Have you ever wondered why at Carnival time you have to “pay the devil”, or why the Jab Jab cracks his whip?
The first documentary film by the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT) called “Our Soul Turned Inside Out” takes a look at traditional Carnival characters of Trinidad and Tobago created in the 19th Century.
The movie was showcased at the Digicel IMAX Theatre in Woodbrook on Tuesday to a myriad of invited guests, including Culture and Community Development and the Arts Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
The hour long film focused on traditional mas characters such as the Blue Devils, Jab Jab and stick fighters. The film highlights how slavery and emancipation, as well as other cultural influences, helped shape these characters. It explains how French creole mixed with African and Indian cultural practices helped to create the variety of characters that exist today.
The Blue Devils of Paramin in Trinidad are the product of a village deep rooted in French creole tradition. A characteristic shared with other Caribbean islands who have had a French influence, including Haiti and Carriacou, Grenada. The film also does a masterful job of showing the influence of the East Indian Kali culture in the development of the Jab Jab warrior traditions and the creation of their whips in the Jab Jabs of Gran Couva.
“Our Soul Turned Inside Out” also chronicles the story of stick fighter Keegan Taylor as he explained the art, traditions, and practices of the Trinidadian Martial Art of stick fighting. Taylor tells of the preparations of the fighting stick, to the moment a fighter enters the gayelle (arena) and competes to the beat of the lavway (musical chants).
From the sound of the round of applause “Our Soul Turned Inside Out” was well received. Barbadian, Rashida Lynch, told BuzzHub Live that she left enlightened from the experience, since she did not know many of the aspects of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival history and traditions.
"We (Barbados) do have some elements of stick fighting but not to that level of people playing Jab Jab, the whips, definitely not something we have in Barbados," Lynch told Buzz Hub.
The film’s Director, Mary-Ann Brailey, told Buzz Hub Live she found many who did not know the history and preparation that goes into stick fighting and the Jab Jab characters. "But much appreciation has to be given to these individuals because they are the ones who are upholding the traditions and keeping the culture alive," she said.
Dr Kim Johnson, writer/director of the film - as well as a director of the CITT, said the mandate of the institute is to document, archive, and disseminate the Carnival Culture of Trinidad and Tobago. He hopes, however, to broaden that mandate to include not just Carnival, but all of culture. "You saw that we had to look at Kali and other aspects of our culture, Haiti and Carriacou", said Johnson, "we want to broaden it to include the entire region."
The CITT plans to showcase the documentary in many more locations as a means of opening the eyes of the audience to the achievements of the Carnival Culture of Trinidad and Tobago.