Guyana Carnival… I cringed the first time I came across the viral posters floating around Instagram. Not necessarily because I felt it was trying to mimic the Carnival cultures of its fellow Caribbean contenders but more so because I have grown extremely tired and bored of the standard nature costuming has diluted itself to.
Apart from the music, Carnival periods are honestly like the Caribbean’s version to fashion week, street style extravaganza. So many local artisans have crafted business models off this niche season while some designers even usually launch their collections just before to take advantage of the record high consumption from local patrons. Therefore, given the fact that Carnival mostly revolves around costuming and the general frolicking in your best gear during the lead up to the final parade, sustainability has always been a highly entertained thought in my mind. How long is it before people get exhausted by the same thing and even more so since the concept is being cut and pasted in different ways? Before seeing my explore page laced with peacock style like costumes in the most eccentric colours last weekend, I could almost have guessed it would have looked that way.
Apart from needing to sustain the concept of Guyana Carnival through highly innovative designs to attract revelers repeatedly, questions were raised over the imported and unnatural feeling the new event encompassed and what will become of Mashramani even though the two have been differentiated clearly in more than one way. To be honest, I personally welcome the whole Guyana Carnival concept from a commercial standpoint and what it means to local artisans and businesses. I also think we live in a highly globalized society that seeks not only to improve business but also to influence sub cultures. Besides, Guyana Carnival is privately owned so who are we to be up in arms?
However, while living in a globalized society is wonderful and feeding off of sub cultures is convenient to business, some carnival cultures have engrained ethical problems that we sometimes override for the sake of good optics. My good friend Stephanie Ramlogan from Trinidad penned a beautiful piece back in 2016 entitled “The Greatest Show on Earth?” I have attached an excerpt of what I remembered immediately when I saw the likes of Timeka Marshall and former Miss Guyana Earth Stacy Ramcharran parading with the feather ensembles in promotional gigs.
“Every year during the band launch season you hear the same complaints, and strangely witness the same high expectations. I’m not going to talk about seeing the same costume on every stage. I’m not going to talk about the ultra-revealing body wear that only silicone pumped breast-users can pull off. I’m not going to talk about the wanton torture of millions of birds for their plumes. I’m not going to talk about the clear racial divide between the bands and sections. I’m not going to talk about the unapologetic plagiarism of Victoria’s Secret and other Carnival designers’ work, whether it be from years past (and hopefully forgotten) or work from the current year running! I am not going to talk about the escalating levels of vanity, the Monday Wear Culture nor the exclusivity of all-inclusivity. I’m not going to talk about the redundant Soca songs, the seasonal play they get on the radio nor the fan-driven war between Bunji and Machel. I’m not going to talk about the manufacturing in China, nor the fact that anyone woman bigger than a UK size 12 will possibly never fit properly into a backline costume (unless she has links in the band and gets the hook-up).”
Even from a brief glance miles away, I could see the same typical toxic carnival culture being visually peddled through the launch. My husband remarked to me before I highlighted this, that there is nothing wrong with more than one country having a Carnival celebration, look at fashion week. First it gained major popularity in the West and now they are popping up all over and we actually don’t even need all of the clothing. I rebutted that the difference is every country or city in which it is hosted in brings a different flavour and general aesthetic, London offers crazy and quirky and Milan is miles different with its glamorous elegance and femininity. This is my general problem with Guyana Carnival, it seeks to import the toxic side of Caribbean carnival culture. That even they too have started to divulge from for example ‘The Lost Tribe’. I think the time frame is an excellent choice and it will serve well for businesses but it’s a no from me based on the costumes.