Mac Farlane Carnival

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Statement from Brian Mac Farlane

Over the past 72 hours, there has been active conversation on the naming of a costume designed by me for the 2017 Carnival Production that was launched on Friday evening.

When I embarked on this production, I made an effort to invite designers of fashion and mas to share in the creative process that has been more than just a career to all of us. It’s what we love. The response and involvement as a collective was and continues to be positive, very constructive and extremely promising.

Similarly, the naming of the presentation, Cazabon: The Art of Living, is based on the amazing architecture of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s which exists up to this day in communities such as Belmont, East Port of Spain, Woodnbrook, in the east of Trinidad, across the Central plains and parts of Tobago, in addition to the more recognized spaces such as the Magnificent 7.

Interestingly, I came to understand that many of these homes and structures depict influences from Africa, India and even far East Asia. I wanted to help protect and preserve our heritage spaces the best way I knew how – through art, by interpreting the story of that time.

I believe our society understands and appreciates Carnival and its artistic depth, even as we choose to parade in costumes of the fancy category as compared with the historic.

Truth be told, there is a tremendous amount of good emanating from our society spending time debating the historic period, origin and influences of a Carnival band.

When we acknowledge and present the imagery of our heritage, we have to see that out of these lived experiences came the freedom to walk and worship, to dine and dance, to love and laugh. Today, so many of us seem to take these liberties for granted, and I don’t exclude myself from that. So while I want to always ensure that I accurately reflect our incredibly multidimensional history, I understand that there is still a lot for me to explore, to unearth, to unlearn and to learn. My intention was never to offend anyone, or to come across as ignorant of our truth, or to idealise insensitivity. It was to depict the clothing of the time. However, I understand how and why it hurt some of us. And it is with this realization that I have made the decision to not move forward with this particular section from the 2017 presentation. I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.

So what was revisiting this part of history meant to achieve? For me the answer seems clear: Freedom, Expression, Space, Identity, Heritage, Culture in the plight to save our heritage spaces. Yet, if each day those heritage buildings and spaces that are rooted in identity, are demolished, forgotten, discarded into ruin or abandon… then we have lost the plot of the story to be told.

In my heart, I feel that the production of Cazabon: The Art of Living holds power for us as a nation and as a people free to learn, discuss and prosper.

I welcome the healthy debate, because it can lead to a deeper understanding of our growth as a connected people. Certainly, I have learned a lot from this experience, for which I am thankful. I can only hope these conversations build us up to listen to each other, journey with our fellow citizen, act as messengers of change and educate future generations as to the richness and diverse nature of our identity and heritage.