Some Carnival days – excerpt from the essay


No doubt it is the mythical origin of Carnival that explains why the committed photographer steps out of his reasonably comfortable daily life to pull on a ragged jacket, a hat with the stench of beer which can no longer be washed out and – inevitably – a strip of stuffy curtain. Ask him what possessed him, and you have to look not just at the photographer but at every carnival participant. What can you say? It is Carnival.

There are the pub crawls. Meeting friends and strangers who are not strangers for four carnival days. There is something natural in the way in which carnival participants become a kinship.

It is perhaps out of nostalgia for this brief period that people want to experience more, and more frequently, the carnival feeling. The fact that building the floats takes up most of the year is a given, partly out of practical and organizational considerations, but also for the social factor. The election of the prince and choice of the carnival song on the eleventh of the eleventh is also a certainty. In addition there are the annual events, the carnival balls and all the other series of happiness and talent tests focussing on the goal of carnival. And then there are the emblems.

There was an emblem fair in Bergen op Zoom in January 2008, the first of its kind. Emblems are a marvellous example of a new tradition. After the Second World War the Bergen Vastenavond Foundation decided to introduce the medieval family and guild emblems into carnival. The emblem which is sold and worn during carnival is a club symbol. The fair is an initiative of collectors who find that there are so few emblems left that exchange is no longer possible. People have even started to make replicas in the moulds that still exist from the post-war emblems. As a coveted collector’s item the insignia is material evidence of “club” euphoria. The collector is not looking for a complete collection perhaps as much as the infinite extension of his euphoria. But four days are only four days. The other 361 are spent – sighing with yearning – and full of anticipation for the next event.

Elisa Veini: ‘Some Carnival days’, in: Carnival days