‘On de Road’ in Roseau for Dominica’s Carnival 2014*

It had been a few years since I ‘jumped in a band’ (put on a costume and played masquerade with an organized group) during

Gwendominica was set to 'Glow' with the Old Time Sake Band on Carnival Monday night in Roseau Dominica.

Gwendominica was set to ‘Glow’ with the Old Time Sake Band on Carnival Monday night in Roseau Dominica.

Dominica’s Carnival celebrations.  Most of the time, I had  remained on the sidelines, contenting myself with plentiful photo opportunities and bountiful smiles from enthusiastic parade participants.  But this year, I felt I was overdue for a little spontaneous merrymaking ‘on de road’,  which, for two days forms part of   the traditional pre-Lenten festival’s claim-to-fame on the Nature Island.

It all started for me on Carnival Monday night.  As the sun set, I parked the car well away from the parade route and ran through the streets of Roseau to rendez-vous with the Old Time Sake band.

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The organizers had arranged a ‘Glow Band’ for our evening warm up before Tuesday morning’s Hawaiian ‘chip’ (shuffle to the music’s beat) around town.  By 7 p.m., we glowed as we moved along the parade route in Roseau to beat of the rhythms emanating from the huge speakers on the hi-fi truck.

I stayed at the front of the `band`so that I could turn around, run back and forth beside the group and take plenty of pictures.  As we moved through the streets, others joined us with their glow gear. Soon we were about 100 strong.  A lovely cooling breeze blew down to town from the mountains and tempered our exertions.  I was quite comfortable in my black attire and I kept moving to the momentum of the music.  By now, other big bands ( I mean real ones with instruments and singers) were now on the road.  Sidewalks filled with keen observers and children ran to and fro in great excitement.  Now I was sure that   I felt the  presence of `Spirits` from carnivals past: shadows and silhouettes of uncertain shapes and sizes seemed to grace darkened door ways and unlit alleys.  As I was only drinking spring water, I knew that it must have been my imagination…  In my mind, it`s all part of the fun!

The Old Time Sake Hi-Fi Truck rolled along behind the band as we glowed in the dark!

The Old Time Sake Hi-Fi Truck rolled along behind the band as we glowed in the dark!

After about an hour, I stepped out of the band, citing this little trip around as my warm-up for the next day to those who expected me to keep going until 10 p.m.

Gwendominica is ready to fete (party) with the Old Time Sake Band and their Hawaiian theme on Carnival Tuesday in Roseau.

Gwendominica was ready to fete (party) with the Old Time Sake Band with their Hawaiian theme on Carnival Tuesday in Roseau.

On Carnival Tuesday morning, I felt refreshed and ready for a bigger and hotter endurance test ‘on de road’.  The brilliant sunshine bouncing off  the steamy streets of Roseau  would definitely enhance my daytime ‘glow’.  Just after 10 a.m., the truck started to roll, and within minutes, over 200 happy and colorfully costumed revellers set out to show the gigantic crowd how the Old Time Sake Band’s Hawaiian theme  complemented the collective cheery mood of  participants and spectators.

Again, I took a place in the front line of the band.  I liked being able to move in and out, on and off the road  as I pleased to take photos and see what was happening in the other bands.    The only challenge in my starter position was my urge to ‘chip’ too quickly.  As an habitual walker and hiker, I am used to picking up the pace.  But the skill attached to chipping is the discipline of the  rhythmic slow shuffle: no long strides.  Occasionally, I found myself pacing too far ahead and then I was caught between the music of the band in front of me and the Old Time Sake tune behind me.  It was a challenge for this musician to try to move to two different beats simultaneously.  But what can I say – you just had to be there – to take part in all this fun!

This is what a 'chip' ( slow shuffle to the beat of the music) looks like. But you really have to be there!

This is what a ‘chip’ ( slow shuffle to the beat of the music) looks like. But you really do have to be here to try it out!

