A Guide to the Exhibit

The goal of this exhibit is to contribute to larger conversations about the significance of resilience, rebellion, and power in the Caribbean tradition of Carnival.

The nature of the exhibit embraces the fragmented nature of the source material and focuses on how Carnival is realized in a variety of texts. Because Carnival is based upon oral tradition, there are not very many written sources, but rather bits and pieces of celebration mentioned in travel journals as well as shown through visual culture. Though all these sources are not written or drawn by the same author or from the same island, the sources all relate to the broad idea of opposition, diaspora, rebellion, power dynamic, and resilience perpetuated through the carnival. As you read them, consider the ways each source defines how rebellion is representative of maintaining one’s culture as well as how each text contributes to the larger idea of Carnival. Carnival is celebrated differently on each island, though it is important to consider how all forms of Carnival are all intertwined together to really emphasize the idea of resilience. 

The key texts include the following: Mrs. Carmichael’s journal excerpts (1834), Brunias Agostino’s (1779) “Stick Fighting” image, Richard Briggen’s “Dance at a Plantation” (1836),  Issac Mendes Belisario’s “Koo Koo or Actor Boy” and “Jaw Bone or House John Canoe” (1837/1838), and William C. Day’s journal excerpts (1852). 

The key texts aim to connect the sources to themes of rebellion and resilience. The sub-themes build off of the key texts, emphasizing major aspects of Carnival like song, dance, masquerade, and the way tradition is able to carry itself over varying time spans. The sub-themes also work to connect themselves to key text by looking at different aspects of the text. Secondary Sources are more heavily relied upon to fill in the gaps and look at more modern-day iterations of Carnival 


As you examine this exhibit,  please keep in mind the following questions: 

(1) What role does rebellion play in this celebration? 

(2) How is the idea of rebellion manifested through these orals traditions of song, dance, ritual, and masking? 

(3) How does history shape the way Carnival is manifested in our society today? 

(4) How does perspective really emphasize these ideas of rebellion and resilience?