Carnival de Resistance

Carnival Mask Image

Beginning today, we are excited to hold Mondays as a day to celebrate and give voice to the role of art in discipleship. Today we highlight the Carnival de Resistance!

The Carnival de Resistance is an arts carnival, unconventional school and “village demonstration project” that focuses on ecological justice and radical theology. The Carnival Crew seeks to experiment with how art can teach, play can inspire, practices can transform, and resistance can be embodied. They intentionally look to the wisdom of indigenous and other earth based cultures whose music, spirituality and life-ways preserve a liberating way to resist the dominant culture of oppression. The Carnival de Resistance first launched in the fall of 2013, sequentially residing in and building the Carnival world in two church lots in Virginia. In the summer of 2014, they re-built the Carnival experiment in the context of the Wildgoose Festival.

Below is a poem-tale recounting the CdR residency in Harrisonburg, VA on the lot of Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was written for the church’s 50th anniversary and placed in a time capsule that will be re-opened in 2063.

The Tale of the Carnivalcarnival 1
(and its incarnation in Harrisonburg)

I’ll tell you a tale,
wide as the sky, deep as the sea,
please suspend your disbelief
and consider with me…
The Holy Game that wheeled in
and planted down like a dream,
among us in the year
of two thousand thirteen.

Now you must know the world was dark,
markets consuming at a fast clip.
The resources of the Earth
were being plundered and out-stripped.
To help the monster of our economy
survive a depression,
politics were run by profit,
amplifying ancient transgressions

Systematic oppression and war crimes
were barely making news.
The awful costs of this way of life
were often hidden and diffuse.
People refusing to wake up
while political upheaval became the norm.
People were clinging to denial
while Climate Change was pounding us with storms.

But in this dark time
a light burned with persistence,
as a traveling band sought to embody
the Carnival de Resistance

They wheeled into town
on one twelfth of September
and sang of another way,
and asked all to remember…
A story of reverence
and love for the Earth,
of life-giving disciplines
that protect her deep worth.

In the 50th year in the life
of a bold people- called Trinity
-a harvest moon shone bright
on it’s year of Jubilee.
As that church believed God speaks
to a disenchanted world,
the ancient Sukkot became real,
as a Big Top’s flaps were unfurled.

Carnival Gear and bicyclescarnival 2
spilled out on Trinity’s lawn
A family was being formed-
“let’s seize the day!” the game was on.
In no time, the modest camp
started acting like a village-
serving, creating-
freely giving was the true privilege.
They modeled old and new ways,
not taking energy for granted-
they Pedal-powered sound, cooked with twig fires
and lit-up old lanterns.

In the span of the second day,
the hard work and the play
spread across the Carnival grounds
in a miraculous way!
Tents up, signs posted,
fabric flags and light strings,
Costumes and facepaint,
creative bits and bizarre playthings.
Thatch threshold, broken clocktower,
Trash made into backdrop walls,
Web of twine spun round our heads…
The world lit up, we stood in awe.

Now having created
a magical container,
these teachers and dreamers
put on the garb of entertainers.
Offering liturgical productions
with poetic eloquence
They helped us to hear
the ancient cry of the 4 elements

But before we sat still
for the evening’s theatrical play,
they called us to participate
in their creative Midway.
They invited us to play-
teaching games that goad and challenge,
they juggled and spun tales,
and showed us their mind-reading talents.
They featured artists that escape
and man-eating-plants,
clowns that cart-wheeled,
and juggling balls that danced.
The doors of imagination
were no longer shut-
The puppets came to life
and our strings were cut.

Then the musicians climbed onto stagecarnival 3
and sang of rebirth,
on the opening night
through the voice of the EARTH.
They danced the hoop dance,
drummed songs from land-based ancestors.
they spoke as the voice of the forest,
and lifted up modern resisters;
they painted the walls
and sang of animal vision;
They danced with tree limbs
and shared the old cedar’s admonition.
Singing lamentations
in heart-breaking harmonies,
they reminded us of the relevance
of the old prophecies.

