1881 Canboulay Riots re-enacted
By Leiselle Maraj Saturday, February 9 2013
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The women with their sticks defying the police to break up the riot....
The sun rose yesterday morning to the sounds of drums, steelpan music, and the noise of thousands of persons who turned up on the Picadilly Greens to witness the annual re-enactment of the 1881 Canboulay Riots.
Uptown Carnival Committee Chairman, Dr Vijay Ramlal Rai, said during the early morning festivities the crowd numbered over two thousand. It was the largest he had seen in all his years witnessing the event.
Even before the prompt 5 am start of the re-enactment, persons filled the few bleachers within the venue then crowded the streets at the sides of the stage area in hopes of having a proper view of the performance. This, Rai said, raised concerns about the need for proper infrastructure at the venue to accommodate the patrons.
“There should be bleachers and facilities to really showcase what Canboulay is about so that people could sit and look at it, and understand what it is about. There have been a lot of foreigners here who could not see, and understand. Some of them are here for the first time, and they would not get a good appreciation of what Canboulay is, and as we all know, without Canboulay, there would be no Carnival,” he said.
Rai appealed to the National Carnival Commission and other Carnival stakeholders to address this need for better facilities. He pointed out that the area has remained crime free during the Carnival period over the years. He noted that East Port-of-Spain has been earmarked by Government for development. Rai said his committee will approach the East Port-of-Spain Development Company after Carnival to find out how far along the company was with their plans.
In the early morning darkness the re-enactment, entitled “Kamboulay”, unfolded with cast members filling the roles of persons in the Trinidad society in 1881. While plantation owners and the Governor danced in a ballroom, making proclamations to crack down on Canboulay celebrations of the descendants of freed slaves, the people of the lower class, led by Pierrot Grenades would retell the story of struggle and frustrations with those in authority who wanted to stop their celebrations.
These descendants banded together and came out in force to have their celebrations and met with resistance from the British police which they overcame. Eventually the Governor recognised the celebrations and granted the people two days to keep their Carnival as long as they were not unlawful.
Brendon La Caille played the expanded and updated role of the Governor for the first time in the Pearl Eintou Springer scripted and directed street pageant.
Muhammad Muwakil, Sterling Kent, Ken Alexis, Keon Francis, Camille Quamina, choreographer Dara Healy and Springer made up some of the cast accompanied by the Belmont Freetown Cultural Arts and Folk Performing Company, the Chibale Drumming Ensemble, Malick Folk Performing Company, North West Laventille Cultural Movement, the UWI Centre for Creative and Festival Arts, the Bois Academy, Capoeira artistry by Sekhet Amunwah and Wasafoli.
Following the presentation, Moko Jumbies, drummers, steelpan, Dame Lorraines, Blue Devils and other traditional Carnival characters invaded the stage area to perform signalling the start of the revellry which ends at midnight on Ash Wednesday.