"None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds’: Masquerade as Method for Decolonising Development”
// Dr. Marsha Pearce
Abstract: Despite the end of enslavement and indentureship in the Caribbean, what Cuban critic Antonio Benítez-Rojo describes as the ‘plantation machine’ exists today. It is a well-established lens through which we see and assess our development: that is, in terms of economic growth. The legacy of colonialism is felt in extractive processes—overexploitation of natural resources—aimed at the accumulation of capital. This paper asks the questions: How might we decolonise development thinking in the Caribbean? How might we emancipate ourselves from an imperial mindset? It proposes a development model based on respect. It builds on considerations by Martin et al, that is, on a move from a ‘strictly instrumental relationship to nature to a more respectful one’—a shift from an ‘age of plunder’ to an ‘age of respect.’ The paper interrogates what respect for nature might look like in the context of the Caribbean and argues that an answer is found in the Trinidad Carnival masquerade and an attendant indigenous gaze. The case of mas band Vulgar Fraction’s 2023 carnival presentation, titled N.U.F.F., is analysed for its visual language as a means of framing a vision of Caribbean development. The paper asserts that to play ourselves is to recognise our magnitude, which includes the dimensions of the natural world.
Dr. Marsha Pearce is Lecturer in Visual Arts and Deputy Dean for Distance and Outreach at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA), University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.