The second annual “Carnival in the City” exhibit is gracing the walls of Resorts World Casino for its second edition now until Sept. 7. The two-floor display launched last year to showcase Caribbean culture to patrons of the casino. Now it’s back again, this time with more new and returning imagery of Caribbean carnival culture in the city, said the curator.
“This year we have close to 40 images — the first floor dedicated to J’ouvert, and the second floor is carnival and dedicated to the more traditional,” said Karen Valentine.
As part of the “We are J’ouvert” campaign — an anti-violence initiative launched by the Mayor’s office of Community Affairs, Valentine says the exhibition is an example of her dedication to the cause.
“The campaign is continuing this year and this is our participation in that,” she said.
The presentation brings forth photos of from the early dawn party of J’ouvert, and the following West Indian American Labor Day carnival. After a successful run last year, Valentine says she and her team wanted to resume the display and give people an opportunity to see what carnival is all about because it earned lots of attention.
“I actually got a lot of phone calls from patrons last year asking me about carnival and wanting to learn more, and I didn’t think I’d get that type of response but a lot of people did notice,” she said.
And that is entirely her goal — to present carnival in a celebratory manner to people unfamiliar with it.
“Part of the reason why I chose to do the exhibit in the casino is because thousands of people walk through those doors everyday and we want to expose this to audiences that are typically not exposed to it,” said Valentine. “Even if it’s in their periphery — to us that is win.”
As a longtime proponent of carnival celebration in the city, it is especially important now because Valentine says she has noticed a drastic shift in the way Caribbean-centric festivities are honored.
“There are a lot of reasons why — the city has cracked down on parties and the peeled back on a number of activities, and this has curbed the enthusiasm, so a number of people who love parading start to wonder ‘Why even bother going if they’re changing the way we participate in carnival?’” she said.
But in spotlighting the origins and traditions of the often misrepresented culture, passersby cannot refuse to see what carnival and J’ouvert is truly about, and it is her passion to keep it thriving and relevant, in order to prevent it from adapting into something unrecognizable.
“It’s a beautiful display and a reflection of who we are and our diversity,” she said. “If we’re not at the forefront of change, things are going to change in ways we don’t like, so it’s up to us to direct that charge.”
“Carnival in the City” in Resorts World Casino New York City [110-00 Rockaway Blvd. at Aqueduct Road in Queens, www.rwnew