketisation of social life, and the cultural belief in individualism as the main indicator of personal success or failure.

The shift is also an example of what anthropologists call “accumulation by dispossession”— turning things once communal into things private and for profit. Some of those whom the late Rex Nettleford called “the people from below,” and whom he considered the legitimate authors and participants of Carnival drama as a populist art form, were displaced and became Carnival’s low-paid, service-oriented labour force. 

Viewed through class and race, the late 20th and early 21st century pretty mas Trinidad Carnival might be described as a “gated community.” An analogy for this is Carnival Monday morning. The street parade begins at 11 am but the staff – the bar and food personnel, crowd control, security, roadies, and other staff - all start gathering for 9 am.

 In 2012, a large “all-inclusive” Carnival band of around 3,000 masqueraders employed around 300-400 staff a day. These staff members, depending on their rank and role, got paid between $250-$400 each day to service and work for masqueraders who pay between $3,500-$7,000 for this mas. (Disclosure: yes, I play pretty mas each year.) Seen in such a light, the socio-economic changes in Carnival over the last 30 to 40 years describe a more general process of inequality and economic difference making in post-Independence Trinidad, in particular, the exclusion of low-income groups from other communal spaces, including politics, employment, nationhood, particular urban areas, security, and social mobility. 

Such social boundaries to Carnival are by no means new. They were there from the beginning. According to Errol Hill, when the British arrived after 1797, the early European Carnival festivities found here echoed the earliest recorded private costume balls or French planter fêtes, mainly attended by the Spanish and those of mixed European and African descent, with the enslaved excluded. 

Just like today, at those events the various costumes demonstrated signs of multicultural mixture, particularly French, Spanish and North African. Of course, the enslaved were never guests at these balls or those after the arrival of the British. Yet this did not mean they were completely removed from events. At the colonial Carnival celebrations of the elites, at their grand plantation balls, some were needed for housework including drinks service, musical entertainment, and food preparation. 

So one story Trinidad Carnival tells us is that any post-Independence promises and inclusive national rhetoric about its development as central to a new nation’s growth weren’t as liberating as they might have been. As larger global processes became embedded in the mas, costume production was outsourced to China, while jumpin up with an all-inclusive wristband became an all-exclusive activity, reflecting similar class-based changes our society has undergone more generally.



First let me say how appreciative, pleased and proud I am that Soyini Grey and Atillah Springer - both of whom I regard as hot, bright minds - have made the effort to give birth to the ‘Unconquered’ series. It is a much needed and progressive initiative.

Claudia Jones. What a woman! Even as I write this I can feel something of her legendary energy, impatience almost, to get things organised, to make things better…

For those of you who may not be too familiar with even part of her story, Claudia Jones was a Trinidadian born on 21st February 1915. She spent her formative years in the United States and eventually became a leader in the Communist Party of the USA. She was a journalist and later editor of one of the Party’s papers. Claudia Jones was a charismatic and engaging public speaker who could hold listeners spellbound. She was also someone who had to battle against the periodic effects of tuberculosis contracted during childhood. Additionally, heart disease marred Claudia Jones’ health. Many believe that this was brought on by years of persecution by the US government after the Second World War in its quest to root out what it saw as the cancer of communism. Its racist ideology also exacerbated its hounding and subsequent imprisonment of Ms. Jones. In 1948 when she had been arrested for the first of three times and threatened with deportation to Trinidad, the hearing had to be postponed because no one would testify against her. It was after her third arrest that this warrior woman was diagnosed with hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Claudia Jones arrived in London on the 22nd December 1955 and was welcomed by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Her relationship with the CPGB was fraught however, as she articulated very clearly what she recognised as racism within the Party. Despite hospitalization for three months in 1956, between that year and 1957, Ms. Jones had aligned herself with Caribbean members of the of the CPBG, joined the West Indian Forum and Committee on racism and International Affairs and worked with various organizations in London including the Caribbean Labour Congress. This phenomenal organiser and leader co-founded the West Indian Workers and Students’ Association and became increasingly active in agitating against immigration restrictions, oppression of Caribbean peoples and racism generally, including South Africa’s pernicious system of apartheid. The West Indian Gazette (WIG) was founded by the resolute and resourceful
Claudia Jones with very little financial support in 1958. The WIG was the first major Black newspaper in post-war Britain and served as a campaigning and organizational tool in the politicizing of Caribbean, Pan-African and Third World communities in London.

