Amare La Vita – To Love Life

Carnevale: Pleasure & Spiritual Power

By: Dominique Rising

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Stepping into the fantastic world of anonymity and decadence was as simple as donning a mask and dressing in costume in 12th century Italy. The Venetian Carnevale is largely credited for the spread of this tradition of unbridled merrymaking to other nations of the Christendom such as Spain, France & Portugal. Anticipating the season of Lent where one would have to abstain from meat, people would eat as much as they could beforehand to prevent waste. The feasting was accompanied with heavy drinking, dancing, and other forms of socializing. Many of the rich and powerful took advantage of the mask wearing tradition in order to carry out business they would rather keep out of the public eye. It was a time to freely interact with people of any social class, sometimes more intimately than would have been allowed out-of-season.

By the time European nations had established colonies and began initiating trade in the Americas, enslaved Africans had already started to become familiar with the practice of Carnevale. While the rich and powerful sported masks and partied in their own quarters, the men and women of African decent would take the opportunity to create their own parties and use the occasion of Carnevale as a means of self-expression.

 

Mask-wearing in ancient African ritual was a means of giving life and raising up different spirits. The individual wearing the mask would become a medium, a live representative of the spirit being called on. These rituals would be included in the Africans own interpretation of Carnevale accompanied with drumming, dancing, chanting, and parading. So what began as a leisurely season of frolicking and feasting had now been transformed into an empowering mode of artistic expression for a disenfranchised people.

 

African spirituality and European decadence has combined to become what we now know as the most classic incarnations of Carnevale today. In places like Brazil in South America, Trinidad in the Caribbean or New Orleans in the United States, the ecstatic and unrelenting celebration of life continues to play out year after year, demonstrating the many traditions different cultures have contributed to this phenomenon. Today, Carnevale is an international pastime that invites people from all over the world to take part of the ritual of renewal and bacchanal developed over the centuries.

 

The Amare La Vita Showcase will capture this spirit of Carnevale as a sprawling and artistic communal effort at self-renewal for all involved. As our artists paint, burn & carve wood, dance, produce music, tailor wardrobe, and create in other ways you are invited to partake and contribute to the creation. The Escape Artists’ rendition of Carnevale will not only be experienced as a celebration, but also as a life affirmation. As we transition into the new season and shake off the winter doldrums it is important to emphasize newness of the mind and soul to free us up and let creativity flow. Amare La Vita will serve as a platform to help spark that flame of transformation.