Caribbean carnival traditions, rooted in ancient African rituals and craftsmanship, are a vital mosaic of music, dance, theater, and elaborate costuming. They reflect a complex infrastructure of the local mindset which emerged due to social, political, and economic history of the Caribbean Basin. At the same time Caribbean carnival traditions contain new forms of cultural expression. Carnival celebrations are now found throughout the Caribbean in Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica, Haiti, and Cuba; in Central and South America and in large citiesof Canada and the U.S.
Throughout the African Diaspora, ancient masking rituals are blended with many other cultural traditions. However, in the core of the Caribbean carnival traditions lay the ancient African traditions of parading and moving in circles in costumes and masks. Circling in this way was believed to bring good fortune, to heal diseases, and cast out evil spirits. African dance and music traditions transformed the early carnival celebrations. Their infectious rhythms make the dancers look like they are carried away in a wild frenzy. For the Caribbean carnival people it's vital to express their rich cultural traditions in such a way. African drum rhythms, large puppets, stick fighters, and stilt dancers also make their appearances in the carnival festivities.
Caribbean Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects like bones, shells and beads to create a piece of sculpture, a costume or a mask, each object representing a particular idea or spiritual force. The use of masks had a special meaning, because for many African peoples, masking is widely used in their rituals for the dead. Feathers were frequently used by Africans on masks and headpieces as a symbol of their ability to rise above troubles, problems and diseases. Today, the feathers are used in many forms in creating carnival costumes. For African people, carnival became a way to express their power as individuals, as well as their rich cultural traditions.
It takes many months to come up with a theme or overall concept of the carnival and it takes special insights to develop costumes for the dancers. Lots of creativity, energy and patience is put into the Caribbean carnival.
Nowadays Carnival festivities and activities are being held annually around the world while taking on many different forms. The dates on which Carnival celebrations take place may vary from country to country, from island to island.
Caribbean carnival arts can unite the world, for everyone, including the spectators, is part of the celebrations. The power and creativity that underlies these art forms can bring a fresh perspective on life. Carnival traditions offer a powerful tool for self-expression, for developing new perception of the world and its cultures, for discovering what different nations have in common. Miles of wondrous costumes and floats, with masqueraders, dancers, and musicians from all over the world join together to celebrate artistic expression through the spirit of carnival is truly a breathtaking spectacle. Carnival is the way to celebrate life!