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Performing Trinidad in Butetown: Carnival, Community and Belonging – Dr Adeola Dewis – MLANG Guest Lecture 30.03.17

Dr Adeola Dewis is a Visual Artist and Researcher. Originally from Trinidad, Adeola completed PhD research at Cardiff University. Her current research is focussed on Trinidad Carnival performance and the translation of its self-empowering effects for art making and art presentation within the UK. This presentation engages her research into the Trinidad Carnival performance and its various crossings – including the crossing and translation of this performance in a Cardiff space. Having worked extensively with Trinidadian artists myself ( Tricia Lee Kelshall and Jointpop ) I am aware of  the critical importance of carnival to Trinidad. I always attend St Pauls Carnival in Bristol which is one of the biggest Afro-Caribbean events in the UK. I was keen to learn more about the Butetown Carnival and also felt that Adeola’s presentation would compliment my current focus on Haitian Kanaval in the ‘Imaging The Islands‘ Francophone Caribbean course that is part of my undergraduate Translation (BA) degree at Cardiff University. [Wez G]   Adeola began her talk by focussing on her native land. Trinidad has a world-renowned Carnival which is regarded highly as one of the best in the world. Her upbringing in this Carnival culture therefore places her as an ‘expert’. Trinidad was first colonised by the Spanish in 1498 yet it was the French planters that really brought Carnival to the island in 1783. The French never officially ruled Trinidad, although they were de-facto rulers, culturally and socially due to the large Francophone population there that governed the plantations and brought many of the enslaved Africans to work the cane-fields. There were Spanish laws and Trinidad was a Spanish colony for 300 years until handed over to Britain in 1797… Adeola brought forward the idea of a ‘collective individual body memory’, part of the essence of Carnival, and this dates back to the plantation culture. Performance undeniably has its roots in West Africa, and manifests in Carnival through Masquerade and Ritual. In Trinidad there was much difference between the different African languages, cultures and customs. This was added to the European values and cultural differences, later followed by the cultural input of Chinese and Indian indentured workers who migrated to the island, adding to the creolisation of Trinidadian culture. Mentioning some theoreticians of Theatre performance in the West Indies, Adeola spoke of how the Plantation, Maroons and Carnival were all inextricably linked. There is RECALL, RESISTANCE, REMAKING and RESTITUTION….

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