The next night the breeze swirled round,
wind blew through our hair…
That was the time
when we listened to AIR.
Ruach and Breath,
Prayers lifted on wing and wind,
Mother Spirit Bird and Dark Omen Trickster
had business to attend.
Judgement and Hope… reflecting
on how we’ve gone astray…
Caw, Caw, Caws did they send,
through that most theatrical of days!
But their theology held tight,
under a full-moonlit night,
Raven and Dove showed how darkness
is quite intimate with light.

The days after the performance,
this motley crew gave precedence
to engaging the minds and hearts
of the local residents.
Down along the new bike path,
by the protected “greenway”,
a treehouse was built
without asking for pay.
A beautiful platform
all built by hand,
by a red-headed gnome
and a daredevil Mexican.

And across the street,carnival 4
at a community place
a loving sign was painted,
but then quickly erased,
by local officials
with paperwork and laws
And bureaucratic processes
with spiritual flaws.

Then, a paint-speckled hobo,
an ambassador of compassion,
“Amen!”… who met the moment as a true holy fool…
He befriended many,
enticing anyone to help fashion
a mural in the halls of a Mennonite school.

At this same Christian institution,
of great imagination,
carnies led classes and chapels,
expert choice through chancy exploration.
Each brought their wisdom,
hecking business as usual
calling students to dream of relationships
that are healthy and mutual.

One, a laughing scholar, sister
with supernova inner light-
She could teach like no one’s business,
and could dance (for a Mennonite)!

and over across the town,
a songwriting kitchen clown
was joining generations
and showing how to get down
to grab your own ideas
and write songs while you play
to celebrate a simple gift
of being creative everyday

Then they all joined in a parade
and color spilled out in the street
They rode around on “crazy bikes”
and drummed a hopeful beat
the musical rally cry
was “Power-Down—Lift UP!”
local voices joined together
as an overflowing cup!

The next weekend, ancient voices
once again churned
first through the WATER cycle,
an eternal return.
John the Baptist called us to a dirty baptism,
to feel the pain of our sludge and our scum,
and Miriam danced through power schisms,
and dared us all to follow her drum
She sang that the health of the water
is tied to mother land,
and if we ravish her flesh,
her womb dries up like desert sand.
John boomed that this entire planet
must find its salvation,
through restoration that comes
through total re-hydration-
And not just focused
on some wealthy nation,
but for all life that’s contained
in this vast creation.
Many cultures cried out-
into one giant baptismal call
The divine feminine summoned a whirlpool
and all were enthralled.
We danced celebration,
the night dissolving all borders-
As we were beckoned to wade
thru deep and chaotic waters.

The rain that was summonedcarnival 5
drenched the world the next day
They had all promised a finale of FIRE—
but would it come? they prayed.
Still folks filed under the tent,
making merry, though some were soaked
till at the appointed hour,
the clouds rolled back and the weather broke.

Starting with a timbrel-rattling,
chime-ringing, processional;
They spiraled through a flame wielding,
fire breathing spectacle.
Led by a pregnant sunflower,
the light of spiritual revelation.
And the bones that were scorched
by centuries of oppression
And they asked us to consider,
fire as destruction or transformation?
The images they embodied
blazed the night beautiful and fearsome.
Flames spun! fans swung!
Wings lit with mystical desire!
Burning wicks bent as drums crashed,
mocking the tyranny of empire!
Drone warfare on TV screens,
prison cages of barbed wire
They tore the veil as they sung
a holy chant to age-old wildfire.

Then the smoke cleared
And a new day begun
We wondered what was next
But found—they were gone!
And  though they taught us
things are not always what they seem
we who remember
know that it was not just a dream.
They drew us through lament,
easing the pain with grace
They put a clown nose on the skull
and laughed in death’s face!
For although there is violence
and such great disconnection
We are a people who believe
in the power of resurrection!

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