The Lavway

The Story

At the end of 2020, the masquerader calls, tweets and posts led us to think of a concept called ‘Dear Carnival’, where masqueraders would be given the opportunity to write and express themselves first-hand to Carnival personified…

I don’t think we knew what we were getting into until we started receiving and reading their submissions.

At the same time, I was bubbling the LAVWAY pot and I don’t think I realized at the time how much each related to the other… LAVWAY was being prepared as my love letter to Carnival… so today, I wanted to break in my usual free speaking style and speak to you by reading My ‘Dear Carnival’ submission.

 Dear Carnival,

How yuh
GOIN?

It’s been so long and so much has happened. Carnival 2020 was very bess and thank you for leaving us with the best road memories ever… but shame on you for not telling us what was to come. Our memories have been lasting and have taken us through the past few months. I have seen more TBT images and videos than I have ever seen before and stretching for way longer than I’ve ever seen before.

People clung onto you for hope, memory, and good vibrations amidst everything that was happening…

Thank you for being there for our masqueraders and family, for being a beacon of light and for reminding them of good times during not so good times.

Carnival girl, when the official announcement was made that we wouldn’t touch the road this year , masqueraders called me in tears. They were distraught, they were broken… in that moment their connection to their island, ancestry, colour and creed seemed to be taken away from them . Yuh know, sometimes when those of us who work in the industry are here in the middle of this magic every day, we forget what ‘THIS’ means to those on the outside.

Thank you for being what you are and meaning what you mean to all of us. Thank you for giving us that energy and that gas to go through everything that we do everyday.

Dear Carnival ,
Dis ting tryin to mash we up… 2020 was hard for all of us, especially creatives. We have had extreme ups and downs and I felt like I ran out of gas by the end of last year… I didn’t know what to do with myself and I didn’t know why… but when we cried, you called out to us and I was so happy you did, that I had to answer. The call and response of LAVWAY started from you and we came in as the chorus… lavway is the language, the music and the driving force of those who came before us and you knew that we needed that to push us through this hard time.
You knew that we would find power and strength in the rhythm of the creative process and our drums would beat louder and louder again.

My dear Carnival , LAVWAY Is our love story to you , but really it’s the story of you and so I suppose your story to us… it’s a tale that shows everything I just said… how we feel for you and how you make us feel. It’s a story that shows how people have tried so many times over the years in times of war, and disease, to say that you were not coming, but you did… because your people needed you.

LAVWAY is a story that started before us and will go on way after us and I feel so lucky to be part of the chorus.
Thank you for allowing me to play, create and tell your story with freedom, love and respect and so in tribute to you here I go.

Once upon a time there were three siblings… Savannah, Time and Carnival. They been around way before you and I and way before they were called by those names. Savannah was the youngest… he was fun and carefree and saw life and our world develop around him… he was wise and caring and knew all the stories of our people. He saw things differently and bent reality with every passing breeze, rustle in the trees and smile on a child’s face.

Time was the eldest, the big brother and would always bubalize Savannah, pushing him around here and there as big brothers do but always keeping a watchful eye.

And then there was Carnival, their sister and the apple of their eye. She brought balance to them and acted as judge, jury and mediator to the brother’s feuds. She was strong, confident, but nurturing and caring like a mother to them.

Every year without fail Carnival visited her brothers. Savannah, particularly looked forward with great excitement. This year, he heard someone say that she wasn’t coming… he got upset, but then laughed in their face and waited patiently for his sister…

And it is here that our Story of LAVWAY is told.

Dear Carnival,

Your story
is so BIG

It can’t be told in one go and so this is just the beginning… I don’t know what will come next but I promise you that I have dedicated my life to telling our stories and have only just started .

Your story is so wide that it can’t be told by one person alone… it took a big team and bring this into being. Ryan, Shane Oliver and the film team told your story thru their lenses, Lou and Freetown raised every idea with sound, Muhammed spoke to you with poetry and words, and Bridgette danced this poetry into our hearts.

Natallia, Renee, JP, Keon, Atiba, Shandelle, Shawn, Kriston and Solange sewed, painted and decorated you into being. Kendal, Danielle, Gaby and our Lost Tribe, UEL and TRIBE teams fought constantly with your big brother ‘Time’ and made this happen, despite his greatest efforts, while Antron and Carib stood by us giving support like you brothers Poui trees. Our families, friends, masqueraders and Trinidad and Tobago missed you and believed in you so much that they gave us the energy to make this happen.

You have given us so much for so long… I hope you like what we have for you this year.

Dear Carnival, just one more thing before you go. I cannot end this letter without acknowledging this thing. You know we like to say ‘Carnival is Woman’. Yes, you are woman and woman is you. That strong, undeniable energy has always been to us a celebration of freedom and a fierce opposition to injustice.

So I stand here with my team today to denounce and condemn all violence in our beautiful country, but right now, in this moment, especially that violence that is directed specifically towards the women of this country. This violence is not and cannot be our way.

In the tradition of call and answer, I want to use this platform to call on the nation to stand up, to recognise that the change we need to see is first and foremost in ourselves. Let each person stand up and say I AM THE SOLUTION.

We are the solution when we, as citizens, encourage conversation, accountability and action around ending Gender Based Violence.

To the men of this country – I am there with you. I am a son, a brother, a nephew and a friend. The solution and the change starts with us. For our mothers, our sisters, our aunties, tanties and friends, for the women we do not know and may never know – we need to do better and demand better.

We are the solution and the change starts with us.

Dear Carnival , welcome home and thank you for everything… Love, VAL