Culture: Caribana

 

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Introduction
The Cultural Mosaic of Caribana
Caribana 1998
The World's Most Culturally Diverse City
Caribana Photos by Monica Goodluck
References

Introduction

For many Black Canadians, especially those of Caribbean descent, Caribana in Toronto is the cultural experience of the year. Every year, in the last few weeks of July and the first weekend of August, Toronto celebrates Black culture with festivities ranging from concerts and exhibits to parades and parties. This annual festival is already attended by over one million people annually and continues to grow.

Canada was celebrating its 100th birthday as a country in 1967. In Toronto, Black immigrants (mostly Caribbeans) wanted to join in the celebration and express their sense of sister/brotherhood in their newfound home. This led to the formation of the Caribbean Cultural Committee, the organizing body for Caribana that still exists today. In August of 1967, this group of visionaries brought the spirit of Caribana to life, with the purpose of showing appreciation for Canada's warmth and hospitality and sharing the Caribbean culture with fellow Canadians. The carnival was a tremendous success and lasted an entire week (July 30 to Aug. 6, 1967). And so began an annual tradition.

 

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The Cultural Mosaic of Caribana

Caribana is about many things. For those who have not been to the Caribbean or have not been exposed to its culture, this carnival is a wonderful taste of what you're missing. The foundation of Caribana lies in costume-making and music-playing. Costume-makers often spend the entire year designing and producing elaborate costumes that will be showcased throughout the festivities. Each band has a theme that it displays artistically. The bands compete at the King and Queen competition on the Thursday prior to the parade. They also strut their stuff at the parade on the first Saturday of August. Steelpan bands can be heard playing calypso, which is the music of Caribana. As well, live bands and disc jockeys blare calypso from their speakers at the parade and at parties. The parade is the central event of Caribana, which is evident by the enormous number of spectators that it draws. Unlike many parades, people at this event watch the costume displays and bands, then quickly find a float they like and start to dance along with it. This is where the term "jump-up" comes in since the dancing requires some jumping and is very lively.

For more information on participating bands, you can go to the homepage of Share, a Caribbean-Canadian paper that is published in Toronto. Click here:
www.sharenews.com/ to go to the Share homepage.

Once you connect to it, click on "TORONTO MAS' 98." Some of the other events that take place include the Junior Carnival Parade, also known as the "Kiddies Carnival." This is a parade that allows the little ones to celebrate Caribbean culture and dance in the streets. It occurs a week before the Caribana parade. As well, there are musical performances, cruises, competitions, and dances that take place.

 

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Caribana 1998

It is 1998 and 31 years since the first Caribana celebration. Despite its success, Caribana has managed to be rather fruitless economically for its primary organizers, the Caribbean Cultural Committee. This has caused numerous debates about Caribana. For more information, see Cecil Foster's book, Caribana, the Greatest Celebration published by Random House of Canada Limited. This topic is also discussed in the local newspapers around the time of Caribana. The other area of uneasiness is the inclusion of non-Caribbean cultures in the parade. Over the years, there has been an influx of hip-hop / R&B floats, along with other floats sponsored by Latin, Scottish, and corporate organizations. Some feel this takes away from the Caribbean flavour of the parade. However, for 31 years Toronto has been crowded with visitors anxious to have some fun in the sun. Despite all the political / cultural / economical dilemmas that may arise, no one wants to see Caribana disappear!

 

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The World's Most Culturally Diverse City

If you would like to know more about Caribana as a tourist, click here:
www.carnaval.com/cityguides/toronto/in_carn.htm

Hope to see you in Toronto every August to celebrate Caribbean-Canadian culture!

 

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Caribana Photos by Monica Goodluck

Click on the thumbnail of your choice to view an enlarged photograph, which will pop up in a new window. When you are finished looking at the larger image, close that window to return to the site:

Image of the Caribana crowd Image of a Caribana dancer Image of a Caribana dancer Image of a Caribana dancer

 

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References

Foster, Cecil. Caribana, the greatest celebration. Random House Limited: Toronto, 1995.
Caribbean Cultural Committee. "Caribana" (pamphlet). Toronto, 1998.
www.carnaval.com/
www.sharenews.com/
Materials prepared by Monika Goodluck yu164278@yorku.ca

 

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