THE social order of Fremantle will be turned on its head amidst “a lot of colour and fun and subversion and satire” when Carnevale comes to town next weekend.
Fremantle Carnevale stemmed from local resident and anthropology professor Stephen Bennetts’ doctoral thesis on folk traditions in southern Italy. Disappointed at the lack of Carnevale celebrations upon returning, he held his own as a backyard party in 2009 before expanding into Fremantle.
The event includes elaborate masquerade, satirising politicians in song on the cappuccino strip, and the opening parade announcement of a Carnevale King_someone described by artistic director Ross McCallum as “a powerful pompous fool”.
Past kings include Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey, mining magnate Andrew Forrest and radio shock jock Alan Jones.
Carnevale is a popular festival in European and Latin American Catholic countries—a public celebration of excess before the Church’s austere period of Lent. Bennetts thought this “incredibly rich tradition” fit well in Fremantle with its immigrant presence from countries with strong Carnevale traditions like Italy and Portugal.
He describes the Fremantle event as a “unique” version because it consciously incorporates a blend of traditions from around the world as well as local influences.
“I personally see it as an anthropological project”, he told the Herald. “I see part of our mission as to educate people about Carnevale”.
Fremantle Carnevale is “growing every year” he says but this year has been cut to two days from 10 as, like many arts enterprises, it struggles for sponsorship.
This year’s festival has a Latin American/ Brazilian theme, featuring performers such as local samba band Wasamba and a South American Queen of Carnevale. It opens with a parade on Friday February 28 at 7.30pm and runs all day Saturday 1 March. All events are free with the exception of Saturday’s masked ball, with tickets $48 each.
by ALICIA PERERA