Carnival is a nuanced and complex celebration rooted in oral tradition and opposition to colonial forces. Most of the text looked at in this exhibit diminishes Caribbean culture by using European knowledge as a reference point or basis, refusing to see the Caribbean as a place of cultural significance. Yet, the inherent fact that these acts of rebellion went unnoticed, proves how successful these acts of opposition were, creating an insider versus outsider perspective between Afro-Caribbeana and colonizers.Carnival illustrates how rebellion looks different in different contexts. Rebellion does not necessarily have to look like an organized protest, as rebellion in the context of Carnival represents a form of life and survival for enslaved people. Looking back at the history of Carnival forces one to acknowledge the power culture carries, enslaved people were being mentally, physically, and emotionally abused on unfathomable levels, yet they still continued to partake in stick fighting rituals, Canboulay chants, masking traditions, and so forth because of their refusal to let colonizers control them. Afro-Caribbean people refused to forgo their culture or too allow their minds or bodies to be colonized, so much in fact that they used culture as a means of rebellion through remembrance. By looking at the technologies of resistance and opposition from the past, we can learn and develop them for the future, working towards understanding cultural resistance as a form of celebration, embodiment, and life.
The work of this exhibit is dedicated to decolonizing these sources, focusing on the narrative of empowerment of people of color embedded within each ritual or tradition associated with carnival, rather than the colonial voice that described them. This Carnival exhibit takes text written or illustrated by colonial powers, and “remixes” said texts, putting the perspective of enslaved people at the forefront of defining what Carnival is. This exhibit speaks to the mission of the ECDA, as Carnival is a celebration that plays a major role in telling the narrative and history of enslaved people from rituals, traditions, and celebrations that stem from their own African and Indigenous culture. My hope is that through this exhibit, readers will be able to gain a better understanding of the vast power that the celebration of Carnival carries in Caribbean culture and acknowledge that every aspect or tradition is purposefully created to carry a symbolic meaning of resilience and power. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, this embedded resilience matters because African and Indigenous people were fighting imperialism and colonial powers that aimed to strip them of their culture, but their resilience never allowed their oppressors to successfully separate them from their cultural memory.