For all participants - rich or poor, young or
old - Carnival provides the opportunity to play - leave the everyday
world, become someone else, and behave in unusual ways. In Laza,
Spain you might throw dirt and ants at your neighbors, in Venice,
Italy you become an 18th-century count, while in Basel, Switzerland
you wear a masquerade protesting the spread of mad-cow disease.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Recife and Olinda,
Brazil, you are the queen of a royal court, in Tlaxcala, Mexico
you burlesque as a French dandy, or in Oruro, Bolivia you take
on the guise of a dancing devil. In Port of Spain, Trinidad and
Tobago you strut down the street as a fancy sailor, while in New
Orleans, USA you blacken your face, put on a grass skirt, and
throw coconuts to the crowds.
This exhibition provides windows into eight communities in Europe
and the Americas where Carnival is a high point of the yearly
cycle. We see people who have dedicated much of their lives to
planning, creating, practicing, and carrying out the festivities.
Through their masquerades and performances we learn about the
history and cultural traditions of the various regions. We observe
Carnival participants as they relieve tensions and bring a sense
of renewal to themselves and their communities. At the same time
we gain a better understanding of the importance and function
of Carnival play.