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Carnivals and bondage

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by Oscar Allen 30.JUN.06

Bondage is a groaning, growling woman; but the woman is freedom, when she dances her dream (a Guyanese Prophetess).

Last year, Andaiye opened my eyes to it. Abusing women sexually, she said, is the mark of every political bondage. Don’t we hear it from the victims of Africa’s suicide, soldiers and rebels lining up to rape mother and daughter and son, into unconsciousness? And Andaiye put a very specific distance between herself and her countrymen who in earlier uprisings would shove broken bottles into the vaginas of “enemy” women.{{more}}

During slavery times in our Caribbean, the thing in bondage was the human body – its power to labour, its power to make children, its power to give pleasure, and its power to make the owner full of honour and grace, and to make the slave empty of grace and full of contempt of every kind. The body was the bondage and the woman’s body bore three times the bondage. She toiled in the field, she was thrashed in her loins, she laboured in child bearing, she gave massa glory.

The groan and the growl of our women have been so shut up and sealed in our continuing male governance and bondage that we even want to knock down and despoil the dance of freedom we see in our women’s bodies and the surge of spirit that they show in their accomplishments.

Many of us remember and even recount what Bible slavery in Africa/Egypt was like. The women’s side of the story does not come up for as much mention as it deserves – women as house slaves, concubines, playthings, workers. But in a between-the-lines way the grand “freedom song” of Moses in Exodus 15 1-18 like a church anthem, is undermined by the calypso street wine and road march of the bandleader and prophetess Miriam in Exodus 15 20-21.

The triple bondage of the women was broken as their bodies danced their dream. That was 3,300 years ago. It tells us that the original carnival band is a natural product of freedom, an ejaculation of praise and glory, a dramatized pledge that since the Lord God buss pharaoh’s backside, nobody else will take pharaoh’s place in our lives! God Reigns. Today, 3,300 years after Miriam and her carnival band, the celebration of freedom from slavery among the Hebrew descendants is a sorry exercise in ruling class history.

Our carnival is getting there too. There is so little rejection of bondage and contempt – just another politically bland status quo summer jam. Poor God. After all that work of liberation and the reconstruction mission of Jesus, all we can do is organize a better, a bigger, a more money, super jam that leaves the poor still poor, bodies still for sale, and bondage still inside the doorway.

O for a woman fighter like Miriam.

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