Write Start (16-18): Aastha Kumar sees designer masks and condensed parade in post-pandemic Carnival

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“[…] A ‘no mask, no mas’ policy should be adopted with costume designers incorporating this aspect of PPE into costume designs.

“[…] The parade of the bands should be condensed in to one day at one venue to limit the risk of infection…”

Seventeen-year-old San Fernando Government Secondary student Aastha Kumar is the eighth shortlisted writer for the 16-18 category of 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: Play mas!

The Covid-19 pandemic has tremendously impacted the world in many ways. It has particularly effected a drastic change in the cultural landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, our beloved two-day street party. 

Carnival is an event that has become synonymous with the country. It is considered to be one of the most spectacular festivals in the nation and even worldwide, as it has a unique ability to bring people of diverse backgrounds together in harmonious circumstances. The anticipation and joy revolving around this festival has been interrupted by this fatal virus causing fear and disruption within the community for the upcoming years.

Under pre-pandemic circumstances, Carnival has been celebrated each year on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in Trinidad and Tobago. The event is well known for participants’ scintillating costumes, exciting music and exuberant celebrations. 

It is followed by a parade of bands throughout the day and exciting competitions as the sound of rhythmic Soca music and dancing take over these magical celebrations complemented with the citizens’ high-energy dancing and partying.

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

However, due to the outbreak of the infectious Covid-19, the anticipation for the festival has been gravely suppressed. Since this is a festival celebrated consistently every year, I believe it is ideal to continue this ongoing tradition as this is a major part of our culture and signifies our heritage. 

It also acts as one of the means of receiving foreign exchange, due to it being the main attraction of the tourism industry. Though of course, with the Covid-19 still lurking among the community, it is safer and more reasonable to celebrate the event following Covid-19 protocols in a controlled environment with rules and regulations to ensure the safety of all masqueraders—thus reducing the chances of a deadly community spread. 

A ‘no mask, no mas’ policy should be adopted with costume designers incorporating this aspect of PPE into costume designs.

I propose the idea that post Covid-19 carnival should be practiced and celebrated in a population-controlled environment, like a stadium or designated fields, where the participants will be required to present their vaccination status to the authorities before entering the premises. 

Photo: A possible pandemic-Carnival headpiece?
(via NY Post)

They will also be required to sanitise, check their temperature, and be observed for any flu-like symptoms. The parade of the bands should be condensed in to one day at one venue to limit the risk of infection. Band leaders and organisers will have to vouch for the safety of their masqueraders by ensuring PCR tests are done in addition to the sanitisation of washrooms.

Furthermore, the people’s eagerness and appetite for our carnival can effectively be delivered through social media platforms and other online platforms. For instance, the calypso competition and Dimanche Gras can be streamed at a cost. 

By hosting this event in a controlled environment, it would reduce the risk of any spread of the virus within the population and the authorities will also be able to control the number of people that can enter the venue, ensuring adequate room for social distancing. 

In the stadium, participants can show off their beautiful costumes with vibrant colour schemes and patterns while gracefully showcasing their talents as their costumes represent significant themes. This will surely aid in reviving the Carnival spirit for the upcoming years.

Photo: A masquerader enjoys the Carnival festivities.

While it is understood that the community will want to express their joy by celebrating this day by partying and dancing during the time in the stadium, it would not be appropriate and may be risky. 

This restriction may cause a small turnout as some may not want to just sit and view in the stadium. Therefore, I think it will be appropriate to have different streaming platforms like televisions and radios and multiple social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to air live from the stadiums or fields which are hosting the event. 

This allows viewers at home to view the event in a safe, comfortable and reasonable way so anyone can join in and become one with the marvellous Carnival spirit. 

For the upcoming years of Carnival, it will not be sensible to allow citizens under the age of eighteen to partake in the festivities. Adults among the vaccinated population should be the ones to kickstart the new era of the Pandemic Carnival.

Foreigners who meet the required health and safety standards should also be allowed to participate, thus preventing an even deadlier outbreak.

Photo: Terri Lyons sings “The Unfortunate Phrase” at the National Calypso Queens Competition on 13 February 2017 at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

With a controlled population of vaccinated adults to accomplish a test run of a Carnival under these challenging circumstances, as the years go by Carnival will be on its way towards revitalisation and soon take back its place as the greatest festival in the world. 

In conclusion, pre-Covid-19 Carnival has been and will always be a festival the country awaits and prepares for all year round. Although in today’s social climate the circumstances may be different, the festival will continue to flourish in its own unique way. 

Despite the many different Covid-19 protocols that may be set into play in the upcoming years, due to it being a vital part of our culture and our hearts, surely it shall once again become a success since our people are resourceful and inventive.

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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