Carnival is a major community festivity staged at the beginning of each year in many parts of the world, including Italy, Spain, Brazil, France, Holland, Germany, the Caribbean and Latin America. The Carnival period often begins on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, working up to a climax of hilarity on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’: in 2010 on 15th February).
In many Catholic and Orthodox countries, Carnival developed as a popular response to the Church’s traditional Lenten period of penitence and self-denial in the 40 days leading up to Easter. Carnival thus provides an escape valve before the onset of Lenten austerities through a ritualized (and outrageous) ‘farewell to the flesh’ (‘carne vale’).
This annual ritualised ‘festival of disorder’ aims to temporarily turn the established social order on its head, through masquerade, cross dressing, music, dance and popular ridicule of established authorities such as the Church, State, academic institutions, politicians, police and the military.
Although Venice and Rio have the most widely known Carnivals, there are a host of regional variations reflected today in the Carnivals still celebrated by many different communities in Fremantle and Perth (see links below). It is hoped that the Carnival in Freo project can mobilise the rich cultural resources already present in our local community, including the Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch, French and Latin American communities.