We hadn’t been on the road for an hour yet when I stepped out to find  the pageant winners who were at the head of the street parade.  They were decked out in traditional costumes, and I wanted to capture their fresh faces  and gorgeous creative attire before the day got too hot.  I was definitely not disappointed.  The day was  relatively young, and there was still space on the street for me to boldly move among the winners and contestants to get good shots of them.  Here is a sample of what I saw that enhanced my growing smile as I admired them all.

Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron has a wonderful smile and a cheerful demeanor.

Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron has a wonderful smile and a cheerful demeanor.

Queen Francine and King Dice graciously obliged for thousands of photos during the Carnival Tuesday parade.

Queen Francine and King Dice graciously obliged for thousands of photos during the Carnival Tuesday parade.

King Dice 9Dennision Joseph) has the right to 'ham it up' in the Carnival parade.  he's now won the Calypso Monarch crown 7 times!

King Dice (Dennison Joseph) has the right to ‘ham it up’ in the Carnival parade. He’s now won the Calypso Monarch crown 7 times!

Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter is undisputedly a lovely young lady.

Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter is certainly a lovely young lady.

The Old Time Sake Band members all seemed to have a great time.

The Old Time Sake Band members all seemed to have a great time.

Then I ran around the parade route and jumped back into the front of the band again.  As we chipped along to the calypso and sometimes soca beats, I fixed that permanent smile

Gwendominica was revelling in the Tuesday Costume Parade with the Old Time Sake Band when Georgie caught her on camera. revelling

Gwendominica was  blissfully revelling in the Tuesday Costume Parade with the Old Time Sake Band when Georgie caught her on camera.

on my face as I greeted familiar faces and strangers too.  All of a sudden, I realized that I  was absolutely and completely without a care in the world!  For me, this highly unusual state-of-mind was  trance-like.  If I was thirsty, I drank my water. If I was hungry, I ate a snack provided by the band and looked forward to a big lunch.  When I needed relief from the scorching sun, I stepped into  a shaded side street for a while.  I did wear ear plugs and a big hat, along with strong sun screen, so I really was completely carefree.  Ah…this is what Carnival is all about!  If you want a glimpse of why this is so true, take a look at the piece that I wrote a few years ago about the history of Mas Domnik. You will find it here.

I was really impressed with the endurance of the leaders of Old Time Sake band.  Despite hot Sensay costumes, the never took a break!

I was really impressed with the endurance of the young leaders of Old Time Sake band. Despite heavy Sensay costumes, they never took a break!

The littlest member of the Old Time Sake Band was a real trouper!

The littlest member of the Old Time Sake Band was a real trooper!

I also had fun watching the crowd have fun!

Some of the costumes had to be admired from the back as well as teh front.

Some of the costumes had to be admired from the back as well as the front.

Now there is a spectator who really has the spirit of Carnival.  Giselle is the Editor of Domnitjen Magazine, a great review of many things Domincan.

Now there is a spectator who really has the spirit of Carnival. Giselle is the Editor of Domnitjen Magazine, a great review of many things Dominican.

Tana has a laugh while her son takes in all the action on de road.

Tana had a laugh while her son took in all the action on de road.

 Carnival Princess 2014 Kitana Joseph, had poise and posed well for the photographers.

Carnival Princess 2014 Kitana Joseph, had poise and posed well for the photographers.

Simon is always 'there' turning out fabulous photos of every event in Dominica.  You can see some of his wonderful work on his site, Images Dominica

Simon is always ‘there’ turning out fabulous photos of every event in Dominica. You can see some of his wonderful work on  Images Dominica.

His Excellency, President Charles Savarin enjoyed greeting parade participants.

His Excellency, President Charles Savarin enjoyed greeting parade participants.

