During the time of slavery, Carnival was introduced to the Caribbean by French settlers in 1783. Banned from the masquerade balls, the slaves would stage mini-carnivals in their own backyards creating new rituals. In so many words, they would pretty much imitate or mock the “party” behavior of their masters.
Let’s talk J’ouvert (pronounced joo-veh) meaning “day break”.
The origins of the street party referred to as J’ouvert coincide with the emancipation from slavery in 1838. People smeared themselves with mud or paint to avoid being recognized and partied down the street late at night while the wealthy were sleeping.
The Bajan version includes calypso music loud enough to send the language of the evening into smiling, waving, toasting, thumbs up or chipping. Chipping is a dance step that is flat footed, knee bent and moving forward, almost as if to “chip” away the street. If the music is right, you can sneak in some whining. This is when people attach themselves to one another by their ‘middle section’ and pulse, sway and thrust to the rhythm in every conceivable manner. Front on front, front to bum – down, up, side to side… You name it. This can be in multiples of two all the way up to a sea of 20!
Ready, set… Here we go!
10:00p – Time to get ready. My oufit before…
11:45p – Getting ready to board the bus to the top of the route. Although this “walk” (which means chipping and dancing, referred to as “jumping”) is only about 2 miles, it takes hours to complete due to the pace set by the music and drink trucks.
So clean as I innocently wait for the future festivities.
12:30am – Once everyone has made it to the starting point, they start the music and open the drink trucks (a mobile bar with servers feeding the crowd unlimited adult beverages).
1:15 – The paint has arrived! This is one of the dozens of barrels.
2am – Let the jump begin! Red, yellow, blue, green, orange… or mud? Unless you’re the one with the bucket, you have no idea what is headed your way. We started off with the sunshine color.
3 something in the morning – it’s only just begun.
You can imagine what the inside of everyones cup must look like with the flinging of this nonsense. I’m not quite sure how, but I managed to keep it totally clean. The locals were questioning my strategy. I claim luck.
Jason has no idea what’s coming…
…Now he does! This look is priceless.
Sometime between 4-4:30 – Closed off streets with hundreds of people having a blast, still chipping away.
5ish – The sun is starting to come up as we reach the last stretch.
At the end of the route, they have a huge fire hose that drenches the crowd for a final rinse before we depart. This shower includes perfect music for more… you guessed it, dancing! Yes, the drink truck parks and keeps on serving.
Before 6am – Crossed the finish line, here we are before the shower.
Ryan’s poor flip flops. I kinda like ’em that way.
Stretching out after miles of raving.
Almost 7 am – Danced in the rain, rinsed off in the parking lot shower party and now it’s come to an end. (Which simply means we get enough time to eat, pretend to rest and get ready for the next carnival party).
I don’t know what I’m more impressed by, the high energy maintained by the open minded participants or the fact that with all of the action, not one fight. Not even one verbal threat. Everyone just laughing and truly enjoying the spirit of Carnival. In my opinion, it’s the way it should be!
That’s what makes the Caribbean so special.
I’m excited that you’re coming this way Robin! Let’s be in touch and make sure you do it right 😉 cheers!
You’re right–amazing that there were no fights or angry people. Sadly, don’t think that would happen in the good ol’ US of A. 😦 Take care!