The essential form of the Carnival that emerged and developed in the post Classical West was created by the interaction of two diametrically opposed but interlocking forces – the desire of dominant power to contain potentially existentially threatening social energies through sublimation in the form of a regular (typically annual) reversal ritual in which the normally dominant hierarchy and ideology were theatrically mocked, subverted or ignored and social roles reversed – and conversely, the desire of the relatively powerless to express those very energies.
In much of Western Europe Carnival emerged as an ‘officially licensed’ – by the Catholic church and local temporal power – annual spring ritual involving feasting, and general play, that was held just before Lent. What was a thinly disguised pagan, fertility ritual, recast by the Church in attempt to co-opt its energies, also served temporal power through the ritualized dissipation of energies potentially threatening to the social order.
The form and tradition of carnival spread to the Caribbean and the Americas, brought by European colonialists. In all these territories the carnival tradition was instituted by local elites for the same systemic purposes of the regulation of disruptive energies. However the resistance and independence movements in many Caribbean countries developed out of carnival culture, where the annual theatricalized role reversal of social positions encouraged
In England the Notting Hill Carnival developed after Trinidadian born activist Claudia Vera Jones, suggested the creation of an annual ritual along the lines of a Mari Gras festival, in London, after the race riots in Notting Hill of 1958. Here the expressive and hedonistic power of carnival was envisaged as a force for social cohesion and as an instrument of racial integration.
BOAC And Bwia Present A Flying Visit To The Caribbean (1960–69)
Ole Time Carnival, 1959. Covering carnival culture in Trinidad and Tobago (Part 1)
Ole Time Carnival, 1959. Covering carnival culture in Trinidad and Tobago (Part 2)
Ole Time Carnival, 1959. Covering carnival culture in Trinidad and Tobago (Part 3)
Horace Ové, King Carnival (Documentary) 1973