By the time 2 o’clock rolled around, over 200 of this brightly adorned band, consisting of mainly (but not entirely) members of the 50+ club had been around the expansive parade route a few times.  The hi-fi truck stopped for a break, so I headed up to the Public Service Union building, where a substantial Dominican lunch was being served.  I devoured a big bowl of pelau, which is made up of rice, chicken and lentils.

Kathleen Trotter, one of the main organizers of the Old Time Sake Band surveys the proximity of our group to the band ahead of us.

Kathleen Trotter, one of the main organizers of the Old Time Sake Band surveyed the close proximity of our group to the one ahead of us as we approached a tight corner.

The Old Time Sake Band members lined up in orderly fashion in order to refuel with a big Dominican lunch.

The Old Time Sake Band members lined up in orderly fashion to refuel with a big Dominican lunch.

Others were planning to go back for a ‘last lap’ before sundown.  As it was after 3 p.m., I was content to return to the parade

I always admire the Queen of the Carnival Corner Band.

I always admire the Queen of the Carnival Corner Band.

route area in search of an ice cream cone.  I cooled down with a refreshing scoop of the coconut variety from Island Ice Cream  and chatted with a returning Dominican, who was accompanying his  resident granddaughter to watch the  remnants of the parade.

As I walked through the sizzling streets, I could see that the real Bacchanal was about to begin.  With only a few hours of Carnival 2014 remaining, the action on the road was set to get even “hotter.”  I chuckled to myself and admired the risqué ( but hopefully harmless) antics of some of the revellers.

Some costumes were simply awesome!

Some costumes were simply awesome!

As Carnival Tuesday wore on, the streets were certainly getting very 'hot'!

As Carnival Tuesday wore on, the streets of Roseau were certainly getting very ‘hot’!

(It was very peaceful, by all official reports).  I headed home to put up my sore feet, review fun-filled photos and remind myself that playing ‘Mas’ in Dominica’s Carnival is definitely great, for old time’s sake!

* With special thanks to the organizers of the Old Time Sake Carnival Band for their efficient management, colourful costumes  and delicious lunch.  I had loads of fun and certainly recommend that others take a `jump`with this notable Carnival band.

For more information about Dominica’s Carnival activities, refer to:  http://www.dominica.dm; http://www.avirtualdominica.com; www.facebook.com/DominicaFests

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Kids in the Carnival: Dominica’s Young People ‘Play Mas’ Big Time

School children from the east coast village of Castle Bruce proudly marched in the Carnival Opening Parade.

School children from the east coast village of Castle Bruce proudly marched in the Carnival 2014  Opening Parade.

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A young girl balances with ease on her stilts. She was part of the Afri-Culture Stiltwalkers in Carnival 2013.

After many years of revelling, I  decided to focus on something different in Dominica’s Carnival 2014.  It was time to take a closer look at the young people, as they do make vital and dynamic contributions to Mas Domnik  festivities.  I was amazed to witness  their earnest and dedicated approach  to numerous activities, which they presented at a very high standard to enthusiastic audiences and spectators.  I didn’t realize that so many students take Carnival events as seriously as the older crowd!  Their keen participation certainly bodes well for the future of Carnival on the Nature Island, which is a significant part of Dominica’s cultural heritage.

I attended the Junior Calypso Monarch competition for the first time and I was truly amazed by the calibre of the participants.  While the passionate and energetic ‘Irish Kid’ (Lemar Irish) was crowned as Monarch, I was more impressed with the first runner-up, Janae Jackson. Her clear diction and melodious phrases enabled her to easily relay her strong and loyal sentiments about her secondary school, Convent High. Not surprisingly, she is a previous winner of this competition. This year, she was crowned ‘Calypso Queen’ at one of the ‘tents’ which showcase calypsonians during the Carnival season.  Overall, I think the future of calypso is very strong due to the highly creative performances of these talented young people.  I wish them well!

Here are a few photos taken at the Junior Calypso Show 2014.  Unfortunately, I was not in near to the stage and lighting was not suitable to capture shots well on my simple camera.   A good round-up of pictures and reviews can be found on Dominica Vibes.

