It may have been anticipated, but now it's official: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trinidad and Tobago's carnival celebrations have been canceled.
The Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, announced it on the afternoon of September 28, calling the national activity “a perfect environment for the spread of the virus.” Despite the economic blow that this decision will entail, he said he is not prepared to take the risk.
Predictably, there were various reactions. While the majority of people supported the decision and described it as “predictable” and “solid”, others wondered about the fate of those whose income depends on the national holiday. When a Facebook user called the decision “crazy,” Josie Aché-De Goulard replied:
NOT! it's realistic and logical is what it is. Everyone else has already gone ahead and canceled theirs. I do not possibly see how any “right thinking” citizen of T&T could possibly think to put the country under further threat from Covid-19.
NOT! It's realistic and logical, that's what it is. Everyone else has already gone ahead and canceled theirs (carnivals). I don't see how a “conscious” citizen of Trinidad and Tobago could think of putting the country under a greater threat from COVID-19.
The 2020 Trinidad and Tobago Carnival had already ended when the country registered its first case of COVID-19 in March.
Other countries that celebrate carnival each year, such as Brazil, have already postponed their 2021 activities. This is the third time in history that Trinidad and Tobago has suspended its carnival, a story that Trinidadian Michael Anthony recounted in his book “Parade of the Trinidad Carnivals, 1839-1989 ″.
In the chapter entitled “Carnival in a world at war,” Anthony pointed out that it continued to be celebrated, as usual, during the First World War, which was fought mainly in Europe. After its end, the 1919 Carnival celebrations became known as the “Carnival of Victory.” Whereas during World War II it was not celebrated at all between 1942-1945, although there were “spontaneous” celebrations on May 8 and 9, in honor of Victory in Europe Day, and on August 15 and 16, 1945 for Victory over Japan Day.
The street parade was also postponed from February 1972 to May 1973 due to the threat of polio, so the move to postpone the celebrations to the following year is nothing new. What's more, many netizens foresaw it but expected a virtual celebration to take place.
In a Facebook status update on June 24, Maria Rivas-Mc predicted that “promoters are going to have to use Zoom to bring attendees closer to the music and the atmosphere of concert halls abroad”! . Virtual carnivals are something costume designers like Clary Salandy have already been experimenting with – the band she and her husband created for the 2020 Notting Hill carnival was featured online.
Also interested parties in the Trinidad and Tobago carnival expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to share their creativity in the virtual world. On facebook, Marc Bejai suggested:
We keep forgetting that there are elements of carnival that are outside the realm of the street parade. We should adapt and showcase our calypso, pan, extempo and dimanche gras much like how sporting events are still being carried out.
We keep forgetting that there are carnival elements that are outside the scope of the street parade. We should adapt and show our calypso, bread, extempo and dimanche gras how sports activities continue to be carried out.
Both calypso music and steelpan instruments (or metal drums) originate from Trinidad and Tobago. Extempo refers to an extemporaneous form of calypso and Dimanche Gras, translated as “Great Sunday”, is an extraordinary show in which coveted titles such as the Monarch of the Calypso are decided upon.
Franka Philip of Trini Good Media, which produces the podcast “Talk 'bout us”, gathered opinions on what a virtual carnival might look like. Many commenters felt it would be best to simply postpone the celebrations, with Zahra Gordon suggesting that it may be an opportune time “to re-focus on Community Carnivals and limit the size of the big bands.”
Anthony Bisnath added:
Aside from the issue of a vaccine being made available globally, it's difficult to envision any Carnival 2021 at all, due to the commercialization of the festival, and the limitations of two major sources of revenue: Government expenditure will be prioritized elsewhere, and corporate entities will slash sponsorship budgets.
Having a 2021 Carnival may jeopardize the planning cycle for one in 2022. It will be almost impossible to execute, as Carnival mas (costume) production is essentially a 12 month cycle. So there are challenges to logistics, Sponsorship, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Costuming, International Travel, Consumer Patterns, Disposable Income and Statutory Approvals all changing for the next 18 months.
Aside from the question of the availability of a vaccine worldwide, it is difficult to imagine a Carnival 2021, due to the commercialization of the festival and the limitations of the two main sources of income: Government spending will be prioritized elsewhere and corporate entities sponsorship budgets will be cut.
Having a carnival in can jeopardize the 2022 carnival planning cycle. It will be almost impossible to execute, as the production of the Carnival costume is a cycle that takes 12 months. There are logistical difficulties, sponsorship, supply chain, manufacturing, costumes, international travel, consumer patterns, disposable income and regulatory approvals, everything changes in the next 18 months.
However, Tillah Willah, who enjoys carnival, was not concerned and wrote on Facebook:
You don't always need a crowd to observe your ritual, to praise your ancestors, to offer thanks to the universe for your life.
You don't always need a crowd to observe your ritual, to praise your ancestors, to thank the universe for your life.
However, one Twitter user was not so optimistic:
I woulda rather get horn than be told it having no carnival
– Travis World 😷 (@itstravisworld) September 28, 2020
I'd rather get horned than tell me there's no carnival.
In Caribbean slang, “Horn” means infidelity.
Other netizens wondered if, given the cancellation of the physical street parade, they would have to go to work on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Apart from essential services, most workplaces are closed on these two days, even though they are not official holidays.
It didn't take long for the memes to appear. This one teased what 2021 designs could be in a highly sought after band, known for their short suits:
It's something that producers and faithful participants of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival are still trying to figure out, but the Rubadiri Victor hoped that a virtual carnival 2021 was being prepared:
Trinidad and Tobago should see virtual Carnival 2021 as the launch of T & T's virtual economy! (…) We are creating a telegenic event with brilliant filmmakers and Carnival, Creative, and Business stakeholders for international consumption with brand T&T as the winner!
Trinidad and Tobago should see virtual carnival 2021 as the premiere of the country's virtual economy (…). We are creating a telegenic activity with brilliant filmmakers and Carnival actors, creatives and entrepreneurs for international consumption with the Trinidad and Tobago brand as the winner.