UWI graduate Dr Archie Hudson Phillips had a simple answer to how carnival emerged at the University College of the West Indies (UCWI), now UWI, in the mid-1950s: It was coming up to Ash Wednesday and the southern Caribbean students said – “Le’ Wi Play Mas!”
And that is the title of our new cameo exhibition, mounted now in honour of UWI Carnival which has migrated into the Lenten period and is this year celebrated at the UWI’s founding Mona campus from March 10 – 14. At Cave Hill, the dates are March 20 – 26.
“Le’ Wi Play Mas!”. Emergence & Evolution of UWI Carnival will run until the middle of April, just after Jamaica Carnival. While there is not a direct connection between the two, several contributors to the discussion on UWI Carnival, which fed the exhibition, agree that UWI Carnival created the appetite for carnival in Jamaica.
The exhibition is not the be all and end all of the discussion or the collection of data and artifacts relating to UWI Carnival or other aspects of the university’s social history. As Curator Suzanne Francis-Brown asserts: “It’s very much a work in progress. In fact I’m hoping it will help generate more stories, more data, more photos, and even an artifact or two, though carnival finery is generally pretty ephemeral.”
In fact the costumes of display are custom pieces.
Mas or masquerade is a long-standing pre-Lenten tradition that is one major element of carnival. Another Trinidad carnival foundation element that came to Jamaica via UWI Carnival is steel band music. Apparently many of the early steelpans used here were home-made at UWI – first behind Block D of Taylor Hall and later close by the Student Union.
There’s much more to discover to enrich our UWI Carnival knowledge. Please share your own stories if you have them, here, or via <firstname.lastname@example.org>. And come visit the exhibition if you’re at UWI Mona or in Kingston. We have clipboards you can use to add your own knowledge to ours or we can set up an interview!