Janae Jackson received 1st runner up in this year's Junior Calypso Monarch contest.  This talented young lady sang about her collegiate, the Convent High School.  In 2014, she was also awarded the title of Calypso Queen in am ore senior competition.

Janae Jackson received 1st runner-up in this year’s Junior Calypso Monarch contest. This talented young lady sang about her collegiate, the Convent High School. In 2014, she was also awarded the title of Calypso Queen in another competition.

The Leo Club hosted the Junior Calypso Monarch competition at the Harlem Plaza entertainment venue in Newtown, just south of Roseau.

The Leo Club hosted the Junior Calypso Monarch competition at the Harlem Plaza entertainment venue in Newtown, on the south side of Roseau.

The eventually filled the netire space below the stage as afternoon turned into evening.

The audience eventually filled the entire space below the stage as afternoon turned into evening.

My next event was another first for me in the Carnival season.  On Sunday February 23rd, I hastened to the Windsor Park Sports Stadium around 5 p.m. for the Miss Teen Dominica show.  I was eager to see what young ladies from high schools around the island would offer up in terms of speeches, talents, impromptu interviews, evening wear and traditional costumes.  I had previously attended many Miss Dominica pageants and had a good idea of what to expect from the slightly younger girls.  When I seated myself in the bleachers, I looked  to the left and lo and behold – all the Miss Dominica 2014 contestants, along with Miss Dominica 2013, Leslassa Armour-Shillingford were present to give full support to their younger ‘sisters’!

The contestants in the Miss Teen Dominica 2014 pageant all put their best foot forward and performed very well in this popular high school competition. Interestingly, the winner, Shari Peter is first (left side) of this advertising poster!

The contestants in the Miss Teen Dominica 2014 pageant performed very well in this popular high school competition. Interestingly, the winner, Shari Peter is first (left side) of this advertising poster!

There is Miss Dominica 2014 again!  All of the pageant contestants introduced themselves to the audience during the Miss Teen Dominica show.

There is Miss Dominica 2014! (But we didn’t know it at the time!). All of the Carnival Queen contestants introduced themselves to the audience during the Miss Teen Dominica show.

The Miss Dominica 2014 contestants all came out to support their 'younger sisters.'  It is curious that in hindsight, Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron is seated in 1st place (left), while Miss Dominica 2013, Leslassa Armour-Shillingford is on the opposite end (wearing crown).

The Miss Dominica 2014 contestants all came out to support their ‘younger sisters.’ It is curious that in hindsight, Miss Dominica 2014 Francine Baron is seated in 1st place (left), while Miss Dominica 2013, Leslassa Armour-Shillingford is on the opposite end (wearing crown).

Once again, I was suitably impressed with the high standards of presentation from the teenagers.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention that this annual Carnival event is organized by the renowned Waitukubuli Dance Theatre Company, under the directorship of Mr. Raymond Lawrence.  This recently retired long-time Chief Cultural Officer certainly knows how to put on a production.  He ensured that it ran very smoothly, despite a few minor technical glitches.  His rich and resonant speaking voice added to the pleasure of the commentary about the colourful presentations by the students.

All of the traditional costumes were stunning.  I particularly enjoyed the lines of this flouncy gown.

All of the traditional costumes were stunning. I particularly enjoyed the lines of Miss Peter’s ‘Spectacular Creation’ which gave her one of a number of awards.

Retired Chief Cultural Officer Raymond Lawrence was master of Ceremonies for this Wiatukubuli Dance Theatre Inc annual event.  This group has been in existence for more than 40 years!

Retired Chief Cultural Officer Raymond Lawrence was Master of Ceremonies for this Waitukubuli Dance Theatre annual event. The dance troupe has been in existence for more than 40 years!

The Miss Teen Dominica contestants danced around the stage to popular band WCK's song entitled'767' before they introduced themselves.

