Carnival started last night, Saturday, February 14, and will go until midnight Tuesday, (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, depending where you are). Here in Dominica we do not have the big, splashy Carnival shows and parades. To be sure, there is a parade in Roseau, and we do ‘jump up’. I have now experienced 3 Carnivals, and that’s plenty. Unfortunately, the Dominican Carnival of today is a big, sodden, loud , often violent, drunk. I stay home.
Carnival, sometimes called ‘Mas: An abbreviated form of Masquerade, the French and Creole term for Carnival. Used as in the phrases: "Couwi Mas", "Run Mas", "Jouway Mas", and "Play Mas".
These are common costumes and still used in parades around Dominica. Masks, however, are banned, for obvious reasons.
Sensay Costume: A costume of West African origin worn at Carnival time in Dominica. It is made of frayed rope and other fibrous material such as pounded leaves of the agave, 'langue beff' (Furcraea tuberosa) that grows mainly on the west coast. The material is tied around the body in layers so that it cascades from the head to the feet. A mask is usually worn on the face and cow horns form the headpiece. Sensay costumes are also made of strips of paper, cloth, frayed plastic sacks and dry banana leaves 'pai fig'. They are similar to costumes used in West African tribal ceremonies. The word comes from the Twi language, senseh, which is a type of fowl with curled or ruffled feathers. The costume is named after its resemblance to the fowl, which also has special spiritual properties among the Twi people.
is a derivation of the god "Moko", coming straight out of West African tradition. Moko is a “diviner” in the Congo language. The term "jumbie" or ghost was added by the freed slaves. It was believed that the height of the stilts was associated with the ability to foresee evil faster than ordinary men. The Moko Jumbie was felt to be a protector of the village.
This mas is well-known throughout the Caribbean. It is an authentic African masquerade mounted on sticks. The stilt walker plays on stilts 10 to 12 feet high. His costume consists of a brightly coloured skirt or pants, jacket and elaborate hat. He would dance through the streets all day, and collect money from people on the upper floors and balconies. His dance was similar to a jig, and he was often accompanied by a drum, flute and triangle.