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How is Caribbean Carnival used in the articulation and performance of Caribbean identity?

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The celebration of Carnival is an integral part of the Caribbean identity, particularly in the diaspora. For centuries, Carnival has represented a breaking down of social norms and expectations. It was a way for slaves to have their own conspicuous celebrations that mirrored, and even lampooned, the fancy balls of their colonial masters. In its original form, Carnival was first imported to the Caribbean by European colonizers. It soon took on a uniquely Caribbean identity as it combined with elements of African masquerade. From its very inception, Carnival became a way for people in and from the Caribbean to express their identity. Carnival has evolved considerably over time and taken on regional aspects all its own. However, Carnival still has many aspects that unite the identity of the entire Caribbean region.

Caribbean communities traditionally mark the passage of time and seasons with celebrations. Within the Caribbean diaspora, Carnival marks a momentous time of year. It is the period when Caribbean culture is most conspicuous. The cultural aspects of this identity can openly leave the household and take to the streets. It is a way for Caribbean culture, arts, and identity to prosper and flourish outside of its homeland.

There has always been a subversive element to Carnival. The Ole Mas, for instance, involves calling attention to social and political inequities. Even in the diaspora, this has been a way that Caribbean communities draw attention to what sets them apart from the dominant power structures. However, it is also meant to be inclusive, drawing in people from various different communities.

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