The Miss Teen Dominica contestants danced around the stage to popular band WCK’s song  ‘767’  (Dominica’s area code)before they introduced themselves.

Members of the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre trope entertained the audience during the intermission.

Members of the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre troupe entertained the audience during the intermission.

There was no doubt in my mind - Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter looked like royalty even before she was crowned!

There was no doubt in my mind – Miss Teen Dominica 2014 Shari Peter looked like royalty even before she was crowned!

After all was said and done at this well-organized show, I felt satisfied with the judges’ choice of Miss Shari Peter from St. John’s Academy in Portsmouth as the winner.  She has a certain ‘sparkle’ and I sense that she has ‘got what it takes’ to act in the capacity as a youth ambassador on island and elsewhere.  I wish her all the best, and congratulate the other contestants for their fine performances too.

You can see more wonderful photos  and a great review on Dominica Vibes.

A few days later, it was Carnival Monday, which featured an Old Mas and School/Youth Parade about mid-morning.  I arrived on King George V Street in Roseau and placed myself in the shade, as it was a very hot day.  The phenomenal creative contributions of the students, teachers and parents provided hundreds of spectators with sheer delight and a great appreciation for what Mas Domnik is all about.  Tears stung my eyes as I proudly admired the parade participants and their enthusiasm as they chipped ( rhythmically shuffled ) to the beat of the big hi-fi trucks in the sweltering heat.  It struck me that these young people were genuinely celebrating the spirit of Carnival in its purest form: no external or internal stimulants needed!  I highly commend all the participants and their schools for putting forth such an exceptional collective effort that gave so many people joy. Thank you for a wonderful Carnival parade. I hope you will do it all again next year!

Here is a photographic review of some of my favourites, mind you, there were many more!  DSCF1931

This group of children took the time to adorn themselves in black body paint to represent 'Darkies', which represent  a traditional type of Carnival band.

This group of children took the time to adorn themselves in black body paint to represent ‘Darkies’, which form a traditional type of Carnival band.

A few children got to 'sit out' the parade.  These two command the float for the Pioneer Preparatory School.

A few children got to ‘sit out’ the parade. These two commanded the ‘Sugar and Spice’ float for the Pioneer Preparatory School.

This little one seems to be a prince of a chap who certainly deserved the 'ride'!

This little one seemed to be a prince of a chap who certainly deserved the ‘ride’!

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The tradition of constructing toy trucks and then ‘driving’ them in the parade is increasing in popularity.

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A little Sensay masquerader studies the bigger ones to learn the ropes!

A little Sensay masquerader studied the bigger ones to learn the ropes!

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This internationally renowned Dominican musician took time out from her busy schedule to 'jump' with her youngest daughter's carnival band, the Nymphs.  If you don't recognize her, click here!

This internationally renowned Dominican musician took time out from her busy schedule to ‘jump’ with her youngest daughter’s carnival band, the Nymphs. If you don’t recognize her, click here!

This father and son were part of the Flames carnival youth band.

This father and son were part of the Flames carnival youth band.

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There is no doubt in my mind - the sentiment on this sign rings true as far as the Carnival 2014 Youth Parade is concerned!

There is no doubt in my mind – the sentiment on this sign rings true as far as the Carnival 2014 Youth Parade was concerned!

This  very high stiltwalker seemed to be a Carnival angel, to me!

This  angelic-looking stilt-walker seemed to  hover over the Carnival parade route with Sensay-style good tidings!

Dominica’s Carnival Opening Parade 2014: Plentiful Beauties, Scary Beasts, Bountiful Smiles!

It's Carnival Time in Dominica!  This scary mask formed part of the decor on the float carrying contestants for the Miss Teen Dominica 2014. pageant.

It’s Carnival Time in Dominica! This scary mask formed part of the decor on the float promoting the Miss Teen Dominica 2014 pageant.

