Carnivale….it’s all about the textiles and the smiles

Carnivale started yesterday afternoon in Fort de France, and will continue through Ash Wednesday. The schedule of events is complex and interesting — everything from children dressed up as little devils on ‘Red Day’ to ‘Unilikely Couples’ on Wedding Day. I think Ash Wednesday is a Black and Red day, when a relic of King Vaval, the devil, will be paraded around and then symbolically buried for the start of Lent.

The parade on Saturday was like a pre-game event. It began with locals carrying colorful umbrellas and walking/dancing to loud drumming. It got us all in the mood!

Two years ago we were here in February, but it was not yet Carnivale. People were getting ready, though. The fabric store wares were spilling out into the street, and the fabrics were all garish, glittery yardages geared for making the most outlandish costumes.

I happened to wade/paw my way through the bolts to the back of one particular store, where I found beautiful printed linens from France. I hope to find a similar treasure this year….. I did not remember where the shop is located, but I have now managed to stumble on it twice, and lose it again. I hope I can find it one more time tomorrow morning when the shops will be open only for the morning. No pressure!

Some of the bystanders in yesterday’s opening parade were as interesting as the participants! Perhaps this little lady bug will be part of the childrens “red day.” I saw this gold sequined fabric in a number of shops.

Face painting extraordinaire!

Drumming factors heavily in these parades, and for several days prior we heard various groups practicing. It’s hard not to get in the mood when these wonderful rhythms are pulsing and vibrating through the city!

There were costumed dancers to accompany every drum corps (do you think that’s what they call themselves? Nah….), and plenty of spectators joined in the dancing too. Tutus came in all colors, sizes, and lengths.

There were queens of every conceivable type. I think this lovely woman must be queen of Fort de France for Carnivale.

The Coconut Queen….actually, I believe her banner reads Dauphine for next year’s Queen of Fort de France. Madras is the traditional fabric for all these islands.

There were lots of other queens too…. here is a tiny bride. Perhaps her ‘dauphine’ title suggest that she will be a bride in some future Carnivale….perhaps in 3 more years. I wonder if they pick these queens so long ahead of time so there is plenty of time to make these incredible dresses. I’m just conjecturing.

In the realm of beauty queens there were quite a few categories. I believe this beauty’s sash reads “queen of the north.” What beautiful young women, all. And the dress…it has hand drawn images, carefully placed

I’m not sure what this woman represented, but what a great costume!

Not all the women were young. Here’s a woman of a certain age, looking elegant as ever. I could not read all of her sash– perhaps queen mother of St. Lucia.

There were two children’s groups. One had children dressed in stereotypical Native American costumes–although this photo of the first row does not show that as well as the next several rows of chidlren– riding tiny ponies. They were adorable. Comically, they were followed by several older children carrying shovels and a one large garbage can in case of droppings.

The cutest children’s group was a drum corps. They seem to be elementary school aged children. Some played lengths of large bamboo while others played bongos and small drums. Their headdresses were the most fun! Can you see the bongos on their heads?

Even better than wearing a bongo on your head might be wearing a cage with a parrot inside! Do you think the kids quarreled over got to wear the caged birds? Do you think moms and grandmoms had fun making these? — though I certainly don’t want to assume that only women could make these fun accessories. Some men could have had a hand in these great headdresses!

Then there was a group I have dubbed The Grandmothers. Enjoy their ageless beauty, and most of all, their grace! I wish I could show you how they danced their way down the street.

And my favorite, the Queen Mother of Fort de France.

Tomorrow, Shrove Sunday, is the beginning of the true celebrations. It’s the day for all colors. And it’s King Vaval who will be buried on Ash Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are called the ‘fat days,’ Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras. Who knew? Here is a rather clumsy Google translation of the day:

The Shrove Sunday is the first day of the carnival celebration. This day is open to all follies and everyone puts on the disguise of their choice. A richness and a creativity are mixed then in the various parades, thanks to the freedom left to each one, to show his imagination. This day is characterized precisely by the variety of colors. It is also the day when King Vaval, a giant puppet made for weeks, will be presented in total secrecy. He will take the lead in the procession and will be promoted until Ash Wednesday.

I’m looking forward to it!

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