Masking and Power: Carnival and Popular Culture in the Caribbean

By Gerard Aching | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Masking, Misrecognition, Mimicry

He wanted everybody to see him. When they saw him, they had to be
blind not to see.

—ALDRICK from The Dragon Can't Dance, by Earl Lovelace

Creole is originally a kind of conspiracy that concealed itself by its
public and open expression.

—ÉDOUARD GLISSANT, Caribbean Discourse

The epigraphs with which I open this chapter have inspired me to think about this study in a particular way. The first one comes from Earl Lovelace's classic novel about transformations in Trinidad and Tobago's carnival and urban society less than a decade after the twin-island nation obtained its political independence from Britain in 1962. In this excerpt, Aldrick, the novel's protagonist, expresses the desire to be seen in a more profound manner than the collective gaze that observes him as he performs and revels in the dragon-mask costume that he would fabricate almost single-handedly and introduce into the streets of the capital during the annual carnival festivities. What has intrigued me about Aldrick's expression of this desire to be seen is the apparent contradiction in terms. Why would he want [everybody to see him] after he had gone to the trouble of creating and wearing his dragon mask? Furthermore, Aldrick is quick to claim that his mask and performance will be so convincing that when the public sets eyes on him, it would have [to be blind not to see.] In perceiving this distinction, the dragon-mask maker suggests that two modes of visual perception lie at odds: one

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