Mademoiselle Francophonie 2013, who represented Lebanon looked very regal in her authentic costume.

Mademoiselle Francophonie 2013, who represented Lebanon looked very regal in her authentic costume.

It seemed as if the weather had finally turned for the brighter: brilliant sunshine, blue skies and a pleasant breeze blew in off of the Caribbean Sea as hundreds took to the streets of Roseau  on February 8th to watch the Carnival Opening Parade of Mas Domnik 2014.  I was  feeling a little ‘under the weather’, but I knew that if I made the effort to get out and watch the parade, it would be an ideal tonic for what ailed me.

With  the  innumerable spontaneous smiles  from lovely pageant participants and the contagious joy emanating from those who

In regal splendour, the exemplary Carnival Queen Leslassa Armour-Shillingford and the indominatable Calypso King Dennison 'Dice' Joseph lead the Opening Parade to cheers of adoring fans.

With royal splendour, the exemplary Carnival Queen  2013Leslassa Armour-Shillingford and the indomitable Calypso King 2013 Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Opening Parade and waved to adoring fans.

‘played mas’ (dressed up in costume), I could not help but feel better!

I was very pleased for the participants and I know that the crowd was contented with all the sights and sounds in the Carnival Opening Parade 2014.  Beauties were typically followed by beasts – and smiles were definitely the order of the day.  You can see for yourself in the photos below!

A young boy  pushes his hand-made toy truck, which is called a Kabouwe in the parade.  This creative contribution is a Dominican tradition.

A boy pushes his hand-made toy truck, called a Kabouwe in Creole. This creative contribution is a Dominican tradition.

This pretty little Princess show contestant hasa lovely smile!

This pretty little Princess Show contestant has a lovely smile!

Creole Culture is represented by Madam Wob Dwiyet 2013 in her magnificent traditional dress.  It must have been very hot - but as a Queen, she did not display any discomfort!

Creole Culture is represented by Madam Wob Dwiyet 2013 in her magnificent traditional dress. It must have been very hot – but as a Queen, she did not display any discomfort!

A lovely Teen contestant from one of the high schools - Dominica Grammar School.

A lovely Teen contestant from one of the high schools – Dominica Grammar School.

The Miss Teen Dominica pageant will have tight competition with all the beautfiul young ladies from around the island - this one is from the Grand Bay area.

The Miss Teen Dominica pageant will have tight competition with all the beautiful young ladies from around the island – this one is from the Grand Bay area.

Competitors in the Junior Monarch Competition were out in full force, indicating that young people take this special art form seriously from a young age!

 Junior Calypso Monarch Competitors were out in full force, indicating that young people take this special art form seriously from a young age!

This Queen  contestant, Royette Laurent may have what it takes to follow the exceptional Leslassa, the reigning Miss Dominica. THis young lady, who represents Portsmouth has my vote!

Carnival Queen 2014 contestant, Royette Laurent may have what it takes to follow the exceptional Leslassa, the reigning Miss Dominica. This young lady, who represents Portsmouth has my vote!

Other young people entertained the crowd on the Bay Front with their melodious steel pan renditions.

Other young people entertained the crowd on the Bay Front with their melodious steel pan renditions.

School children from the east coast village of Castle Bruce proudly marched in the Carnival Opening Parade.

School children from the east coast village of Castle Bruce proudly marched in the Carnival Opening Parade.

Energetic young ladies captivated the crowd with their well rehearsed 'flag-waving' routines.

Energetic young ladies captivated the crowd with their well rehearsed ‘flag-waving’ routines.

The Kalinago Carnival band was well represented with  indigenous people of all ages participating in their group.

The Kalinago Carnival Band was well represented with indigenous people of all ages participating in their group.

Traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin) drummers were a prominent presence in the parade route.

Traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin) drummers were a prominent presence in the parade route.

The sensational Sensay revellers from teh village of St. Joseph held everyone's attention with their incredible costumes!