As immigrant numbers increased exponentially in the 1950s, anti-immigrant and fascist organizations around Britain also grew in reactive response to the changing face of white old Blighty! Anti-black riots gripped many cities across Britain in 1958 including London which saw riots in Notting Hill between August 29th and September 5th. In May 1959, a young black man named Kelso Cochrane was set upon and stabbed to death by a group of white youths. Claudia Jones was outraged at what she saw as the CPGB’s lack of protest about this racist murder and she boldly moved outside of the Party in order to organise articulated resistance. She used her persuasive oratory to bring together seemingly disparate groups of Africans, Caribbeans and Indians to demonstrate, to march, to hold meetings, to lobby, to stage hunger strikes and also to work with other anti-racist/imperialist organizations. Significantly, Claudia Jones employed the use of art and culture as she said “in the face of the hate from the white racists.” The events she organised included beauty contests, talent quests and readings and shows by African-American artists and writers who were introduced to black British audiences. The acclaimed actor and activist Paul Robeson was among her staunch supporters in these efforts. Using the rich culture of Carnival, Jones organised and staged the UK’s first ever Caribbean Carnival. It took place at the St. Pancras Town Hall in London on January 30th 1959 exactly fifty five years ago today ladies and gentlemen and is regarded as the forerunner to the first Notting Hill Carnival in 1964.

Claudia Jones passed on to the realm of the Ancestors in her sleep on Christmas Day 1964. How can the rich, textured legacy of Claudia Jones be an inspiration to black British organisers today? I believe that in sharing part of her story with you tonight I have given an insight into her commitment, courage, determination, energy, generosity, integrity, passion, sacrifice and strategic organisation. All of the above is necessary in order to agitate and organise for progressive change in any society and we must never be afraid to step outside of our organizations if we see that they are not fulfilling their obligations to those they are meant to serve. I cannot sit here tonight in my flat in London and presume to have a definitive answer to the question posed, but my strong feeling is that so many of the characteristics/gifts that Mother Claudia seemed to embody so naturally, are in fact vital for
any kind of genuine and positive societal metamorphosis, anywhere in the world…

Claudia Jones very clearly and wisely recognised that art and culture could bring about cohesion, psychic healing and a kind of liberation. In 1959 she wrote an essay entitled ‘A People’s Art is the Genesis of Their Freedom’ some of which I shall share now:

‘Rarely have the creative energies of a people indigenous to another homeland been so quickly and spontaneously generated to such purpose as witness the work of the Caribbean Carnival Committee of 1959…it was as if the vividness of our national life was itself the spark urging translation to new surroundings, to convey and transplant our folk origins to British soil…our Caribbean Carnival has evoked the wholehearted response from the peoples from all the islands and is itself a testament to the role of the arts in bringing people together for common aims and to its fusing of the cultural, spiritual, as well as political and economic interests of West Indians in the UK and at home. A pride in being West Indian is undoubtedly at the root of this unity; a pride that has its origin in the drama of nascent nationhood and that pride encompasses not only the creativeness, uniqueness and originality of West Indian mime song and dance – but is the genesis of the nation itself. It is true to say that pride extends not only to what the West Indians have proudly established in the culture of the Caribbean but to the treasury of world culture.’

Claudia Jones has to be one of our heroines because of her dedication to and full participation in effective post-war activism both in the United States and Britain; she managed this without ever forgetting or rejecting the beauty, originality and transformative power of her Trinidad Carnival. In remembering her tonight, we remind ourselves of these characteristics of the gargantuan treasure that is our Carnival.

