J’ouvert: The best part of carnival


These aren’t just any converse. These are special edition J’ouvert Trinidad Carnival 2015 converse, and could quite possibly be one of the happiest pair of converse in the world. To non-carnivalists, they may just look like a battered-up, seen-better-days, need to be thrown out shoe (even though these are probably my cleanest to date) but to those who know, they are so much more.

What is j’ouvert?

To begin to understand the value of these, we must first look at the origins of J’ouvert. Dating back as early as 1700’s, the name is derived from the French words “jour ouvert” meaning break of day/start of the day.

French settlers introduced carnival to the caribbean, but in these times of slavery, things were very different to what they are now. Between 1783 and 1838, the white elite dominated all carnival celebrations. By law, people of colour were NOT allowed to participate in mas (imagine that), but instead celebrated wherever they could (normally in their own confines). It wasn’t until the mid 1838 with the emancipation of slavery that ALL colours were allowed to participate.


Carnival was embraced and used as an expression of their new-found freedom, and j’ouvert marked the start of this celebration.

Nowadays, j’ouvert starts around 3am. Revellers meet their bands and parade through the streets covering themselves in paint, oil, mud and chocolate. On paper this may seem like a nightmare, but once you’ve taken part you’ll experience something you’ve never felt before.

How is this relevant today?

Although we cannot begin to compare what we experience now to the times of slavery, we all have commitments and responsibilities which get in the way of fun and total freedom. 

  • Work – whoever decided we should work at least 5 days a week needs to be shot. Why can’t we all work at the weekends and have the week to palance ourselves?
  • Bills – mortgage/rent/utilities/car etc
  • Children – expensive mini humans

I know all of the above are not the worst things to suffer, but what I’m getting at is life can get on top of us all if we allow it to. The constant rush of deadlines, due dates and keeping up to date can take their toll. J’ouvert gives us the chance to forget those things (please never forget about your children) and get lost in the freedom of fulljoyment.


What makes j’ouvert so special?

In my opinion, playing mas is nice. It’s what we train, diet and save for all year. But here’s why I believe j’ouvert is better;

  • Value for money – not to take anything away from playing mas, but have you seen price of costumes? Playing mas is 10 times more expensive (at least).
  • Total freedom – yes it’s nice to parade on the streets looking your best in your costume with your chest out (guys and some girls), but its so much more fun when everyone is covered in chocolate/oil/paint/mud from head to toe and nobody gives a sh*t what they look like.
  • Partying through sunrise – this may seem like something simple, but for me there’s always something special about witnessing the transition between night and day on j’ouvert morning, with the truck pumping your favourite track of the year, and your friends around you. Total euphoria!
  • The Water Truck – this needs no explanation. Everybody knows what time it is when the water truck arrives. One of the best feelings, especially if they truck arrives later in the hot sun.
  • Alcohol – drinking in the early hours of the morning is not the norm (for most of us) but on j’ouvert morning it’s just what you do! Puncheon posse at the ready! (I’m more of a Johnnie drinker)


So what’s special about these converse? 

They represent freedom. Not only the freedom of very few responsibilities on what’s the start of an epic day on the road; but the freedom of our ancestors. It’s not about where you’re from or what you look like. We all look the same when covered in chocolate right? Regardless of creed or colour, we are all united by soca and our love of the culture.

They’re part of an unique experience. Few celebrations are comparable, such as Holi Festival, but there’s something lacking. It’s just not j’ouvert.

I don’t own a pair of shoes I’ve shared an experience like this with. Work shoes are bland, gym trainers are sweaty and overworked, but these battered up converse tell a story. A colourful story.

Retail price of converse = £35
The price of freedom = Priceless

See our j’ouvert galleries from Trinidad Carnival with Cocoa Devils and Chocolate City

/ Soca News / Tags: ,

About the Author

Not a photographer, just a man with a cam. Not a writer, just a man with an opinion. Not a soca know-it-all, just a lover of soca who wants to see the genre reach its full potential.


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