Written by poet and playwright Eintou Springer, ‘Kambule’ imagines the conversations between the stick fighters and jammettes as they prepared to do battle with then Police Commissioner Captain Baker and his men. Springer uses the spelling ‘Kambule’ – a Kikongo word that means procession. This meaning became conflated with the more widely known spelling Canboulay, which is a French patois word meaning burnt canes.
According to linguist Maureen Warner-Lewis, kambules were a common feature of African communities in the 19th Century period. The kambule or procession that took place in the early hours of J’Ouvert morning was part uproarious celebration, part ancestral ritual and part protest against enslavement and the injustices that continued after Emancipation. It was this procession that the colonial authorities stopped in 1880 and for which the stick fighters fought for in 1881.
The reenactment was first staged several years ago by cultural activist John Cupid and was kept alive with the involvement of Norvan Fullerton and Tony Hall. It was held for the first few years at the site of the original riot, the All Stars Pan Yard on Duke St. Port of Spain. In 2004, the reenactment was formally scripted by Eintou Springer. In 2008, to accommodate the thousands who come out for the commemoration, the performance was moved just further East, on the Piccadilly Greens.
Kambule taps into the long tradition of street and community performance that is a feature of Trinidad and Tobago’s grassroots theatre practice across cultures and religions. The staging is produced by Idakeda Group with the support of the National Carnival Commission and the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.
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