Mask de Mas: DOMA seeks to have creative COVID Carnival

By Joshua Seemungal and Geisha Alonzo,

The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) has listed ways the organisation believes that a Carnival can still be held in Trinidad and Tobago this year.

Among the concerns of the Port-of-Spain business organisation, is that the lack of some sort of Carnival can have psychological effects on nationals.

However, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell is maintaining that Carnival this year remains cancelled.

DOMA laid out its position in a media statement yesterday, reminding the government that Carnival is part of the ‘economic DNA of T&T’ and is usually what kickstarts the economy each year.

“We however also wish to posture that, in our respectful opinion, Carnival is also part of our cultural and psychological DNA for huge cross-sections of our citizens especially our young people. It represents our creativity, exuberance and fun-loving nature that has made us the popular Carnival destination that we are. It’s absence could have a very depressing effect on us psychologically,” DOMA said.

In that regard, DOMA outlined five ways in which, what it called a COVID Carnival can be held.

The measured included:

(1) A unique limited edition 3ft diameter costume that by definition would keep two masqueraders at least 6ft apart.

(2) A moving parade of reduced numbers, which carefully supervised, would maintain social distancing and because of reduced numbers would be allowed to move freely through the streets.

(3) A moving Panorama competition, judged on the move by judges who are also moving on platforms and including a rearrangement of pan so that the sound effect is not diminished by the requested social distancing.

(4) An open-air calypso tent reminiscent of the very geniuses of calypso who sang under a tent with all applicable seating arrangements and distancing employed with all safety protocols applied.

(5) The creation of a unique Carnival Covid Mask (perhaps a Carnival Mask Competition with health criteria included in the conditions) which not only protects the spectators and the masqueraders but becomes a symbol of the design genius among our citizens which is often paid lip service but hardly given its rightful recognition by those who hold the reigns.

DOMA said that to discard Carnival 2021 without any efforts to find an imaginative alternative, “is to say that we have also discarded our creative thinking that we so often pride ourselves on.”

It added: “We, of our own volition, seem to be giving back the cultural ‘trophy’ that the world gave us and standing on the sidelines without any effort at innovation. We seem to be fulfilling the doctrine of underdevelopment of ‘why take risks when we can do nothing and have nothing to do’.”

It added that comparisons with other major carnivals that have been cancelled will only prove a “special T&T brand of intellectual impotence.”

“The mere fact that others have cancelled their Carnival actually leaves the proverbial stage of life vacant for us here in T&T to host some type of unique evolutionary festival. Scaled-down substantially of course but an exhibition nevertheless of our great talent and cultural richness,” DOMA noted.

DOMA argued that the Carnival vacuum created internationally by COVID-19 represents a novel opportunity for this country to prove its Carnival worth and creative genius to the world.

Responding to DOMA’s proposal, Minister Mitchell reiterated that, “Carnival 2021 was cancelled as announced by the Prime Minister. This decision was based on the best health data and advice in order to protect the lives of our citizens and to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Pan Trinbago’s President Beverly Ramsey-Moore saw merit in a possible moving-pan competition but said it certainly will not be Panorama.

“Not a Panorama. We don’t want to take away from Panorama. You don’t want to do something that takes away from what Panorama is really all about – the vibes, the presentation and musical arrangement,” Ramsey-Moore said.

Saying Panorama typically begins in December, Pan Trinbago’s president said the competition is all about community, meaning it involves high levels of interaction between people.

“It’s community soul,” she added.

Given the continued threat of the pandemic, she added, Pan Trinbago is not prepared to take any chances.

“Because it encourages large crowds and because people come from all over Trinidad and Tobago, then we have to be extremely careful. Our first priority is the lives of our players and people coming to the panyard,” she said in closing.

Attempts to contact the chairman of the National Carnival Commission Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters by telephone for his views were unsuccessful.

Main Photo: DOMA President Gregory Aboud

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