Tobago Carnival

Tashia Burris, Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation in the Tobago House of Assembly. Photo Credit: Loop News

Tears flowed from some members of the team that planned the Tobago Carnival media launch at Shaw Park Cultural Complex.

The tears, they said, were from relief and from the ability to exhale after months of studious planning to reveal to the world what Tobago Carnival would be.

During that period the Carnival organisers kept their silence as narratives weaved about the exclusion of Trinidad stakeholders and questionable marketing trips to Grenada.

Tashia Burris, Secretary for Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation in the Tobago House of Assembly, likened it to a birthing period during which they kept a protective veil over their “child” until they were ready to present it to the world.

In that gestative state, the new members of the THA pondered on how to create a festival that would be distinct among the slew of Carnivals on the circuit and how to ensure the Tobago brand would stand out.

We have seen the evolution of Carnival over the years…Carnivals have moved away from being a creative expression to something with a manufactured, cookie cutter-like look and feel. If you look at the bands, you get feathers, bikinis and beads and that is what you see generally across the space. Yes you have some expectations in the form of Peter Minshall, Brian MacFarlane and K2K Alliance but generally, Trinidad Carnival has a homogeneous, manufactured look.

In considering how they could differentiate their Carnival, Burris said they looked to their culture, their Heritage festival, queen shows, Sunday harvests, folk tales and superstitions.

 All of those aspects of Tobago culture will be visible throughout the weekend that Tobago Carnival takes place, particularly on the road among the bikini and beads bands. Spectators can expect to see the Tobago Ole Time Wedding, Tambrin bands, Tamboo Bamboo and other aspects of the culture.

We are putting the culture to the fore. As I said, it will be a spectator’s spectacle and a masquerader’s masquerade. What that means is that someone viewing that Carnival procession is not just seeing feathers, bikini and beads, they are seeing all the elements of what Tobago culture has become famous for, she said.

Every event that Tobago held during the year sold the festival she said.

Heritage was really to sell the idea of the birth of this baby and I have spoken about it. Carnival is a baby. It is where everything comes into the space, all the elements from the goat racing to the cuisine so when people come to Tobago, you are coming to an island so the events will reflect that. We have iconic events that are appended to Tobago Carnival that you cannot get in a Trinidad Carnival, in a Miami Carnival, she said, acknowledging that there will be signature events from Trinidad that people have come to know and enjoy.

Burris stressed that the Carnival would also be inclusive, everyone no matter their size or race will be welcomed into the space. For example, she said, while the Carnival business model is to display slim, masqueraders, there will be a band specifically for plus-sized women.

In addition, while there will be all-inclusive bands, there will be space for anyone to play mas.

Article Courtesy Loop News: Laura Dowrich-Phillips