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In the age of Mancrab
It's just a Carnival
And your life is
such a masquerade
It's just a Carnival
Come on, see yourself
And don't you be afraid.
—Dance baby Dance,
We are living in the age of Mancrab. So Mr Uncle Minsh say. The place pack up tight and full in an art gallery not made for such screenings. Because, of course, we have no national film theatre. No national cinema that is focused on showing local content. We have to wait for benign capitalists like Derek Chin to give us a bligh in his mangrove mausoleum.
We ram up and cram up to see a film about Mr Uncle Minsh. And he reads a little statement about the mas after. He is a masman, he says, like a European would say pianist. Like an Italian would say sculptor. But in the age of Mancrab, there is no honour in being a creator of things for the sake of beauty, or catharsis, or purging.
In the age of Mancrab we mistake pretty, shininess with beauty. And plenty women feeling ugly about their bodies and doing one set of exercise until they bend themselves out of shape to fit into someone else’s idea of what beauty is. I remember that day clearly, although I must have been about four.
I remember the colour of the sky. And the tassa rumbling in my belly. Town feel Iwer was dotish to misspell mas in the song. But it wasn’t a mistake. Carnival used to be a weapon of mas distraction. Under the mask hid resistance and retention of rituals frowned on by the Christian colonials.
Carnival is now a weapon of mass distraction. And we’re all fighting for money from the state. Instead of fighting for creative excellence. Mr Uncle Minsh, you didn’t lie. We are living in the age of Mancrab. There was a time at the Havana Biennial in 2000 when I was stung with righteous indignation because a woman from Spain in a panel on performance art get up and tell Mr Uncle Minsh that his costumes pretty but it’s not really art.
And I wanted to know what was wrong with this woman. Who never put on a costume. Who never stand up waiting on the eastern end of the Savannah stage to play herself. Herself found in a different mask. But in the same way that this farse-and-out-of-place Spanish woman could be so disrespectful is the same way that we disrespect our art and our artists every day.
Somebody in the audience say, But why you never do any mas that was just beautiful? The age of Mancrab is mass distraction. The age of Mancrab is the tenseness in the aftermath of an election. Mancrab is the Indian woman in Tobago who gets shouted at from a car in Scarborough—“We doh want allyuh here”—and the African woman in Tunapuna who gets shouted at—“Is we time now.”
It is the braying illiteracy of leaders who know the buttons to press to create hysteria. Life is the Savannah stage and we are in a nightmare of our own creating. They don’t know the difference between a portfolio and posing. They playing a big mas of knowing what they doing. But their masks are slipping. Is not Uncle Alwyn build their mas. This Partnership mas was not a carefully constructed bit of engineering wonder.
This mas that our leaders are playing with is our lives. This age of Mancrab mas with the blood spreading until it soaks us all. It’s more than a Carnival tabanca for a time when mas used to mean something. When the self you were playing was not a vain and vacuous version.
But the most terrible and terrifying evidence that we are in the age of Mancrab is in the fact that if you were to say that word to anyone under 30, the likelihood is that they wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about. The age of Mancrab is most evidenced in the lack of awareness of the nightmare. The lack of consciousness that we are even asleep.
The blood is spreading as we sleep and there is nothing and none to raise the alarm.
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