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Leeds West Indian Carnival
Credit for audio clip: Sonic City

Khadijah talks about ritual in Carnival

(Recording credit: Sonic City)
So in regards to ritual and masquerade, these rituals were found in places such as West Africa. Now if you know anything about the impact of the slave trade, most of the people were taken from the west coast of Africa, most of them coming from places like Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria - those regions there, and within that, traditions were taken. Traditions that were often not published, not publicised or publicly displayed because of fear and also within the slave trade when they were working on plantations, they were forbidden to practice any of their rituals, so sometimes they would fuse African traditions within religious traditions - so within Christianity which is a religion that they were allowed to practice. Within the masquerade, you will find, for instance, places like Nigeria, what they call the egungun, which is the masquerade and that egungun is a spirit. It’s a person within there but they say that the person takes on the spirit of the mask whatever they are. So they could be the spirit of good faith, they could be the spirit of thunder for instance. The spirit of thunder is called Shango and within Trinidad, the Trinidadians are very fixed to the orishas and a lot of those traditions that come out of Nigeria. So the masquerade is very traditional in Nigeria and very similar in Trinidad and some of the things that they teach are exactly the same thing and these traditions have survived for so long. So understanding masquerade and its purpose, understanding things such as how masquerade is used in the streets - not just the making of it but the spiritual side of it and how that person will be transformed into that. So for instance when you go to the Queen’s show and even when on the streets they have the masquerade, but they have certain dances which take on the spirit of the masquerade and you see them with a fife and the flute player and a drummer and that drumming is different to the regular drumming of the bass line of the music. It’s a very old African way of drumming and that is when you start what we say that's when the spirit starts to enter them and they become that mask and usually the masquerade, their faces are covered, hands are covered, feet are covered - you're not supposed to know who's under that and so you believe in the spirit of the masquerade.