Carnival in Brooklyn: West Indian Labor Day Parade
Welcome to carnival, that exuberant convocation, where everyday life is transformed into an explosion of colors and sounds and vigorous, purposeful
celebration. For the sounds, you will have to step outside this library’s walls and discover/rediscover a warm tropical place, as close as nearby Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, or as far as the Caribbean islands, which have adapted carnival into several art forms. However, these wonderfully vivid photographs and equally breathtaking costumes will make for a fabulous head start on your carnival journey.
Geared to coincide with the annual West Indian Day parade, this exhibition is meant to rejoice in and complement the largest carnival parade in the
United States, bringing you a microcosm of its 3 million strong revelry and historical merrymaking. Held for the first time in Harlem thirty-three years ago, the West Indian Day parade has shared Eastern Parkway with this library on Labor Day since 1967. Because both have made their home at the heart of Brooklyn's Caribbean community, it is inevitable that the parade would come into the library in a more immediate way, even though school children and researchers have been using the library to learn more about carnival for many years.
At the core of carnival is the notion of a community, a beloved community, coming together to act out its history of joys and pains, all the while
creating a newer and richer narrative. The photographs and costumes here are part of that narrative. Enjoy them! Relish them! Let them take you home and back, wherever "home" may be. This year, more than ever, New Yorkers need a common joyful narrative, a jubilant reminder that we and those around us, whatever our backgrounds or nationalities, are one. At times, carnival becomes a heightened version of life, a costumed drama where sorrow and rapture, life and death compete for equal footing. As you visit this exhibition, either before or after the carnival parade on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, we hope that the carnival will carry you away to and then bring you back from some spectacular
destinations, which you will soon realize are not that distant in the first place.
Edwidge Danticat, author of After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in
Photographing Carnival. What a treat. Two million or more people. Drums
beating, pounding, throbbing, and pulsating; horns blowing, tooting, and
trumpeting; banners and pennants flying, colors of every hue, shade, timbre, and tint shimmering; bodies gliding, skipping, whirling, jumping,
shimmying, stomping, and sliding. Feathers, baubles, beads, sequins. Smells of hot roti, of goats roasting, of smoke and musk. How to capture it?
Here are 14 attempts.
Photographers Anthony Bonair, Wayne
Clarke, Sulaiman Ellison, Phyllis Galembo, Heru, Max Kozloff, Sylvia
Plachy, Chantal Regnault, Edwine Seymour, Beuford Smith, Shawn Walker,
Deborah Willis, and Mel Wright