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A Brawl Between Chantimelle and Sauteurs -- Carnival in Early 20th Century Grenada

We’ve been working on several upcoming blog posts, but given that it’s been a while since we last posted —and that today is “Carnival Tuesday” (cancelled or not!)—here is a link to one of our favorite references on the subject: Frederic Fenger’s “Black Mardi Gras” article in Harper’s Magazine (1916).

Note that the writing is completely pejorative and condescending — he was a white American guy sailing across the Lesser Antilles in his own small boat which he also chronicles. The article starts out with him loafing at the whaling station on Isle de Caille, when one of the whalers gets a light signal from Sauteurs to come over. What ensues is one of the earliest, most detailed descriptions available on carnival in Grenada. 

As is clear to any Grenadian, the piece is entirely about what we generally call Shortknee Mas, but this version is similar to Carriacou's Shakespeare Mas (without the Julius Caesar stuff), given the protective gear and Kalinda fighting. It's way bloodier than anything we see today (thank goodness). And everyone gets in on the fight -- including a hilarious moment when a Barbadian policeman stops the fight, only to pick up a rock and fire it back towards the Chantimelle intruders!

But aside from the few tidbits in the article itself, the most interesting thing is really the photographs. For this reason, we are so pleased that Internet Archive has uploaded a high-res scan. Enjoy! 

 -JAH and JAM


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