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Important to Caribbean festival arts are the ancient African traditions of parading and moving in circles through villages in costumes and masks. Circling villages was believed to bring good fortune, to heal problems, and chill out angry relatives who had died and passed in the next world. Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition putting together natural objects (bones, grasses, beads, shells, fabric) to create a piece of sculpture, a mask, or costume-with each object or combination of objects representing a certain idea or spiritual force.
Feathers were frequently used by African in their motherland on masks and headdresses as a symbol of our ability as humans to rise above problems, pains, heartbreaks, and illness-to travel to another world to be reborn and to grow spiritually. Today, we see feathers used in many, many forms in creating carnival costumes.
African dance and music traditions transformed the early carnival celebrations in the Americas, as African drum rhythms, large puppets, stick fighters, and stilt dancers began to make their appearances in the carnival festivities.
In many parts of the world, where Catholic Europeans set up colonies and entered into the slave trade, carnival took root. Brazil, once a Portuguese colony, is famous for its carnival, as is Mardi Gras in Louisiana (where African-Americans mixed with French settlers and Native Americans). Carnival celebrations are now found throughout the Caribbean in Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, Cuba, St. Thomas, St. Marten; in Central and South America in Belize, Panama, Brazil; and in large cities in Canada and the US where Caribbean people have settled, including Brooklyn, Miami, and Toronto. Even San Francisco has a carnival!
Source: Jamaica Observer
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Theresa Noni Charles, Cultural Travel Planner. Educator. Explorer.
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