Wed | Jun 19, 2024

Editorial | Carnival, the cultural mirror

Published:Saturday | April 20, 2024 | 12:06 AM
Xodus revellers crossing the stage on Trafalgar Road at the Jamaica Carnival road march.
Xodus revellers crossing the stage on Trafalgar Road at the Jamaica Carnival road march.

Carnival 2024 was a financial boon, earning for the economy some $4.6 billion, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The ministry’s Delano Seiveright reported that this carnival season returned to pre-pandemic levels, attracting some 10,000 revellers in the culminating road march on Sunday, April 7.

He cited revenues gained from increased numbers in hotels and other accommodation, and from then activities of transport operators, barbers and hairdressers, costume designers, food vendors, production crews and many others. As the ministry continues its tally, it will likely factor in the supporting role it played in enabling the participation of overseas social media influencers and investments made by other ministries and agencies of government to ensure a successful carnival. For example, there would have been additional police support to help keep the streets safe and more importantly, to counter Kingston’s image as a high-crime city.

Starting in the 1990s with Bryon Lee and the Dragonnaires as one of the early drivers, carnival in Jamaica has grown to tremendous heights becoming a glittering, annual extravaganza. But before that, students from Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands who were enrolled at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, had given Jamaicans a taste of the spectacle of music, elaborate costumes and dance, that carnival represent. It is believed that early iterations of carnival took place in Greece and the Roman Catholic church then adapted it to celebrate the beginning of Lent.

Any analysis of Jamaica carnival is likely to conclude that it is a well-organised, well-coordinated affair with the potential and capacity to attract even more people. Proper planning and execution must be present to successfully move thousands of people to block parties, fêtes, tourism hotspots outside of Kingston and other tourism-related activities. Yes, there were complaints about the quality of the food, some costumes were reportedly falling apart, and the trash didn’t get moved as quickly as expected, but those are minor irritations in the wider scheme of things. Kudos to the organisers.

One thing is evident, carnival does not pretend to be a platform for raising awareness or demanding societal change. It is what it is – a huge party where joy beats in the hearts of revellers and where streaks of irreverence exist in the conduct of persons in the street parades.

Offensive and disrespectful

But something else came to the fore this carnival. There was a video that went viral which we believe reflected a moment of sheer madness during the road march, when a scantily dressed woman decided to target a policeman on duty with her gyrations. Even though the young policeman remained unmoved, many people found this to be offensive and disrespectful and voiced their opinion on social media. No, we are not the morality police, however, if carnival is a mirror of society, when did we abandon all respect for our men in uniform? The police on duty are expected to be professional and deserve to be treated in like manner. It is not okay to toss all social rules out of the window, in the name of fun.

Brand partners and sponsors of carnival include some of our most successful companies and we don’t believe actions such as shown in this particular video, ought to be laughed off in the name of fun. Which of our sponsors would condone such unabashed behaviour in their establishment? More and more carnival is looking like a sacred cow with persons afraid to criticise revellers and government being loathe to set boundaries.

The date of the next road march has been announced as April 27, 2025. Dare we hope for more respectful behaviour being displayed and even more thoughtful sponsorship decisions?