African Continuities in the Phenomenon of Trinidad Carnival: An Evolution of Cultural Resistance and Liberation
Sean Michael Jansen
Thesis DT 3.5 2000 J367
x, 493 leaves: map; 29 cm.
On a small island in the southernmost region of the Caribbean Sea, over one million people from all around the world gather each year to celebrate and reaffirm that the African legacy lives on. This island is Trinidad - with an area of 1,864 square miles/4,828 square kilometers and an estimated 1999 population of 1.1 million-and the celebration is simply called 'Carnival', which means 'farewell to the flesh'. Many of the revelers might not realize the genuine African significance that lies behind each mask that is worn, every step that is danced, every pan that is beaten and every calypso that is sung. However, the dynamism and sheer enthusiasm that Trinidadians bring to the event of Carnival in the contemporary age show how dearly they appreciate and adore the history and cultural significance that is behind the biggest festival in all of the Caribbean.
In this thesis I plan to examine the African continuities or links that have historically played prominent roles in the formation of the Trinidad Carnival. These continuities function as an enormous component in the ever-evolving construction of a Trinidadian cultural and national identity. More importantly, the African contributions to the phenomenon of Carnival have systematically shown an inventive and ever-present means of resistance and assertion that continue to uplift Afro-Trinidadians spiritually, culturally, politically and socially.