The sensational Sensay revellers from the village of St. Joseph held everyone’s attention with their incredible costumes!

Sensay costumes have traditional African origins.

Sensay costumes have traditional African origins.

Stilt-walkers ,called Bwa-Bwa in Creole looked very sinister in the late afternoon light.  They were also portraying 'darkies' with their whips and complete coverage in black body paint.

Stilt-walkers ,called Bwa-Bwa in Creole looked very sinister in the late afternoon light. They were also portraying ‘darkies’ with their whips and complete coverage in black body paint.

Fierce 'darkies' on the road cracked their whips and created fun-loving fear in those who stood too close to them.

Fierce ‘darkies’ on the road cracked their whips and created fun-loving fear in those who stood too close to them.

Perhaps the 'darkies' aren't as scary as one might think; this one cast a spell on pretty Kim that brought forth a beautiful smile!

Perhaps the ‘darkies’ aren’t as scary as one might think; this one cast a spell on pretty Kim that brought forth a beautiful smile!

Theatre Director Alwin Bully Stages ‘A Tempest’ in Roseau Dominica

The Dominican production of Aime Cesaire's 'A Tempest' was directed by Alwin Bully and starred J. Grimner and Prospero and Haxey Emmanuel Salamant as Caliban.

The Dominican production of Aime Cesaire’s ‘A Tempest’ was directed by Alwin Bully and starred J. Grimner (l) as Prospero and  Emanuel Haxey Salamat as Caliban.

As DOMFESTA  2013 arts activities concluded on the Nature Island, I attended its final theatrical  production, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It consisted  of  the late Martinican  playwright Aimé Césaire‘s ‘A Tempest‘ (1969), which was held at the Alliance Française de la Dominique   from June 14 -16. Renowned Caribbean cultural icon and son-of-the-soil Dr. Alwin Bully directed this ambitious representation with a seasoned cast of actors from locally based theatre troupe La Cour Des Arts de la Dominique.  This play’s familiar title, characters’ names and plot-line do intentionally resemble Shakespeare’s well-known work called ‘The Tempest, with some unique twists.

As I had not previously studied or taught this Shakespearian play, I was glad that I had a chance to read the synopsis before going to the production. I also  looked up Césaire’s adaptation to get a feel for  his dramatic style and what could possibly happen on the stage. In March, I did have the privilege of seeing famous French actor Jacques Martial portray the sentiments of  Césaire’s  poem Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (1939) at the Arawak house of Culture in Roseau.   Also,  Gildas Lefèvre, my French conversation instructor at Alliance Franςaise gave me a bit of background about Césaire’s  exceptional life (1913-2008) and recurrent themes in his artistic and political endeavors.

Césaire was a contemporary poet, playwright and a political and social activist.  He  cleverly adapted Shakespeare’s timeless dramatic work so that it incorporated themes such as colonialism, slavery, loss of identity and racism. According to the performance’s playbill, “He was the first activist to claim the rights of Black People in the French colonies, calling on them to recognize and be proud of their history, culture and values.”  He even created a concept called “Negritude“, which refers to  taking pride in one’s African origins and rejecting assimilation into European or colonial culture.

Even before the play formally began, the actors mulled about on or near the simple stage, chatted among themselves and even talked to

Before the play began, the actors came onto or around the stage, which created an intimate  andinformal rapport with the audience.

Before the play began, the actors came onto or around the stage, which created an intimate and casual rapport with the audience.

members of the audience.  At first, I was surprised by this activity, but then I realised that it enhanced the intimacy of this intense presentation.  The almost “theatre-in-the-round’ arrangement of the seats on either side and in front of the stage also enabled the onlookers to feel as if they were a part of the action.  I could sense the energy emanating from all the

Caliban portrayed his role as the rebellious slave very convincingly. Stephano is in the background..  Stephano is

Caliban portrayed his powerful role as the rebellious slave very convincingly. Stephano is in the background.

characters in the Prologue, when they were  ‘given their masks’ (parts) by Ashworth Simon, who acted as the Master of Ceremonies.

