The festival of Carnival is celebrated each year in Trinidad and Tobago during the pre-Lenten season which may be as long as two (2) months, culminating with two (2) days of street parading on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Calypso music, costume design and parading, Steelpan and Soca competitions, and the re-enactment of the Canboulay Riots are just a few of the events that make up the contemporary celebration of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.
It is said that Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is what defines its people; and although some may disagree, there is not doubt that during the carnival season there is an explosion of creativity, dynamism and vibrancy that is unparalleled at any other time of the year.
The National Museum and Art Gallery, has set aside a special gallery on the ground floor of the Museum that seeks to showcase the history of carnival through all of its manifestations. At any different point in time that patrons visit this gallery they can learn about the general history of Carnival, Calypso history, the history of the Steelpan movement and of course the history of costume design.
Carnival as it is celebrated today is as a result of many decades of struggle and change, rebellion and transformation on the part of the people of this twin island state. It is a festival that can find its origin in many diverse cultures of the world such as the French and African traditions of costumed balls and celebratory masking and singing respectively. The festivities are a rich and hybrid concentration of and combination of history and creativity that is constantly adapting and changing as the society changes. Two examples of this are firstly the myriad genres of music such as chutney soca and groovy soca that have developed within the festival, as well as the fact that the street parade has become a stage for all participants whereas in the past the elite of the society would not mingle with working class.