During Carnival, the world is turned upside down: men dress like women, boys dance like sailors, girls fight like warriors, kings careen like clowns, and common folk reign as Kings and Queens — or breathe fire like dragons. In the Americas, carnival draws from the traditions of Europe, Africa, and the indigenous people brought together by the violence of colonization, genocide, and the slave trade. Carnival remembers violence in ritual battles of life and death. Carnival celebrates life in brazen spectacle.
Siren Song: A Battle between $$ and Culture
What’s more powerful: money or culture? Carnival Arts pondered this question in a processional performance in November 2016.
Dog on the Neck
Around the docks in Havana, about a hundred years ago, rumberos improvised songs about the news of the day, always keeping up with the rhythm of the drum. Carnival Arts came up with their own song about a neighbor and soon got the whole neighborhood dancing.
Carnival Arts offers workshops inspired by carnival traditions to teens living in crisis shelters across the state of Florida and to children and youth in schools and after-school programs in South Florida. These young artists collaborate with master folk and fine artists to create work inspired by carnival that confronts the violence they face today and celebrates their creative power.
Bel Kongo: Beauty, Identity, Power
The Kongo is beautiful, proclaims a popular Haitian folk song. But, the song continues, in that beauty there is great mystery: you don’t know me/you don’t know kongo. Carnival Arts explored that mystery in an exhibit at mia galleries in Summer 2016.
Celebration and Transformation: A Carnival Arts Retrospective
When the mia galleries in Miami International Airport invited Carnival Arts to present a retrospective exhibit in Spring 2013, we jumped at the chance. Little did we know how much our re-imagined carnival would resonate with world travellers.
Year after year, characters beloved and feared return to carnival: Haiti’s whip-cracking general, Chaloska; the Dominican Republic’s mischievous devil, Diablo Cojuelo; and Colombia’s elephant-nosed Marimondas. Carnival Artists tell the tales of these and other carnival characters as well as the histories that shaped carnival in short and feature-length movies.
Two teenagers in love are captured by slavers in their village in Senegal, then sold to far-flung plantations in the Caribbean. Now they are on the run. Will they find freedom? Will they find each other? Carnival Artists tell the tale in an original feature film.
Diablo’s in Town
The Diablo Cojuelo is a favorite carnival character in the Dominican Republic. Here Carnival Artists came up with a script based on an old folk tale about a child who tames a giant with a song — only our giant is Diablo Cojuelo, of course.
In our society, the resources our children need to thrive are too often diverted. Young people, especially young people of color, are often treated as criminals. In this time of crisis, Carnival Arts welcomes partners who take care of our community’s children and youth. Together, we celebrate their creative power.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School
PACE Center for Girls
City of North Miami