On Carnival, art and life

It’s a weird phenomenon, isn’t it? Carnival. For a heartbeat, old and familiar and circular arguments about politics and the economy are completely ignored and the lid let off the pressure cooker.

As the biggest platform for performing and to some extent visual artists, lyricists, and composers in Antigua and Barbuda (and arguably the entire the Eastern and Southern Caribbean), there is no denying its role in the development of the creative arts in Antigua and Barbuda. I mean, because of Carnival, we have Obsti, Swallow and Short Shirt and after taking the walk to the always romantic land of nostalgia with them on Calypso Monarch night, no Antiguan who loves calypso would want to live in a world where those three icons didn’t exist as we know them to. I add as we know them to because their talent is such, they would have found their way to the arts some how or other, right, even without Carnival? Maybe. But thanks to Carnival, they are iconic. Away from cricket, the musical artistes that make their name on the Carnival stage are our celebrities and the annual competitive process gives some impetus to the creative spark that lives in them regardless.

But in this moment, I’m not here to talk about that.  I’m here instead to talk about how, like Bob said, when music hits you, you feel no pain. More than that, the music is a pain killer blotting out the pain you already had.

If you’re outside of the Carnival, it’s easy to wonder where people get that kind of energy, where they get the money to waste on bathsuits and baubles, and why bother. Here’s the thing though when the parade is coming up the road on Carnival Tuesday, whether you’re in the mas or not, though it’s more fun to be in, you forget, and you become a kid all over again. You just want to dance and feel good, and, with or without the aid of spirits, you do. The thing Carnival reminds us about life perhaps is that it’s to be lived and felt, it reminds us what it is to be in the moment. (Just ask Nikki in Oh Gad!)

Now if we could just take that in the momentness into every day life, minus the misbehaving, sweet or otherwise, perhaps we wouldn’t need the Carnival. No need for time outs.


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