“In response to your article, I must say that there are several themes that truck me: 1. Identity, 2. History, and 3. Education/Knowledge. I argue that there are huge deficits in all of these areas as it relates to your discussion. As a Bahamian, one who lives in the United States, teaches in Higher Education, and who’s work/research focuses on integrating Caribbean Cultural Performance (Bahamian Junkanoo, Trinidadian Carnival and Jamaican Dancehall) into dance curriculum, I am left with many questions concerning this Bahamas Carnival festival.
I appreciate your point concerning the religious connection to carnival and its significance to the idea, essence, experience and history of Carnival. These countries that you indicate in your article are countries rooted deeply in creolization and syncretism. They are also very clear of their African influence and roots and it is expressed throughout their culture and education, which strengthens their ideas and performance concerning IDENTITY, CITIZENSHIP, AND HISTORY. Throughout my research (pertaining to several of the countries you mention), this has been my discovery. Unfortunately, these are elements that I have not observed in Bahamian culture. I wonder what the African influence is in the culture? It seems rather invisible. It appears to have been erased. Colonialism is and has served as a detriment to this aesthetic within the culture, which brings be back to my point concerning IDENTITY. Unlike the countries mentioned, we are not a creolized society. Bahamians (the majority) are phenotypically and genotypically African. Is this discussed and is it reflected in our culture? How does it manifest in our civil, legal, and education systems? I don’t think it does. Why or why not? These are questions we should be asking? From my perspective, in some areas, there is a struggle between European and American ideals, aesthetics, and philosophies. What do we as a nation value? So I ask the question, do Bahamians really know who they are?
Moving on . . . I actually screamed, summersaulted, and twerked concerning your second point about the obesity in the country. It is utterly embarrassing. The percentage of grotesquely overweight Bahamians is appalling. I have had several conversations with Bahamians about this and also Americans (of multiple ethnic groups/races) concerning this issue and quite honestly, I have no civil or logical response to their responses and inquiries. Like you, I also am not interested in seeing THAT (body) chippin’ down da road. Based on the rest of the world’s obsession with the body, I can only assume that will not go over well “but I digress.”
You raise great questions concerning the dollars and sense/cents of this festival and I don’t have any answers for that either.
To further your point concerning your suggestion that “I would create a week of events just for Junkanoo, where we can come together and celebrate our culture. You will only make people proud of their culture if they can show it off, so the week of events will be about putting our culture on display to the world” (Grant 2014); I am not sure if this week-long celebration will be effective. If you consider the days leading up to carnival (in Trinidad) and all of the events that are included in the festival (stick fighting, soca, calypso, pan in all its forms, traditional character festivals, King and Queen competitions, massive children’s carnivals . . .” (Riggio 46) and the social and historical implications assigned to each event, do we/you think this week long itinerary (which is fabulous) will have the same impact? With no internal, historical, and/or spiritual connection to this festival, will it serve the Bahamian culture and public? Your ideas sound wonderful and I would indeed travel and invite others to partake in this type of celebration which serves multiple demographics, seems multigenerational and certainly multicultural when thinking about how other artists (local and international) can contribute to this magnitude of an event and one which serves to uplift, empower and instill not only the richness of the culture but a festival which pays homage to our ancestors whose blood, sweat and tears, fertilized the country and the world. How about identifying the richness of African culture that our ancestors coveted? They resisted the brutal schemes, and dogma of colonialism, slavery and oppression. Through their songs, dance, and life we dance, we live, and we breathe. Why should we appropriate another culture (another culture which we really do not “identify” with. If we investigated and researched who were, lived that legacy, and celebrated that ancestry and history we would know our IDENTITY, HISTORY. This KNOWLEDGE would be embedded in our performance not only of this festival but how we live our lives. “
Riggio, Milla C. Carnival: Culture in Action: The Trinidad Experience. New York, NY: Routledge, 2004. 46. Print.