IAN KEVIN RAMDHANIE
Caribbean Institute for Security
and Public Safety
Instead of increased police patrols and police posts in the East Dry River, Port-of-Spain community, there should be an increase in the cultural awareness of the people and the teaching of local culture in the schools. The appeal came from Eintou Pearl Springer, playwright for yesterday’s Kambule (formerly Canboulay) re-enactment at the Piccadilly Greens, East Dry River. In an interview following the re-enactment of the 1881 Canboulay riots, Springer said it was time East Dry River, the birthplace of Carnival, “be given some real attention”.
She added that everything is now moving westward. “In our education system none of the children know about this Kambule. They think Carnival is wine and jam, they don’t know that people fought to have this Carnival the way it is,” Springer said. “Maybe this area should be given the recognition for the part it played in the culture. It would make a bigger impact than all the police posts. Culture is life, it gives a sense of self and identity. It is not (found) anywhere (any more), definitely not in the schools.”
Springer, who dedicated yesterday’s celebration to Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, called for Liverpool’s book Rituals of Power and Rebellion: The Carnival Tradition in Trinidad and Tobago 1763-1962, to be used in the nation’s schools. She commended those who came out for the 5 am re-enactment, adding that it is growing annually.
Earlier, the sun was nowhere in sight, yet young, old and those in between, yawning and sipping on coffee, were in place to witness the birth of what we now know as Carnival Monday and Tuesday. On standby in the event of an emergency were heavily armed police officers. Outside of the confined “stage” vendors sold drinks out of coolers packed in grocery carts while one man shouted “pies, pies”, his eyes fixated in the cooler in front of him as he sought to accommodate a customer.
The cast, a mix of University of the West Indies (UWI), St James Youth Club, Belmont Freetown Cultural Arts Folk Company and other groups, thrilled the audience with their rendition of what transpired that fateful day in 1881 when the police force, headed by Captain Arthur Baker, sought to bring Canboulay to an end as it was deemed a threat to public safety following clashes between groups of stick and torch-carrying revellers in previous years.
The scene was set in a stick fighting community, simply called “The Barracks”. Descendants of and freed slaves chatted and chanted among themselves of the pains they went through each time they attempted to celebrate their African heritage with a flambeau and stick fighting. They vowed, however, that this time around they would not back down.
After the police received a sound beating from the stick fighters, called “Bois men/women”, as they attempted to stop them from their celebrations, British Governor Freeling, played by Brendon Lacaille, vowed not to interfere with the descendants anymore and gave them the city to enjoy the festivities for two days uninterrupted.
Crowds jostle for images
The name Canboulay was changed to Kambule in 2010 by playwright and director Springer. Kambule is the Kikongo word for “procession”. Spectators with cameras, smartphones and ipads eager to immortalise the re-enactment jostled each other to capture what was taking place, whether it was the mock stick fighting or the confusion between two women over a man. Children were seen with their eyes wide open and smiles on their faces looking on as the leaders in the play executed their lines, seemingly flawlessly.
At the end of the re-enactment spectators were treated to Blue Devils, jab-jab, moko jumbies and pan music. The Blue Devils had some children and one or two mature women running, while others simply paid them they money they were seeking to stay off. One woman was seen running under the recently constructed bleachers to escape a Blue Devil.
Two women, who said they had to wake up as early as 3.30 am to reach on time, said yesterday’s re-enactment was the first they had seen live, as in years past they looked at it on television. They promised it would not be their last.