Kambule’ pays tribute to our warrior ancestors of the Mas and brings their achievements to the attention of the entire society.
The Carnival that we now take for granted was fought for by the former enslaved of the barrack yards, not only in Port of Spain but also in the East and South of the island. The riots of 1881 in Port of Spain were however the most significant.
The play documents the victory of stick-fighters and ordinary Africans against the colonial administration in 1881 who tried to stop the celebration of Carnival.
The word ‘Kambule’ is a Kikongo word meaning procession.
In 2009, Ms. Springer decided to use this word as the title of the play that is performed at 4am every Carnival Friday morning at the site of the original riots, to pay homage to the people who saved Carnival so that we may benefit from it today. Indeed, Trinidad and Tobago can boast of a Carnival that has inspired over 100 similar celebrations around the world, because of the bravery and sacrifices made by these ancestors.
The ‘Canboulay Riots’ as they came to be known, were led by the descendants of freed slaves of Trinidad and Tobago against attempts by the British police to stop the celebration of Carnival, particularly the celebrations of the ordinary people of society.
The name Canboulay is from the French term cannes brulees, or ‘burning of the canes’. During the days of enslavement, there were frequent fires in the plantations. When these fires occurred (and most likely they had been set by the Africans themselves), the Africans were herded into gangs and taken in procession into the cane fields, flambeaux in hand, to put out the fires. After Emancipation, this ritual of procession was re-enacted as part of the celebration of freedom.
African contribution to Carnival Kambule reminds us that the African created a great deal despite enslavement. In the Gayelle of existence, those ancestors fought inch by contested inch to clear a space for the manifestations of their culture.
In the light of the bombardment of all our youth with alien images and cultures, Kambule says to our young people that you have much to claim and you have much of which you can be proud!
Additionally, the play reminds us that theatre and the arts have a seminal role to play in rekindling ancestral memory and creating the positive self-image necessary both to deal with the now and to prepare ourselves for the challenges of the future. Cultural resistance should not be a phenomenon of the past.
Eintou Springer has dedicated this play to the pioneering work and research of Dr. Hollis Liverpool, the Mighty Chalkdust.