Thank you.

Copyright © Nicole-Rachelle Moore 2014

Presented by Nicole-Rachelle Moore on Thursday 30th January at Propaganda Space in Belmont via live link from Londo

Why is it every year, six and seven weeks before Carnival, the NCC and NCBA come to talk of plans to improve Carnival? Why can’t they do so six or seven weeks after Ash Wednesday?
As early as 1805 rumors of a planned rebellion filled the air in Diego Martin in the North. For weeks, the planters had been hearing the Africans singing a refrain which referred to the deaths of whites by Dessalines in St. Domingue.
The enslaved therefore were identifying with their brothers in Haiti. Some of them had actually lived there, and had come to Trinidad during the period of the Cedula of Population.
…the Africans planned the rebellion to take place simultaneously with the Christmas celebrations.
Moreover, dance bands were to be used as a cover when they attacked. However, rumors of the plan graduated to whispers and soon the news broke. One of the prisoners held (undoubtedly under pain of severe punishment) provided the authorities with details of the plan. Other witnesses explained that the enslaved Africans used to hold ‘a parody of the Christian sacrament’ (probably the Catholic Mass) and on receiving communion ‘the Grand Judge’ (most likely one of the leaders) would say ‘Remember the bread you are eating is White man’s flesh and the wine you are drinking is White Man’s blood.’ The fact that eyewitnesses noted that this parody was kept four times a year demonstrates how long the enslaved Africans were planning this revolt.
On the advice of the Council, the governor proclaimed Martial Law and imposed a curfew in Port of Spain, ‘signalled by the gun at the sea battery being fired and the cathedral bell being rung for five minutes at 8 p.m. Anyone found breaking the curfew was arrested; anyone who tried to escape was shot. On December 19, four persons felt to be ringleaders were hanged. On January 17, 1806, six of the enslaved Africans were flogged mercilessly, their ears were cut off afterwards. Others found guilty of taking party in the slightest way possible were flogged.
There were other rumors of planned revolts in 1819, 1823 and 1831.
Rituals of Power and Rebellion - The Carnival Tradition in Trinidad and Tobago 1763 - 1962 by Hollis ‘Chalkdust’ Liverpool (via tillahwillah)

(via tillahwillah)

Everything has a genealogy. History as Benjamin noted is the way the powerful justify their power and identify the idea of progress – that we are forever moving toward more freedoms – as the rational for supporting capitalism. But if we take his lead and view history as a runaway train heading for disaster; a series of defeats suffered by the oppressed and subordinate. We can begin to glimpse what connects the grotesque body with the salacious body – a form of global class power, that replaces local structures of inequality established during colonialism, and releases modern forms of exclusion to continue forms of stratification and segregation. In other words the bodies tell us a story of class warfare by other means. Or in the case of a postcolonial state like Trinidad – a recolonisation of the nation.


It is especially repugnant that the ruling ignores the 2005 judgement made by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Dominican Republic adapt its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. The ruling also violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations. Furthermore, the ruling has created an environment where, with the abrogation of rights that flow from citizenship, arbitrariness can flourish as illustrated by recent media reports of the forced deportation to Haiti of persons claiming to be Dominican and with no linguistic or familial ties to that country.

 - Caricom Statement on Dominican Republic’s citizenship ruling.

Last night I attended an impromptu audience with Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves who was in Trinidad for the Heads of Government Meeting at which they finally made their statement condemning the shocking and racist court ruling in the Dominican Republic against Haitian descended Dominicans.

The meeting was hosted by Jouvay Ayiti – a Trinidad based collective dedicated to addressing the question of Haiti through what Rawle Gibbons described last night as the ‘mechanism of mas’.

Jouvay – the opening of Carnival celebrated in several islands across the Caribbean- has always been a point of protest and social commentary in Trinidad.

