During the 3 day carnival the daily life of Martinique comes to a stand still and the island comes alive with “Carnival Fever”and Fort-de-France erupts with sounds and colour! .(Not even Customs were open to clear in !!) Preparations start months in advance and every one saves up for the best 3 costumes for this year!
We accidently came across these festivities on the first of the 3 day festival ….it was one of the most vibrant experiences we have ever encountered! The calypso music, drumming, dancing, costumes, rhythm, singing and hip rolling went on and on and on for 3 solid days!…with parades are drumming through the streets from 3pm until late at night…and then the party starts ! A total sensory overload! No inhibitions when it comes to attire and if ever there ever was a time for men to get out of a closet …this was it baby! And EVERYONE joined in – from the smallest to the eldest – there was clothes and costumes and some lacking of clothes in the costumes – some weired and wonderful and others just festive and funny!
It is a Family Carnival!…we were surprised to have seen NO drunk or misbehaved people ANYWHERE! I thought it was great that No alcohol was sold in the streets other than at the stalls where you eat…and no one went there until after most of the day’s parades was over – it is a little out of the way of where the action is happening (and no one want to miss any of that!!)and therefor they mostly reside to ice slushies with flavoured cane syrup or huge bottles of water – and it was hot! I could not help to think how well behaved the whole group of people were (we found that in general the French was very well behaved, organised and disciplined on all French Islands) – even the teenagers and young people had so much fun…without a need to overdo it with alcohol!
It was great! The vibe was electric and the drumming and ‘ jammin’ went on and on until the early morning hours! The island was throbbing with pulsing music, tambourines, trumpets and horns are accompanied by steel drums, bamboo sticks even pots and pans become percussion instruments, the rhythms overlapping from Calypso and Zouk to beguine, a soulful dance that originated on the island…..
And you wonder where the energy for another day of more of the same will be coming from? At the break of dawn – the streets were all neat and tidy and the stalls are slowly starting to unpack their glitter outfits and masses amounts of hats and wigs in all colours of the rainbow…ready to get the crowd into the swing of today’s carnival fever!
There is a story about the outfits – the first day almost gave me the impression of a mini Mardi Gras…huge amount of guys in women outfits …I was already thinking of what to get the Captain into for the next day…but thankfully (it could have been very embarrassing if he did show up in my outfit!!) …we met this wonderful French girl that could speak a little English to explain the whole process to us:
Day 1: Celebrating Happy(or Funny?) Marriages -burlesque transgender weddings are celebrated…. Cross-dressing is the flavour of the day!– This is the day for dressing funny! Anything goes!
Day 2: Day of the “Red Devils” – everyone wearing frightening devil costumes, complete with scary masks made from animal skin – The dress code is RED and BLACK!
Day 3: Ash Wednesday, the Day of the She-Devils, Black and White Costumes and Colourful puppets known as bwa bwa are carried around and nègres-gros-sirop, revellers whose bodies are covered in coal tar and sugar-cane syrup, playfully frighten the children…this is also the day that the Carnival King/Vaval, suffers his annual death and burning. The Carnival King, or VAVAL (a satirical mannequin representing a politician, a public figure or an institution), this year was Face Book!!!
At the celebration’s end the island enters the period of Lent, that leads up to Easter.
Lent, the period of fasting and abstinence coincides with the dry season on Martinique. Tradition requires that one does not dance, listen to music and all weddings and other celebrations are postponed until after Lent.
The Photo’s: I apologise for the amount of pictures…so it might take a while to open up… that is only a fraction of what I have taken…and could not cull any more!!!