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Politicole: Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival . . . Why?

By NICOLE BURROWS

I
S it not bad enough that, as a country, we tend to exhibit a copycat, plagiarising, uninventive mindset? Now we have to cement that in place?

I’m not even a Junkanoo rat; this isn’t about my love affair with Junkanoo. You won’t find me spinning on my head in Rawson Square on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. But, if you slap a goatskin drum within my earshot, the native Bahamian in me is instantly activated and unmistakable. The beat of that drum is the pulse of a Bahamian. It may be the most inbred, authentic trait of our culture, an authenticity which should never be compromised.

To give credit where it is due, with this new Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, some of the costumes I’ve seen are lovely, but I can’t help but feel like the whole thing is a masquerade.

The dancers might as well cover their faces and hide their identities because what I identify with as a Bahamian in Junkanoo is lost in there somewhere, thrown off perhaps by the bikini-clad bodies and plentiful skin (women and men).

The costumes are quite attractive, but they look out of place … they’re trying too hard, they are inauthentic.

Problem

The real problem with Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, for a great number of Bahamians, is us conforming to what we think the world prefers instead of us being who we are. It is a reminder that we are not clear about who we are in the first place.

A popular radio caller with an entertainment background has been inserted as a/the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival spokesperson.

He, by his own admission, took some convincing on this matter, too, but now he’s promoting it most vociferously.

Maybe the committee thinks that the veteran entertainer’s preacher’s voice makes selling Bahamians on Junkanoo Carnival a done deal; he does have the vocal ability to persuade.

His voice is attractive and compelling and you really want to believe what he’s saying. I think he also really wants to believe what he’s saying.

But who is really buying it?

As I listened to him speak to one radio host about the non-Junkanoo, but not entirely unrelated, topic of “crime”, I heard him say that we have the problems we have in our country, particularly with our (delinquent) youth because we don’t know who we are. Unconvincingly converted, he – the mouthpiece for the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, the new festival superimposed on the traditional Bahamian culture and a borrowed concept from the region – says we don’t know who we are.

Well comin’ home. Did he not bite his tongue?

I wonder if he is deliberately or subconsciously ignoring the fact that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is not who we Bahamians are. It can never be who we are, I don’t care how you repackage it.

W
hy are we now, on a national level, endorsing insufficiency, the not-good-enough complex, and a lack of Bahamian identity, especially when we identify these things as the joint root of our worst problems?

The same problematic youth don’t know who they are or what their place in the world should be, because they’ve not been taught certain things about themselves, including how to love and value “self”.

And they’ve not been taught other ways of thinking about the world which extends beyond New Providence island … the world that is filled with history, anthropology, civics/civilization, culture/heritage … the things and respect for things that generate pride and confidence.

How are these young people meant to see themselves any differently, if they are being taught just enough to make them(selves) modern day slaves or pirates, or, if they’re being taught how to appropriate the exceptionalism of other cultures and slap a new label on it to make it their own?

O
ne of the biggest failures of our people to develop Bahamians/Bahamian culture is in not allowing the people of the Bahamas to see themselves as miniscule parts of a huge universe, instead indulging the belief that they are incredibly large, the be-all and end-all in their very small and small-minded worlds, exhibiting a severe lack of universal self-awareness and purpose.

The outcome of such a lack/loss of identity and a lack of awareness and belonging in the wider world is this kind of thing … Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival … that leads slowly, steadily and surely to the extinction of a culture and a people.

When I discovered/was made to understand that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was not meant to be a replacement for our other holiday parades, I wasn’t relieved in any way.

I was even more irritated.

So, then, I thought, what is the point of this exercise?

To, once per year, look and be like something other than we are so people will like us?

It is a retarded mentality.

It would seem that, in the end, the real impetus for this masquerade called Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is money, though even that is a lame effort at validating it.

Somebody thought this was a great idea to make money.

And maybe I could get aboard this bandwagon, were it not for two things.

Firstly, doing it for the money is tantamount to a loss of culture, so doing it at all is near to useless.

Secondly, the money that is hoped for is specifically projected to not be realised for at least several years into the festival’s existence.

Now, I know that governments sometimes need to put money into things that have no real or immediate returns, like social welfare and standing armies.

But this is not that.

This is something they are labelling an investment into culture and economy for the long term, when it is not.

Calling all successful business people: who amongst you will spend $9m you don’t have to begin with on something you expect and can be assured will lose money right away and for some years into the foreseeable future?

Nevertheless, the committee and its driving force continue to refer to the great economic value to be gained because of this disbursement of hard-to-come-by cash.

But that is a hard pill to swallow, with little to no evidence of benefit, and so much should not be riding on this one event with such a questionable outcome.

Economy

If the desire is really to invigorate the economy, the way to do it is not by gambling everything on an event that is, first of all, fleeting, but, second of all, will happen in conjunction with regularly occurring Junkanoo parades every year, thus negating its utility.

It will only serve to confuse the people who subscribe to it.

If I were a visitor to the Bahamas, I’d want to take part in the most authentic version of Junkanoo; I would not be coming to Junkanoo in the springtime because the Bahamas government thinks it should suit me better … or because it pops up more frequently in a Google search. I still can’t believe they stated that as justification for this new idea/name.

