What was your gut reaction when you first heard about The Bahamas Carnival?
Take away other’s opinions, talk shows, and political considerations… as a Bahamian what was your first deep down reaction in your gut?
For me it felt like the ultimate betrayal. Why would we want to have a “carnival” that’s not our culture. Its a slap in the face. It’s like saying Junkanoo isn’t good enough or something…
But right away I understood the reasoning behind it; most tourist don’t know what Junkanoo is, so invariably you end up explaining it as a ‘carnival like parade with music and costumes’. It probably makes sense just to call it carnival, but does that make it right thing for us?
You know what, maybe I’m over-reacting, just like a typical Bahamian I’m knocking something before understanding what it’s all about. So after this exchange on the Straight Talk Bahamas Facebook page I decided to go read about it some more.
What Is Bahamas Carnival?
Bahamas Carnival is a collection of celebrations, balls, concerts, cultural shows and street parades that pull from all aspects of Bahamian culture and heritage staged during the months of April and May. There are four main events organised by the Bahamas National Festival Commission that will take place during Carnival Week, from May 3-9.
Junka-ManiaWill showcase Junkanoo music and other Junkanoo inspired folk forms such as drumming and dance. JunkaMania bands will perform originally composed music in concert-style, on the biggest Junka stage in the world.
The All-Star Bahamian ConcertWill feature our top ten local finalists in the carnival song competition and a Grammy award-winning artist. Together, these masters of the music universe will transform the iconic festival village into the greatest musical experience the Bahamas has ever seen.
Midnight Rush A massive street rush through the heart of the community aimed at drawing thousands of loyal Junkanoo spectators on the streets to participate in Junkanoo without the confines of competition. No costumes and no organized lines. The motto for this Junkanoo street rush is “Don’t Spectate. Join the Rush.”
Road FeverBahamian masquerade street party that closes out the Bahamas Carnival. It is a costumed parade incorporating a unique mix of live and recorded music. Competitive party groups of varying sizes will dance through the streets in a processional, ending at the most iconic foreshore grandstand crossing of any carnival. The costumes for this event will incorporate indigenous Bahamian material.
So some of this sounds really good. Like Junkamania, and midnight rush. Road fever is obviously a straight ripoff of brazil/trinidad carnival and I have some concerns about the Bahamas all star concert concept.
But the key problem for me is why does it have to be called “Carnival”? Why couldn’t all this have been wrapped up under a Bahamas “Junkanoo” Festival heading, celebrating our culture?
I’m not the only one to take issue with this event however,
Noted Bahamians Stand Against “Bahamian Carnival” Idea
Dr. Nicolette Bethel
In an article in the Nassau Guardian on June 2013, Antropologist, Author and former director of culture, Dr. Nicolette Bethel was critical of the event
Bethel told Guardian Arts&Culture before Christie’s communication earlier this week that she did not have a problem with the idea per se, and that it was long overdue, but the timing and title were both “awful”.
“As a result I don’t think it’s feasible,” she said. “I have no idea what consultation, if any, was done with the relevant community. It falls during the Junkanoo downtime and I do not think that the practitioners will seriously be able to prepare for it, and in fact many of the most serious (Junkanooers) are out of the country attending the real carnivals that take place all around our region at that time — New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, and of course Port-of-Spain.”
more recently she had this to say on twitter;
While the jury is out for me on the May 2015 carnival I agree with this caller re branding. Intelligence trumps laziness everytime.
— Nicolette Bethel (@nicobet) May 30, 2014
Because uniqueness provides a competitive edge over coattail-riding. — Nicolette Bethel (@nicobet) May 30, 2014
Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie
But Dr. Nicolette is not the only or most vocal opponent others cultural icons have step up in recent months and expressed their displeasure with the whole idea.
In recent editorials Bahamian cultural icon Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie has expressed his disgust with the idea and taken the comitte to task on the idea. Here’s some of what he had to say
“…I am offended by this proposition of a “Bahamian Carnival” because this enrages every fibre of my Bahamian being.”
“Many have sacrificed their lives and livelihood to uplift this country’s culture, all of the hard work done to instill national pride back into our people’s lives have been flushed away by the laziness and copycatness (if there ever was a word, it would be appropriate here), of a few, and only shows the weakness and lack of ideas by our nation’s leaders.”
“There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from other jurisdictions, studying the successes of their festivals, (I am sure it has already been done), but not at the expense of further diluting and watering down of our Bahamian culture, and kicking our people further down the ladder’s rung of not knowing and feeling positive about themselves, (which I think is a main reason for the escalation in crime and for the moral decay in our country).
“So you want another Festival? We have them already, take your pick, why bring in another foreign cultural experience into our midst and ask us to finance and support it?”
“Straight up, I will not support this festival, it’s song competition, or any part of it, in any way as long as it is called a Carnival”
Dr. Nicolette Bethel’s tweets probably reference the fact that there are over 200 carnival festivals in the world and that this Bahamian carnival idea is a lazy attempt to latch onto the popularity of the “carnival” brand for economic reasons. However, Junkanoo is unique and a brand we should build instead of adapting to carnival in which we can only ever be second rate.
I think KB captured my feelings