I keep on running into “where do I even begin” topics this month – especially around Carnival. Carnival is so huge, so emblematic of Trinidad and Tobago, and such a complex holiday, that there’s so much to learn about it. I’d recommend starting with the article “Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago: Ferocious Spirit, Enduring Identities” by Shrinagar Francis that gives both a rundown of the festivities, and works to undo a myth that Carnival was a purely European invention, which obscures a lot of Carnival’s African roots.
I’d also suggest this beautiful short film about Playing Mas and getting ready for the festivities. It really captures both the fun, the chaos, but also all the work that goes into Carnival.
A really good interview on the history of Carnival, the religious and cultural meanings, the different events in Carnival. They also talk about how Carnival has grown and spread first to other parts of the Caribbean and then to other parts of the world.
A bit on some of the more historical characters and protest nature of Carnival.
To build on the international influence Carnival has, that last video was shot in Toronto, where Caribana has become one of the largest festivals in Canada, with up to 2 million people attending in a normal year. It’s a direct offshoot from Trinidadian Carnival, though it’s held in the summer for obvious reasons – you don’t want to be down to a bikini in the snow.