Carnival: From Emancipation to Celebration

Caribbean Grandeur Comes Alive at the ROM from July 28, 2012 to February 24, 2013

“The ROM is pleased to share the works of such an accomplished and renowned costume designer as Brian Mac Farlane and to offer Toronto Caribbean Carnival programming to our visitors,” Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to present Carnival: From Emancipation to Celebration, featuring the work of world renowned masquerade designer Brian Mac Farlane along with Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival photographs. As an opportunity for visitors to also commemorate this year’s celebration of Jamaican and Trinidad and Tobago Independence, and Emancipation Day, Carnival is displayed in both the Hilary and Galen Weston Wing on Level 2 of the ROM and in the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court from July 28, 2012 to February 24, 2013. Carnival is presented in partnership with the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival. The exhibition’s February 2013 closing coincides with Black History Month.

Carnival offers a journey through Mac Farlane’s stunning carnival creations from the last three years: Resurrection: The Mas (2010); Humanity: The Circle of Life (2011); and Sanctification…In search of (2012). The exhibition also acknowledges the rich symbolic and historical significance of the 50th anniversaries of colonial independence being observed in Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, respectively. Carnival also commemorates Emancipation Day in Ontario. Historically associated with the pre–Lenten period in the Christian calendar, many Caribbean-based carnivals, including Toronto’s, takes place around Emancipation Day; the first of August. In Ontario, this holiday weekend commemorates Simcoe Day, named for John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. In 1793, Lord Simcoe passed the Act Against Slavery that led to the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada, well before the British’s Act in 1834.

“The ROM is pleased to share the works of such an accomplished and renowned costume designer as Brian Mac Farlane and to offer Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival programming to our visitors for a fifth consecutive year,” said Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO. “Mr. Mac Farlane’s stunning designs, intricate details, and astonishing colour palate bring the spirit of the Caribbean to life. ROM visitors will enjoy how deftly Carnival captures Caribbean history during this important chapter of concurrent half century anniversaries of British independence in Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”

“The summer of 2012 marks an important milestone on the Jamaican and Trinidad and Tobago calendar, as it does for our friends at the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival. I look forward to sharing Carnival with our extended family from the Caribbean’s rich diaspora in North America and with all other visitors at the ROM,” stated Brian Mac Farlane.

Carnival Background

In the Caribbean and in the diaspora, Carnival is an important celebration of freedom against oppression. In the 18th century, people of African descent were banned from participating in the pre-Lenten Christian festivities and masquerades (now referred to as “Fete” or “Mas”) of their French and British masters. Enslaved Africans therefore developed their own carnival characters and performances.

When the abolition of slavery in the British Empire was fully implemented in 1838, people of African and South Asian descent transformed Carnival celebrations by introducing new and subversive elements into the performances and music of festival. In Ontario, Carnival was first introduced to Toronto in 1967 - a gift from the local Canadian Caribbean community to Canada to commemorate the centennial of their new northern home. Now in its 45th year, Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival has grown to become the largest street festival in North America.

"The concept of emancipation resonates with us on a number of levels. In the Caribbean, you will find that there are strong historical connections between the emancipation of slavery and the celebratory manifestation of freedom which, in some instances, is the Carnival.” said Denise Herrera Jackson, CEO, Festival Management Committee

About Brian Mac Farlane:

Trinidadian-born Mac Farlane, a legend of local costume craft and an internationally respected artist, is currently designing 2,500 costumes for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. Mac Farlane is a record-holding six time Trinidad and Tobago carnival costume champion since starting to design Carnival costumes in 1984. His work is visionary and thoughtful, deeply engaged with history, politics, social, and environmental issues. Many consider Mac Farlane’s “Mas” work as the ultimate representation of the valour, vibrance, vigour, and vitality of Carnival. In the last two decades, Mac Farlane has won countless awards and accolades for his awe-inspiring designs. His work has also been recognized by the United Nations for its environmental and critical content.

About the Exhibition:

Carnival consists of four costumes and 21 hand painted renderings from the famed Mac Farlane design studios or “mas camp”. These are augmented by footage taken from inside Mac Farlane’s Mas camp. These Trinidad and Tobago carnival treasures provide a counterpoint to the photo and video material from Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival and the live commentary of historians and participants of this important North American festival.


Carnival is accompanied by public events, including Museum Mas, where visitors are invited to jump up and join in the carnival experience on Sunday July 29th, 2012. Join us for a fun-filled day of mask-making, storytelling, steel drums, and other rhythms of the Caribbean.

About Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival

The Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival is an exciting three-week cultural explosion of Caribbean music, cuisine, revelry as well as visual and performing arts. Now in its 45th year, it has become a major international event and the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America. As Carnival is an international cultural phenomenon, the great metropolis of Toronto and its environs will come alive as the city explodes with the pulsating rhythms and melodies of Calypso, Soca, Reggae, Chutney, Steel Pan and Brass Bands. The Festival Management Committee oversees the running of North America’s largest outdoor festival.

Corporate sponsors of this year’s festival include: Scotiabank, The Toronto Star, Sway Magazine, CTV, CP-24, FLOW fm, WinTV, WinRadio, El Dorado Rum, The Canadian Federal Government, The Province of Ontario, City of Toronto, Tourism Toronto, The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, Ontario Place, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto Public Library, Yorkgate Mall, Liberty Grand, and Grace Kennedy Foods.