Carnival Art?

Posted in Opinion by Adele Todd on February 1, 2008

Gallery Y in Port of Spain, Trinidad

In four days Carnival shall be at its uproarious best. All the planning and preparation shall yield fruitful bounty. Meanwhile, for the season there have been many shows about town dealing with the topic of carnival itself. Some shows are very literal, showing images of devils and masqueraders in the streets. Other shows use the time to present work to the larger crowd of people who would wonder into a gallery on the way to something else. There is so much to do in Trinidad and Tobago all year, and this period is especially filled with more activities than can be imagined.Making art for the tourist dollar is at the forefront of the carnival shows, and only one show on that theme kept the concept about what carnival means to us on the island. Ashraph’s “…whe de ass! Whe de mas!” An irreverent and relevant title that he could not use for his show at the National Museum, does exactly that. He looks at the death of the carnival as it has been known.I spoke with a number of artists about their work at this time of year, and for many of them, the idea of producing for carnival is both a blessing and a challenge. For some, they feel pigeon holed. For others, the need to try to make something for a period that doesn’t really include them is the wrinkle.

The new gallery spaces beg for works to fill their pristine white walls. Only seasoned artists need apply, as the work that you see represents all of the familiar names on this small island.I think that the real challenge is in the making of work for the time of year. I am pleased to see some out of the box ideas, like Ashraph and the Installation done by Marlon Griffith, Jamie Lee Loy and Nikolai Noel. Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay traditional. Yet, it would be nice to see new and different interpretations of carnival, done more with its relation to us, than to the tourist market. After all, Trinidad and Tobago are last on the island chain, and everything we export makes what we do look copied. So we have to reach inside ourselves and pull out much more, and we can do so.

Let our work really speak of the energy and excitement of the mas.


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  1. […] filled with Carnival-themed work right now, says SexyPink, but is it just aimed at tourist dollars? “We have to reach inside ourselves and pull out much more.” Share […]

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