So the choice to use mas as a means of confronting our past, present and future engagement with Haiti is not only valid it is vital.

Jouvay Ayiti first responded to the DR question on November 6, with a mas action in Port of Spain. This was followed up with a petition sent to Caricom.

Meanwhile it’s taken over two months for a statement to come from Caricom and it is largely, I am inclined to believe after last night’s audience with the SVG PM, due to his agitations. He even joked about the similarity in the language of the Caricom’s statement and the letters he sent to the DR’s  on October 11 and another on November 11 (neither of which has received a response to date).

As Angelique V Nixon points out in her article on Groundation Grenada, Haitians are also regularly discriminated against and deported from the Bahamas.

The Bahamas — somewhat like the DR’s new ruling — also denies rights to the children of migrants, the difference being that children of migrants do have access to birth citizenship rights, which they have to apply for at 18. However, this process can take years, especially if one does not have access to legal assistance. Unlike the DR, Haitian Bahamians do have the right to stay in the country until they turn 18. However, many Haitian Bahamians remain stateless after 18 because of the difficulty in securing their status. On top of the legal challenges that Haitians and Haitian Bahamians deal with, they are socially stigmatized — from slurs and stereotypes to poor treatment at public clinics and hospitals, Haitian people bear much blame for a variety of social ills in Bahamian society. When times are rough, tourism is down, crime is on the rise, or people get laid off, Haitians are the scapegoats for everyone’s troubles and strapped resources. This resonates eerily with what has happened in the Dominican Republic, and I offer this comparison to remind us of the vulnerable position in which many Haitian migrants find themselves — not only in the DR but also elsewhere in the region.

Gonsalves openly stated last night that he disagreed with Caricom’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach. He read the two strongly worded letters he sent to Medina and also the letter he sent to Venezuela’s  Maduro, calling on him to consider suspending them from the Petrocaribe agreement.

So aside from threats of suspension from Cariforum and CELAC, the Petrocaribe issue is probably going to be a defining factor in the outcome of this regional embarrassment.

Money talks, after all.

And in as much as I am glad that Caricom has finally found  voice and interest enough to make a statement (Norman Girvan in introducing Gonsalves last night said it was the first time he could feel proud of the Community) I’m still concerned about issues of free movement in the Caribbean. 

Since the issuing of this statement, the planned talks between Haitiian President Michel Martelly and a high profile team of officials from the Dominican Republic have fallen through.

So what comes next? Aside from the threat of sanctions and diplomatic snubbing how are we really going to start to address institutional and other types of racism in the Caribbean between nations?

It brings me again back to my concerns with regards to the reparations issue – what is Caricom’s policy position on the complexities of our ethnic and racial interactions?

How are we engaging with these complexities at the level of education, at the level of policy, at the level of government initiatives?


Because let’s face it, the reason for our lack of action on Haiti is the fact that in 1804 a bunch of enslaved Africans had the audacity to fight against the French, win and then declare themselves a Republic.

And the question of blackness and/or African ancestry is still a point of shame for far too many Caribbean people of African descent, despite the fact that we have given the world some of the leading luminaries of Pan Africanism (Henry Sylvestre Williams, Marcus Garvey, CLR James, George Padmore, to name a few). And of course one of the major issues plaguing our relationship with Haiti is the continued fear and loathing of African spiritual traditions

One of Gonsalves’ closing observations was the virtual non-existence of any critical thought or action coming from the University of the West Indies.  This is something that has bothered me for years. I’m watching and waiting but I’m not terribly hopeful.

Gonsalves started his speech talking about his days as a student at the University of the West Indies Mona campus when he organised the protest against the banning of the late great Walter Rodney who dared go into the ghettoes of Kingston to ground with his brothers. 

45 years later the issues we are afraid to confront are similar if not exactly the same. 


