The evolving Bahamas Carnival
One of the earliest reasons for objection to the introduction of a carnival celebration in The Bahamas five years ago was the diversion of scarce budgetary dollars in support of what was a whim of the then prime minister, Perry G. Christie.
Much of the criticism centered on the fact that the government was investing millions of public dollars in the development of a foreign-themed musical event heavily reliant on the culture and music of Trinidad and Tobago and even Brazil, while failing to spend similar sums on enhancing the genuine home-grown musical street festival – Junkanoo.
Bowing to relentless pressure, the then government acquiesced to a name change, renaming the event Junkanoo Carnival. As many of those involved in Junkanoo also became involved in carnival, the antagonism among participants faded.
However, criticism continued. Carnival was touted by the Christie government as a new attraction which would serve to boost tourism numbers. In fact, during its first years of existence there was no appreciable increase in the number of visitors travelling to The Bahamas to view or participate in carnival, while the government’s budgetary contribution was routinely exceeded.
When the present government came to office in 2017 it announced that Junkanoo Carnival would not be abolished, but neither would the government financially support the event. Some, particularly those in the opposition, claimed the decision was politically motivated.
While the pulsating music and gyrating dances of participants may prove offensive to some in our community, notably the Bahamas Christian Council, it also responds to what a significant number of the population want. This year the event was referred to simply as Bahamas Carnival.
By all accounts the number of vendors along the route of the road march increased, as had their standard. And, according to the Bahamas Carnival Band Owners Association, there was an increase in both international spectators and participants this year.
This paper thinks privatization has improved the organization of Bahamas Carnival.
The discipline with which litter is removed from the road route of the road march is an impressive example. For this we congratulate Shanendon Cartwright, MP for St. Barnabas, and of the Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority, of which he serves as chairman, for the role they played, in concert with the road march organizers, to ensure Nassau’s roads and parks were restored to good order following the road march in the quickest time we remember.
Carnival organizers insisted they could make a success of the event without government subventions, and they have. This paper congratulates them.