This Saturday, Nov. 17, the Caribbean Student Association (CSA) will be hosting its annual Carnival celebration in the Mandela Room. The day show, titled “E.N.D. [Energy Never Dies],” begins at 2:30 p.m., while the night show “Rebirth” begins at 7:30 p.m. Participants can expect a mix of student showcases and professional performances during both shows, providing entertainment throughout the entirety of the day.
Although each island has its own unique twist on the event, the Carnival celebration as a whole is an important cultural staple throughout the Caribbean. Characterized by its high-energy atmosphere, the event often features vibrant dance, festive music and lush costumes. However, although the lively atmosphere of the annual tradition is undoubtedly worth noting, it is also important to recognize its complicated history, which includes topics as complex as diaspora and colonialism.
According to Kayla Green, CSA president and a senior majoring in human development, recognizing the historical background of Carnival through performance-based dialogue is a major theme in this year’s campus-based celebration.
“This year, our theme is ‘trouble in paradise,’ so it’s kind of going to talk about the complicated birthright of Carnival and how it all came about,” Green said.
The event will also discuss how the jubilation associated with Carnival is, ultimately, a transcendence of tribulation.
“When slavery ended, the now completely freed slaves would outwardly celebrate their native culture and their emancipation through dress, music and dancing, as well as cuisine,” Green said.
Saturday’s Carnival will continue this hallowed tradition of cultural pride through a variety of unique means. The day show alone, for example, will consist of performances by dance groups from SUNY Cortland and University at Buffalo, musicians playing steel drums and stilt walkers negotiating 11-foot-tall poles. In terms of fashion, participants can don masks as part of the masquerade, or take in a masquerade costume show and body paint displays. Although these latter two elements may seem controversial to someone not familiar with Carnival — women’s masquerade costumes are often revealing — Green stressed that they symbolize an important aspect of Carnival tradition.
“You’re going to be seeing what people may view as the hypersexualization of women,” Green said. “We like to say that we’re a sex-positive community.”
The festivities will continue during the night show, which is highlighted by live musical performances. One such performance will be an interactive DJ sound clash: Two artists will go head-to-head, with the crowd deciding the winner by “voting” with their cheers. Later, students will be treated to a concert featuring two professional musicians from abroad: Up-and-coming artist Motto will perform the opening act before capping off the Carnival celebration, and Jamaica-based reggae singer Dexta Daps will take the stage — a noteworthy appearance, considering Daps’ extensive international touring history and significant YouTube following.
Although the daylong Carnival celebration is centered largely around entertaining events, its underlying goal is more than just having fun.
“It’s really about preserving Caribbean culture on campus,” Green said. “It’s very important to keep this tradition alive, because we want to make sure that the Caribbean culture is always known … this event helps students who are of Caribbean descent to find a home away from home, because they’re probably not going to get this experience elsewhere, and we want to make sure their time at [Binghamton University] was impactful.”