Carnaval Celebration to prepare locals for June Parade

By Justus Flair, The Daily Iowan

volunteers make gear flowers at carnaval workshop
Volunteers at a Carnaval workshop paint gear flowers for Iowa City's Carnaval parade.

On June 9, Iowa City will officially become a Carnaval City.

This Saturday, the city will host a Carnaval Celebration leading up to the June event in B1 North Hall from 1-5 p.m.

The event will feature a presentation by Carnaval costume designer Clary Salandy, plantain tasting, recipe discussion, Trinidad Carnaval and African dance demo by Modei Akyea, and a costume workshop. The Daily Iowan spoke with theater Associate Professor Loyce Arthur, the coordinator of the Iowa City Public Engagement Carnaval Arts Project and head of design for the Theater Department.

The event has been in the works for more than half a decade.

Daily Iowan: How did the work to hold a Carnaval Parade in Iowa City begin? How long has it been in development?

Loyce Arthur: The work began in 2006, when I was planning to produce an exhibition of Carnaval costumes. I wanted to introduce Iowa to a unique little-known art form. I intended to have a mass camp or workshop along with the exhibit to involve the community in the event as much as possible. The exhibit was postponed because of the flood, and as I talked with more and more people about engaging the community in the process, the project expanded, with a goal to include as many people as possible and to celebrate Iowa’s growing diversity.

DI: Why do you feel Carnaval will be relevant to residents of Iowa City?

Arthur: Carnaval parades, the main events, have always been an exciting display of the visual arts and music in dynamic motion, growing larger and larger in scale over time. Today, Carnaval is a strong, vibrant tradition in several island nations and Latin American countries as well as urban centers around the world. New Carnaval traditions have been created as people have emigrated to other countries, including Canada, Great Britain, the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, just to name a few. Migrating Carnavalists have taken the traditions and celebrations with them to celebrate, the culture of their countries of origin as well as the new communities that they now call home.

Carnavalists young and old and from diverse backgrounds work together for almost a year to translate stories and themes into 12- to 50-foot works of art. In a process of making art, storytelling and visual art, people themselves become works of art. A Carnaval parade is art on parade to celebrate both individuality and community. Carnaval continues to transform communities and enrich people’s lives all around the world, even in Iowa City, 2012-2013. In an increasingly technological and impersonal world, the Carnaval arts can be utilized to bridge differences and celebrate human resilience and creativity.

DI: There are tastings and dance demos being held on Saturday; will these take place at the actual parade? Or just now as a preview?

Arthur: Dancing and food are part of Carnaval. It will be part of the Iowa City parade event, though I can’t promise there will be plantain, though. As with every Carnaval parade, there is always time ahead of time to dance, get to know people you will be parading with, and work together on costumes and floats.

DI: Where are submissions to the parade coming from and how can people submit their work or become involved? The costume designs are hugely significant, so are there any requirements to work on elements for the parade?

Arthur: Adults and children have, and still can, submit their family’s written stories and draw pictures of Iowa favorites on fabric squares. The stories will be copied onto a long piece of fabric, creating an “Iowa River of Stories” quilt that will be carried during the June 9 parade. The fabric squares will be sewn together and used to make large-scale, colorful costumes for people to wear during the event.

This parade won’t just be my parade or a small group of artists’ parade, but Iowa City’s parade. There are things for people to do at the workshop at all levels, such as painting, cutting out the fabric squares, or copying the stories onto fabric. You can also learn easily to make pieces under the instruction of the Carnaval guests such as Clary Salandy next Saturday and local artists such as Jennifer Shook, Buffy Quintero, Ariane Parkes-Perret, Cheryl Robinson, and Dawn Harbor.

The event is highly anticipated, and everyone in the Iowa City area is encouraged to get involved in some way. Even if one just wishes to attend the event, donations are appreciated.

Organizers are looking for broomsticks and thin light-weight hollow shower rods, fiberglass fishing rods, solid colored and white T-shirts, white or off-white and solid bright-colored sheets, lightweight bright colored fabric in lengths, small carts and wagons, and two-liter plastic bottles. Donations are being accepted in B1 North Hall any Saturday before June 9 from 1-5 p.m. Those wishing to learn more can do so on the Iowa City Carnaval Facebook page and on Twitter at @ICCarnaval.


Carnaval Celebration
Where: B1 North Hall
When: 1-5 p.m. Saturday
Breakdown of events:
            •           1-1:40 p.m. - Presentation by Carnaval costume designer Clary Salandy
            •           1:50-2:15 p.m. - African and Caribbean plantain tasting and recipe discussion
            •           2:15-3 p.m. - Trinidad Carnaval and African dance demo by Modei Akyea
            •           3 p.m.-5 p.m. - Costume Workshop: Get started on your Carnaval costume or float for the parade

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