From the first scene,  where a fierce storm shipwrecks a group of people on an island, the audience was spellbound.  The little boy sitting behind me  was so drawn in that he grabbed the back of my chair (and sometimes me!) in suspense.  From that point, the lines between the characters with the colonial ‘attitude’ and the resistant slaves were well articulated through powerful dialogue and precise movements from on the stage, in front or near it and occasionally in the aisles directly beside  members of the audience!

Caliban (l) faces Prospero his oppressor  with courage, if not results!

Caliban (l) faces Prospero, his oppressor with courage and conviction.

The two protagonists were absolutely outstanding in the portrayal of their roles: Prospero, the typical colonial stereotype played by J. Grimner and Caliban, the angry and  rebellious slave played by  Emanuel Haxey Salamat were completely believable in  words and actions.  They certainly created considerable dramatic tension as they railed at each other with their divergent opinions on slavery and human rights. At the same time, Grimner’s part permitted comic relief through his deployment of ‘magic’ and acerbic wit.  With superb diction and powerful voices, these  two well-known Dominican performers

\J. Grimner as Prospero was completely in character as a conniving colonial in this demanding role.

J. Grimner as Prospero was always in character as an European colonialist in this demanding lead role.

The engagement and  marriage of Prospero's daughter Miranda, played by Justina Worrell to Prince Ferdinand, played by Cornell Linton was a delightful sub-plot.

The engagement  of Prospero’s daughter Miranda, played by Justina Worrell to Prince Ferdinand, played by Cornell Linton was a delightful sub-plot.

presented the issues that concerned playwright Césaire  through the point-of-view of Caliban.

The subservient slave Ariel (r) always did as Prospero commanded.  His character, played by Lester Guye, was in complete contrat to the rebellious Caliban.

The subservient slave Ariel (r) always did as Prospero commanded. His character, played by Lester Guye, was in complete contrast to the rebellious Caliban.

Additionally,  I understand that Director Bully also ensured that the actors had a  firm grasp of the above-mentioned complex themes that arise in A Tempest.  Throughout the play, this sombre subject was  often seasoned with humor.  While the title alone was suggestive of the mood that permeated the play, there were a number of comic scenes that kept the audience laughing while “reading between the lines’.

It was obvious that many hours of rehearsal and preparation time were devoted to bringing this play to life.  All 21 actors appeared to be DLP (dead-letter-perfect) in the execution of their lines.  They seemed to assume their roles very naturally, which I know only comes with extensive preparation and practise. I also appreciated the extra artistic touches:  dramatic and colourful stage make-up; graceful dances and other  smoothly choreographed movements; wonderful musical accompaniment from guitarist Tyson Johnson and African drummer Ras Algie; lighting which accentuated the action on stage; and songs that reinforced the themes  with repeated melodies.

Sonia Riviere (l)played a trouser-role as the sensible Gonzalo. The drunken French colonialist Stephano played by Steve Williams delighted the audience with his comical character.

Sonia Riviere (l)played a trouser-role as the sensible Gonzalo. The drunken French colonialist Stephano played by Curtis Clarendon delighted the audience with his comical character.

The final scene of 'A Tempest' had the complete cast on stage.

The complete cast was on stage  to take their bows at the play’s conclusion.

When the show ended about three hours after it began, it was obvious that the audience was well entertained and instructed by this high-calibre production.  Congratulations to Director Alwin Bully, as well as the entire cast and crew of  A Tempest for a superb performance of this challenging play.  Aimé Césaire (RIP) would be proud.

Master of Ceremonies Ashworth Simon also played the role of Esha, who made some fearful pronouncements.

Master of Ceremonies Ashworth Simon (front) also played the role of Esha, who made some notable pronouncements.