If the desire is really to invest in culture, then invest in the regular parades and make them some of the most phenomenal cultural events ever in the Caribbean region, occasions at which Trinidadians and Barbadians (for example) will be falling over one another to come here to see. Our people go to these countries, to Trinidad, Barbados, etc, to see and be a part of their authentic representations of their culture and their people. But we are inviting them to ours to see something that we truly are not … something that they are. All I can think is: laughing stock.

Education

Alternatively, if the desire is to invest in the people, then put that $9m into their education about their culture, or a foundation that truly and actively supports the development of Junkanoo as a native, creative art form. Or, wait, is that the job of a Ministry of Culture? I can’t tell anymore.

The one thing that really made Bahamians Bahamian has now been modified so that the loss of identity from which we already suffer can now become greater and occur faster.

If Junkanoo is becoming Carnival to make it more universally palatable, to fall in line with festivals in other Caribbean countries, what will remain unique about the Bahamas?

And, again, if it’s only a supplementary festival, not to be confused with the main Junkanoo festivals, then, really, why bother, especially when you can’t promise any financial returns from it?

When Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival fails to bring in the visitors, and money it is hoped to bring to the country never comes, what will be the plan then?

I hope the incomparable and faithful Junkanoo is still there to break the fall.

Send comments via 
Tribune242.com or 
politiCole.com.

Comments

jlcandu 4 years, 9 months ago

Well done. This government continues to prove that it is more interested in itself and its cronies than the country and the Bahamian people. It is a shame that efforts cannot be placed in promoting our own unique culture instead of trying to change what we have to suit what government perceives that visitors want.

Tourism in this country has taken a huge nosedive in terms of quality of service and attractions. The government needs to concentrate on improving what is already in place instead of wasting money on ideas and ventures that may or may not be successful.

Keep up the good reporting!!!

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Andrewharris 4 years, 9 months ago

I am of Trinidadian desent and lived there for a good portion of my life. I love Carnival (as all good Trinis do) When This Junkanoo Carnival was first proposed I was all in favour. I listened to and read comments by people for and against the idea. I considered the negative feedback just another example of Bahamian xenophobia. I saw no real harm in having this festival and t be honest I am still in favour. However after reading your article for the first time I am able to see this issue from another perspective and it is certainly food for thought. I have begun to look at this more objectively and started to put my Trini love for Carnival aside and truely examine this debate. Excellent atricle, well written.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 9 months ago

It's not xenophobia. It's a feeling of being insulted. Trinidad Carnival is beautiful and well suited for Trinidad. Barbados Cropover is well suited for Bajan culture. It's THEIRS and they love it. Bahamians love our Junkanoo why wasn't it good enough? I'm supporting Carnival myself but even I don't get it. I don't support the nakedness our girls are sexy but they always seem to be covered. I like that. Why wasn't it good enough? Why must we stoop to Nygard Cay hedonism and watlessness to please a few greedy old men. Our Junkanoo is good enough

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duppyVAT 4 years, 9 months ago

If Bahamians are to take part in the Carnival we have to call it a Gussie Mae parade ....... not too many a dese ppl can be seen in public in bikini without getting charged with a criminal fat offence

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pat242 4 years, 9 months ago

I see nothing wrong with The Bahamas hosting Carnival. In my opinion its about time. I could understand if the government wants to scrap Junkanoo for Carnival, Then you have a point worth argueing. For those people who have such a negative vibe towards Carnival my question is why ain't you making noise bout the media that plays everything else except Bahamian. The concerts who promote and invest in everything else except Bahamian. i love this country and would hate for Carnival to fail. Why? Bahamians will lose nine million dollars, the independent vendors who is looking to make money to feed their famalies will lose, the hotels and local economy will lose and The Bahamas will look bad internationally. Bahamians need to be openminded. Picture Trinidad invest monies to bring Bahamas Junkanoo to Trinidad and the citizens reject us. Come on Bahamas think logically.

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pablojay 4 years, 9 months ago

@pat242,only on a few occasions i have heard such bias reasonings as yours. I for one am a Bahamian who dislikes most of the foreign influences in our country, from the radio personalities with their affected American accent,the music they play,sagging pants,etc. I could go on the another twenty lines ,but i think you see my point .To bring Carnival to the Bahamas initially investing all that money,just to show skimpily clad bodies is a disgrace,because when i think of Junkanoo i think of our culture, when i think of Carnival i think of sexy bodies,pure hedonism! I WANT ONE OF THOSE GIRLS ,OR TWO,OR THREE! Everyone who goes to Carnival anywhere has similar thoughts ,boys,girls,party ,drinking and sex,to hell with the beautiful costumes! That money should have been spent on education,healthcare,social services etc, where you get a return on the people not the money

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 9 months ago

Yep that's my problem with the concept. I don't like this watlessness that they're promoting. We have enough here already, we don't need anymore of it. Have the festival but make it clean and appealing

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berryj 3 years, 8 months ago

The carnival which happens in Sri Lanka is also amazing and is surely worth attending it. It is held in some time and is always included in http://www.simonsholidays.in/internat...">srilanka tour package if you are traveling in that time.

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