The Spirit of Crop Over
So Yu Going To... CARNIVAL Magazine
"Celebration, Creativity, Culture!" are the words a Roman Catholic priest uses to describe the Crop Over Festival. What are we celebrating? What creative energies are being released? What is the meaning of Crop Over to Barbadian culture?
It is telling that the Crop Over Festival climaxes in a massive street celebration. This is Grand Kadooment Day. Crop Over is celebration! Earlier in our history when the annual sugar crop ended, both master and slave celebrated the completion of the sugar harvest. For all, Crop Over signified a temporary respite from the rigours of field work.
Today, Crop Over is a time for making merry. It has become an important psychological and cultural release for the collective soul of Barbadians after decades of cultural silence.
Contemporary Barbadian society is shaped to an important degree by two seminal events which occurred in 20th century; the first is the intense social and political agitation of the 1930's which culminated in the 1937 Riots; the other is the coming of Independence to Barbados in 1966. These two events have helped lay the foundation for the re-emergence of Crop Over as Barbados' major annual cultural festival.
CropOver has allowed Barbadians to shed the myth of their being a reticent, reserved and repressed people, since the festival spirit cuts across all socio-economic levels. The widespread popularity of the festival brings thousands of overseas Bajans back to their homeland for this annual ritual. Increasingly, numerous North American and European tourists come to these shores to share in our legendary Bajan hospitality.
Waldo Walron-Ramsay writes "... that Crop Over lasts for several days, and to that extent it is different in its carnival pattern from the carnival of Trinidad. Ours is more like the African palaver where our ancestors would sit in the baraza or congregate on the plain at the end of the rainy season, and dance to the beat of the haunting sound of the drum; or sing all night; and eat and drink from the bounty of nature herself without caring about tomorrow. Even though they knew that tomorrow would surely come bearing its own share of blessings and woes."
Crop Over is symbolic of the coming of age of Barbados as a nation. It represents the crystallisation of a new cultural consciousness and apprecia tion of things Barbadian.
Along with Crop Over, there has been a growth of professionalism in the local music industry and the rising standard of Barbadian calypso. Since the revival of Crop Over in 1973 by the Tourist Board and the monument contribution made by the National Cultural Foundation to develop the festival to its current international standard, the tourist industry has benefited.
But the spirit of Crop Over and undoubtedly its success owes much to the generous support of the business community which donates cash prizes, provides sponsorship for Crop Over events, costume bands and other festivities.
"....Crop Over is a good medium of cultural expression and social entertainment," writes Father Clement Paul, a Roman Catholic priest. Its impact is like a large catharsis which liberates the Barbadian soul. At this time of year, Crop Over music serves as an antidote to the inflow of foreign culture as local entertainment abounds and the radio airwaves are filled with local music.
From the Ceremonial Delivery Of The Last Canes to the several thousands who will jam the National Stadium for the Pic-0-De-Crop Finals and the thousands more who will "let it all hang out" on Spring Garden on Grand Kadooment Day, let the spirit of Crop Over triumph.
Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes
King Sugar ascended its throne in mid-17th century Barbados. The sweet crop reaped lucrative profits and the island's planters allocated most of the available land and labour to the cultivation of sugar cane.
Africans were transported to the island to work the sugar fields. The plantation system built on sugar took root and dominated Barbados' economy for the next 300 years. The Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes is a traditional event which marks the close of the annual sugar cane harvest. Today, the Last Canes signals the start of the three week Crop Over Festival.
With the arrival of the last load of canes transported in the traditional manner by donkey cart, the symbolic harvest is blessed by the clergy. Performances are usually given by cultural organisation such as the Barbados Landship as well as youth groups. Recreations of 18th century plantation life, donkey cart rides and traditional Barbadian games also feature prominently at the Last Cane ceremony. The Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes is a festive occasion celebrated by folk singing and dancing. It is a fertility ritual in which praise is given to God for the coming of another harvest.
A major highlight of the annual Last Canes ceremony is the announcement of Crop Over's Champion Piler and King of the Crop. The festive occasion continues with a traditional fair complete with local music and delicacies.
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