Acrylic on Canvas, Alwyn St Omer
The Masquerade was a Secret Act of Rebellion; as plantation slaves at every opportunity would transform themselves into various forms of African costuming and mask tradition whenever the plantation owners permitted any form of celebration. It was a sort of quiet revolution and a secret link to the motherland that they were so savagely torn from. A silent conquest over those who sought to be their masters. These ritualistic gifts provided quiet comfort to our ancestors. These mask traditions continued through the ages becoming an Integral part of our cultural and Christmas celebrations until strangely disappearing over the last thirty years in St Lucia, with no credible explanation or why, of the great departure.
The Moon dancer series is my attempt in painting, to revive interest in and to Save the “Masquerade”, a lost symbol of resistance and ritualistic gift from our African past. An enchanting Street Theater of by gone days. The Toes, The Pie Banan, the Masqueraders as they roamed the streets of the Caribbean Islands.
It is hoped that this art will serve as a small contribution towards the re-awakening of interest in the Caribbean’s beautiful landscape, people, art and culture for the next generation and the world.
Laura Leddy Turner further explains, “The word “masquerade” has its roots in the French word “mascarade” and the Italian word “maschera,” but masquerades likely originated on the West African coast. Similarities exist between the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte and the Nigerian Yoruba masked comedy. Masquerade first became popular in Venice, Italy and the practice of masquerade balls quickly spread throughout Europe and England in the 18th century. During the same period, African ceremonial masquerades spread to the Caribbean and southeastern United States, where it evolved into carnivals”.