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Maximising the benefits of Carnival


The annual debate which eventually follows our Carnival, is again well and truly on the way. Whether in the media, on the blocks, in bars and restaurants or in the privacy of our own circle of friends or homes, we are making our opinions heard. Even the merits and demerits of Carnival as a festival are on the cards with the apparent diminution of morals being used as an argument to suggest that carnival is not playing a positive role in our development.{{more}}

Unfortunately, from whatever perspective the argument rages, we seem, almost automatically, to focus on what we perceive are the weaknesses of our Carnival. It is always what is WRONG with it that we appear to remember. From there it is but a short step towards WHO is to blame. Given the reality of heavy state involvement in the Festival, the next step is to lay blame at the feet of the incumbent government. It is of our own incoherant response to the politicalisation of Carnival on partisan lines, that we have allowed the situation to fester to develop since 1977.

If we are as serious about the future of Carnival, as we ought to be, it is time for us to step back and try to take a sober, balanced look at the National Festival as a precondition for the enhancement and improvement thereof. In doing so, it is essential that we arrive at some national consensus as to the place of Carnival in national development. From the time that we interrupted its natural progression in 1977 and made it an added-value festival, we have struggled somewhat to agree on its role and purpose.

In the meantime, our society has been changing rapidly, given technological advancements and the ease of cultural penetration. Those influences give rise to no end of debate, about mas, kaiso versus soca, the role of pan etc. These are at the heart of discussion on the way forward. We get the hankering for the past, the counter and equally erroneous dismissal of it by the young turks and even a narrow busines- oriented view which does not place much emphasis on the social and cultural content of our National Festival.

Most, if not all of the problems we identify are not new – the complaints over the duration of shows, the dragged-out Mardi Gras, the efficiency of the CDC, lewd behaviour on the roads and on the stage etc., etc. The public has not been shy in proposing solutions, but we are weak in agreeing on major areas and implementation of recommendations. It becomes even more difficult when the success or failure of Carnival gets associated with the fortunes of the party in power, success being a boost to its political standing and vice versa.

Clearly then, that narrow identification of Carnival, via CDC, with the party in power, must be one of our drawbacks. It allows the selection and retention of square pegs in round holes. Yet, it is crucial that the State be a major part of the development of our Carnival as our National Festival. The challenge is how to do this without political partisanship. Then there is the role of the private sector. Is it just for sponsorship and commercial gain, or does that sector have a much more crucial, long-term role as an integral part of Carnival?

And what of the essential ingredients – Pan-Kai-Mas? If we expect them to deliver, not just on stage, but in their overall contribution to the direction, content and management of the Festival, surely their own capacities for self-organization and efficiency, must be developed as well.

There is absolutely no doubt that the core of our Carnival is like a rough diamond. To derive maximum beauty it needs to be suitably trimmed and polished, marketed and managed. It is not beyond our capacity to do this.