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The re-enactment of Kambule on Carnival Friday,
is symbolically the awakening of the Carnival spirit.
The Kambule production recognises and celebrates
the bois men and women, the warriors of the mas,
who are the frontline in the confrontation with
Captain Baker in the 1880s, said a release from the
Kambule reminds us that the Africans created a
great deal despite enslavement. In the gayelle of the
existence, the ancestors fought inch by inch to clear
a space for the manifestations of their culture whether
remembered or forged in the crucible of the envi-
ronment to which they had been so forcibly trans-
The Kambule was rooted in the remembered mask-
ing traditions of West Africa, and of course influenced
by the new Caribbean environment.
By definition, the Kambule was a torchlight pro-
cession which took place from midnight on Carnival
Sunday. By the 1870s hundreds of men, carrying
lighted flambeau and sticks, some drunk, most of
them masked, marched around the streets of the cap-
ital. There was drumming, hooting, singing, shouting,
and fights between rival bands.
But the authorities deemed it too disorderly and
out of control. The bands of working-class men and
women who came out were threatening to the
Not to mention, the lighted torches, in a town with
largely wooden buildings, was a fire hazard. Thus,
there seemed to be just cause for closing it down.
Various laws enacted between 1868 and 1879 gave
Baker the authority to move against the marchers. At
the 1880 Kambule, he called on them to surrender
their sticks, drums and torches. Without resistance,
they did as ordered.
The following year, however, the warriors and the
police faced off. Known as the Bois Bataille stick fight,
bois men and women fought against the might of the
The masqueraders, stickfighters came out in full
force and a full-scale fight ensued---involving sticks,
batons, stones and fists---in which 38 out of the 150
policemen present were injured.
The police retreated to the Barracks and remained
there until Carnival Tuesday but there was no violence
thereafter and the celebrations continued peaceful-
ly. The historic battle took place on Duke Street, in
the vicinity of Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars pan
yard and this year, like in previous years, tribute is
paid to the warriorhood of the former enslaved.
Kambule 2014 is a performance crafted by the
Idakeda Group, as they continue to revisit this day
in our Carnival history as it commemorates the reason
for our freedom and our ability to celebrate this festival.
Eintou Springer, the author of this play that revels
in the bravery of the men and women of the barrack
yards of East Dry River, says in the release: "In the
Gayelle of the existence, the ancestors fought inch by
inch to clear a space for the manifestations of their
culture whether remembered or forged in the crucible
of the environment to which they had been so forcibly
"Within that space, it is also important to remember
the genesis of the traditional mas as we know it. For
example, the dames lorraine characterised by their
flambouyant dresses and over-exaggerated bosoms
were originally portrayed by male slaves who mimicked
the wives of the plantation owners.
"The jab (patois for diable or devil) molassie (patois
for mélasse or molasses) is the fearsome creature who
carries a pitch fork and threatens to smear spectators
unless they pay him. But the shackles and chains that
restrain him also have links to slavery. Combined
with the molasses with covers his body, the character
jab also refers to the estate gangs that dealt with cane
Deputy chairman of the National Carnival Com-
mission, Don Sylvester, the force behind preserving
traditional mas, believes understanding Carnival begins
with the Kambule.
"The NCC as the executive producer of this per-
formance is signalling our desire to maintain our his-
torical connections. I would encourage as many citizens
and mas lovers as possible to witness this re-enact-
ment," he said.
"If you want to understand where Carnival began,
and where the bat, jab jab and other mas characters
came from, this is where to begin."
Sylvester believes that in reliving the history of Car-
nival, Trinidadians can keep the tradition alive amidst
the colour and vibrancy for which this festival is now
Reliving the spirit of Kambule
Eintou Springer is one of the key people behind the Kambule celebrations. She
believes Carnival is alive today because of the struggle of the barrack yard
people of East Dry River.
The Kambule starts at 5 am on the Piccadilly
Greens, Port-of-Spain, on February 28.
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