I have long harboured a burning desire to portray the 'Bookman' in our local Carnival celebrations. Bookman is in short a caricature of Lucifer who spends the two days of our national festival making annotations into his 'book' as to which souls are his to claim come Judgement Day.
I have always approached the character with a great sense of levity and irreverence, and have tended to ask half jokingly: Are the masqueraders the dammed? Or is Bookman in fact jotting down the names of those who fail to take full advantage of two of the greatest days of revelrie and abandon known to modern man?
Traditional 'mas' is rich in its history and its portrayals. From Bookman to the Pierrot Grenade to the Burokeets - each comes with own sense of origin, history and significance. Sadly, traditional mas is dying and could soon be extinct.
The last bastion of this form of carnival, an event known as Viey La Cou is aso apparently making way for the death knell of bikinis and mind-numbing music and has been moved out of Port of Spain altogether this season, suffering the ignominy of a mundane name change as well. (Its now to be known by its less impressive Creole to English translation: 'The Old Yard'.)
I have not yet read any of the reviews of this year's Old Yard event but I can surmise from the level of local support and patronage in previous years as well as the fact that Viey La Cou had become a true tourist event, that it was probably a poorly attended affair.
Isnt it ironic that it is always the foreigner who seems to fully appreciate Carnival when it tends towards its most interesting and creative?
I hope that for its own sake that in the same way that so many other aspects of our Carnival has been exported to cities around the world, that perhaps traditional mas could be granted one last reprieve, and perhaps in the years to come we will all be poring over photos of Pierrot Grenades in Boston. Minstrels in Toronto. Firemen in Miami. Burokeets in London. Dame Lorraines and Baby Dolls in Tokyo.
And of course, among them all, the solitary figure of Bookman, (pronounced nose, horns, goatee and all) taking careful note in his oversized ledger, of those who have deigned to preserve the artform and the names of those who have chosen to forget it.