When the Carnival Dream berthed at the Roseau Cruise Ship Pier on the same
day as the Opening Parade of Mas Domnik 2016, I felt that it had to be a magical coincidence.
I arrived at the start of the parade route near the Fort Young Hotel on Victoria Street just before the 3 p.m. start time. The bands, that is, specific groups of participants were assembling and warming up for this celebratory afternoon. It would be the first major event on Dominica since the devastation of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015. While the country continues to recover and rebuild, I noticed that this much-anticipated Carnival event brought joy to the faces of the revellers and spectators that afternoon.
Although the parade started a little late, it was well worth the wait. To see the smiles of delight on the streets after several stressful months lifted my spirits and brought tears of happiness to my eyes.
Of course, there were hundreds of cruise ship passengers viewing the spectacle too. I spoke to a few of them and they were completely in awe of the creativity and colour that surrounded them on this beautiful day in paradise.
Traditionally, the Opening Parade gives everyone a taste of what will come over the next few weeks, culminating in two days of street jump-ups on Monday February 8th and Tuesday February 9th this year. Those particular days precede Ash Wednesday and the commencement of Lent. You can read more about the origins of Dominica’s Carnival in an earlier post right here.
Beauty pageants, along with calypso song competitions form a big part of the Carnival activities. All of the Queen, Teen and Princess contestants looked lovely and sported their sweetest smiles in anticipation of winning their ‘crown’.
Here is a peek at some, but not all of the lovely ladies and girls who made their presence known on that beautiful Saturday afternoon in Roseau:
From top left: Carnival Princess 2015 Lytleen Julien; Supporters of their Convent High School Teen Pageant Contestant; Teen Pageant Contestant from Convent High School
From bottom left: Contestant in the Dominica State College Jambouree; Miss Dominica Contestant Nawana Shillingford; Miss Dominica Contestant Tasia Floissac
All of the young ladies sparkled and shimmered in their finery. I succumbed to the magic of their Carnival charms as if I were walking around in a fairyland!
But there was much more than beauty on the streets of Roseau that dreamy, steamy afternoon in the nation’s capital. After the procession of pageant contestants, plentiful beasts emerged en masse, creating an extreme juxtaposition with the earlier serene scene. The prolific masqueraders clearly portrayed what ‘playing mas’ is all about!
Scary bestial Sensays in horns and masks, the fiersome and feared ‘Bann Mauvé’ with their wizard-like hats from the village of Colihaut, frightening ‘darkies’ covered in black, cracking whips all added to the sinister side of Carnival magic. Some of them did actually try to scare me as I boldly stepped on to the street to capture them with my camera. However, I did not succumb to fear for one good reason: despite their attire, they all appeared to be having a fantastic time. I could only smile and laugh along with them. What better Carnival dream than that!
Here is a glimpse at what they looked like ‘pon de road‘:
Then the Carnival dream changed direction again, and I found myself admiring a large band of little boys pushing their cleverly constructed home-made toy trucks, called
kabouways. This longstanding Dominican tradition has recently regained prominence, and the craft is a tremendous source of pride – especially for fathers and sons who make them together.
And little girls demonstrated their rhythmic and athletic prowess in coordinated movements, despite the soaring temperature, as renowned ‘Flag Wavers’.
I also admired an ornately-dressed band of Kalinago people from the northeastern village of Sineku. Their pride of traditions was clearly evident and they too, were clearly enjoying themselves.
After an hour and a half, the late afternoon sun began to cast long shadows, as well as an intense glare on the road. The magical dream switched again and this time gorgeous revellers and other vibrant characters, suggestive of the bacchanal appeared on the street, captivating onlookers with their flamboyant costumes, like this:
This Carnival fantasy just didn’t seem to end. But I began to return to reality with the pounding beat of the traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin drum) bands. Sweat poured from their brows as they marched along the parade route. But there was no stopping them: the rhythm of the magical Carnival season is in their blood!
There were reality checks too: The Police Band posted this sobering suggestion on the front of their Carnival truck:
As I awakened from my personal revelry, I realized that I did not see the ever-popular stilt-walkers (Bwa Bwa), as they must have entered the parade further along the route. I’ll be sure to include them in my next Carnival dream!
Once again, I had fallen under the spell of Carnival magic in Dominica. I suspect the potion should last until Ash Wednesday. Be assured that I’ll let you know about other reveleries I experience during Mas Domnik 2016!