Trinidad Jame$ - Females Welcomed feat. Reija Lee

Trinidad James showing the love for T&T!!!

Last week I suggested that over the last 30-40 years, changing socio-economic circumstances have come to be reflected in the economics of pretty mas and specifically the all-inclusive mas band experience. 

Over the same period, and particularly the last 15-20 years, there have also been increases in violent crime. We know that during 2000 to 2005 the murder rate in T&T increased 322 per cent. Other crimes against the body, like domestic violence, kidnappings and rape, also witnessed unprecedented increases. In a distinct space over the same period, the cost of participation in pretty mas moved from $TT800 to more than $TT3,500.

What sort of connection might there be between an increase in dead bodies as victims of crimes and the growth of pretty mas at Carnival with its ubiquitous semi-naked bikini and beads bodies? Any enquiry, of course, is only suggestive.

The Grotesque Body

Today, our murder rate exceeds one person every day and the site and sight of a dead, maimed and murdered body, a grotesque body in the most obvious sense, is increasingly ordinary. This dead body, sometimes described as “mutilated,” “headless” or “beaten to death,” is reproduced linguistically on newspaper front covers and in text, presented on the nightly TV news, discussed in daily conversations, and found in popular culture.  

Such violence against the body can be termed anthropologically as increasingly “spectacular”; its performance—as in the harrowing case of 62-year-old US military veteran Balram Maharaj who was found burned, dismembered, placed in two buckets and buried in separate shallow forest graves, to cite one distressing example— often public. 

One understanding of this performance would be that these sites and sights have consequences. For example, they influence how people situate themselves socio-economically in the world and how they assert rights to their own safety. The visual effect of dead bodies, as Brazilian anthropologist Teresa Caldeira pointed out in a study of crime and violence in Sao Paulo, leads to increased levels of social apprehension that in turn generate a general “climate of fear.”

In urban Trinidad, this “climate of fear” feeds urban segregation and social exclusion because experiences of violence flatten racial hierarchies and overlook ethnic solidarity to become class-specific. 

By this I mean many who can afford added security pay for it and wall themselves off from “others.” It is little surprise then that over the last 15 years responses to insecurity in Trinidad include a dramatic increase in gated-community life and the rapid expansion of private security firms. The point to take away from this is that murdered bodies support socio-economic stratification because “protective measures” such as private security are only affordable to some and not all.

The Pretty Mas Body

The second everyday image of the body is the salacious pretty-mas Carnival body. Often female, but by no means exclusively a female body, it is the commercial expression of modern Carnival. It is the image Government and masquerade producers broadcast to the world. It is the commodified body, an idealised sexuality that fits easily into the western mediascape alongside the MTV booty video aesthetic.

This pretty-mas body emerged in the late 80s and early 90s and whether it is staring back from billboard advertisements for special interest Carnival bank loans, local TV programmes demanding viewers get in shape or Carnival, Web sites and magazines dedicated to displaying the latest Carnival costume and its wearer, or newspaper columns arguing for and against such nakedness, the pretty-mas body, like the dead body, is no longer exceptional but normal. 

This pretty-mas body is the symbol of the all-inclusive masquerade band. However, the all-inclusive band, as we know, is the all-exclusive band because the price of participation is far more than the average monthly wage, potentially excluding those who can’t pay. Just like fear of the dead body, the all-inclusive band provokes unconscious class hierarchies by making participation in Carnival a public performance of social status and wealth. 

In an imaginative sense then, these two bodies talk to us. These once exceptional bodies, now normalised, are two voices among many that influence how we imagine ourselves and the nation. The grotesque body is justification for the rich to divide themselves from the poor while the pretty-mas body is a symbol of an exclusive type of masquerade. Taken together, the normalisation of these bodies might suggest a society increasingly defined by class over race and ethnicity.


J’ouvert morning 2013.

BM 2013


The youth in Trinidad is the future. I’m not gonna shoot a middle finger with a child. Have some respect for the youth please.