Home / View Point / Write Start (16-18): ‘Health before jollification’; Ogechi Uche Nweze imagines a socially distanced Carnival 2022

Write Start (16-18): ‘Health before jollification’; Ogechi Uche Nweze imagines a socially distanced Carnival 2022

“[…] The first change that comes to mind is the full-on dancing on the streets. It is the norm for people to gyrate on each other, sweaty bodies glistening under the sun as they move and sway like branches in the wind to the beat of hypnotising soca music, throwing away all restraint and worries. However, that will be a thing of the past. 

“Who would want to dance on a stranger when the only thing that will be on people’s minds is: ‘Does that person have the virus?’…”

Sixteen-year-old St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) student Ogechi Uche Nweze, is the first shortlisted writer for the 16-18 category for the Wired868 Write Start competition. Their topic is to ‘describe the ways in which you think the first post-Covid-19 Carnival will be different from its predecessors’:

Photo: A snapshot from the Tribe music truck during the 2020 Carnival.
(via Nicki Minaj Instagram page)

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is known worldwide as an annual event, a celebration on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Colourful costumes, exuberant displays, crowd engaging music, these phrases all come to mind when we hear the word ‘Carnival’—the jamboree my country so loves. 

Covid-19, Coronavirus. The scummy sickness that seemed to have appeared from nowhere, its deadly grasp clutching the throats of so many all around the world, squeezing until nothing is left. A fatal felon that continues to claim lives, futures, hopes and dreams with its ashy, ghostly presence that will seemingly linger timelessly.

These two events put together clash so violently: a festival of life and a festival of demise. But after the worst of Covid-19 is gone, its shadow will linger over Carnival, making the first post-Covid-19 Carnival very different from its predecessors. 

The first change that comes to mind is the full-on dancing on the streets. It is the norm for people to gyrate on each other, sweaty bodies glistening under the sun as they move and sway like branches in the wind to the beat of hypnotising soca music, throwing away all restraint and worries. However, that will be a thing of the past. 

Photo: A reveller enjoys herself in Gems band during the 2018 Carnival.
(Copyright Analisa Caruth/Wired868)

Who would want to dance on a stranger when the only thing that will be on people’s minds is: ‘Does that person have the virus?’ Socially distanced dancing will be the alternative, the crowds will no longer be crowds—but groups of spaced out people trying to enjoy themselves while placing their security as the number one priority. 

Undoubtedly, everybody knows that foreigners often come to Trinidad from their own countries during the freezing, winter month of February to celebrate Carnival and experience the vibe, warmth and unity that our country is famed for. 

However, Covid-19 has left no place untouched. There is no escape, Trinidad and Tobago cannot be the safe haven that it once was for foreigners looking to party, as anybody can get sick at any time. As a result, there will be less foreigners travelling to our country to take part in the festivities. 

Furthermore, who is to say that these foreigners won’t bring a new strain of the virus into the country, thus shattering the delicate balance that is trying to be restored and maintained in order to bring normalcy to the lives of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago? 

Photo: In this scene from Kes’ music video for his soca hit, “Hello,” A tourist enjoys a dance with a local.

It is a sad thought, but the virus cares not for feelings—it is cold, brutal and unforgiving.

Also, Carnival consists of an early morning celebration called Jouvert which begins at an hour as early as 3 in the morning! Not to mention, some after-parties of Carnival are held in the wee hours of the night, with people trying to prolong the euphoric feeling that comes from this fete as long as they possibly can.  

Hold on, wait a minute; the very idea of parties taking place at these ungodly hours brings to mind a certain, dreaded ‘c word’ that every Trinibagonian has come to know and hate. 

What is this word you ask? Yes, that’s it: curfew. A curfew is a regulation that requires people to remain indoors during specified hours, typically at night. They are set in place to stem the spread of Covid-19, and their effectiveness is being praised by health officials around the globe. 

Read any article online and they will tell you this, ‘Curfews are intended to reduce nonessential interactions with people outside your household. The objective of putting a curfew in place is to reduce opportunities for disease transmission without totally closing down all businesses and events.’ 

Photo: Ministry of Health’s professionals offer advice on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
(via Ministry of Health)

The Government is most likely unwilling to risk numerous citizens getting and spreading coronavirus for a few lengthened hours of partying, so it is plausible to believe that a curfew will be enforced.

Last but not least, our country’s famed fiesta is not only enjoyed by adults, but by children too. There is a separate Kiddies’ Carnival held where parents can carry their excited children to this Carnival celebratory event that mirrors famous adult parades. 

In the months of January and February, leading up to the week before Carnival, young children partake in entertainment such as face painting and hearing some of their favourite soca songs performed live by local artistes. The kids dress up in all sorts of sequinned outfits, and as some of our local folklore characters like the ‘moko jumbie’ and ‘midnight robber’. 

Their intricately designed costumes that bring them and their parents joy and colour up the newspaper will no longer be available in the upcoming post Covid-19 Carnival era. 

Photo: Children take part in Kiddies Carnival during the 2019 Carnival season.
(Copyright Office of the President)

Although these young children get so much amusement from their own special Carnival, health must come before jollification. Parents will most likely keep these young, susceptible pre-adolescents at home to protect the barely developed immune systems that fight each day to keep their little bodies safe.  

To surmise, Carnival as we know it will be different from a post-Covid-19 perspective. All the typical things that we considered to be regular and established will have to change in order to accommodate our health as a country. 

There will be no close contact dancing, few tourists, a curfew, and restrictions or even the cancellation of Kiddies’ Carnival. 

This Carnival will be quite different from its predecessors, but hopefully the people of Trinidad and Tobago will make the best of the situation, and try to enjoy it as much as they can until life returns to normalcy again—no matter how far away in the future that may be.  

Editor’s Note: Wired868 will announce the winners of the inaugural Write Start competition on 13 December 2021. The first place winner will get TT$6,000, a six month mobile plan from bmobile, and two complimentary movie tickets to CinemaONE.

Click HERE for more information on the Wired868 Write Start prize structure and do share your favourite essays!

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