Avid Junkanoo practitioner, Carlos Bain, lights up the Project Space (PS) room for the month of December with a refreshing take on the traditional elements of the annual festival. Using crepe paper, bright colours, organic shapes and the congregation and crowds in the festivities, Bain advances and broadens the representations around Junkanoo and the connectivity of the spirit of communing together. You are invited to celebrate the works in "Second to None" which will be on view from Saturday, December 8th, 2018 through Sunday, January 20th, 2019.
Carlos Bain was born and grew up in New Providence and is known for his unique and second to none Junkanoo pieces that innovate and evolve the tradition and ritual of Junkanoo. This street festival whose roots can be traced to West Africa, was brought over during slavery and is now held at Christmastime, on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, with parades and competitions nationwide.
Junkanoo represents poverty and wealth, discipline and rebellion, competition and cooperation, creative genius and physical prowess. It is simultaneously viewed as the quintessential Bahamian self-conception and the best face turned to the visitor. Like street festivals everywhere, it can be classified as a ritual of rebellion, a politico-cultural movement, or an annual invocation of the liminal. In 1999, Bain rushed with his first Junkanoo group and fell in love with the artistic aspect, which led him, to realise his artistic abilities and attraction to this syncretic and powerful tradition.
Bain graduated with the most outstanding award in technical drawing from C.C. Sweeting Senior High School, and this would be the first of several awards that he would receive during his career. He began to become acquainted with the Junkanoo world and to navigate through various shacks and groups. While traversing this intimate and tribal territory, he became acquainted with the esteemed One Family Group and met the late Jackson Burnside III–icon, pioneer and cultural advocate–who became Bain’s friend, mentor and a very influential part of his future endeavours.
In 2014, Bain decided to transition from exclusively operating and participating in Junkanoo groups to having his own practise and started to create his own visual artworks, on both canvas and different surfaces, using crepe paper and acrylic paint. Crepe paper and pasting constitute the building blocks and foundational elements of Junkanoo costumes and larger mobile pieces, and with this move from 3D to 2D and back again, Bain challenges how the foundational tools of the tradition can be used differently to make paintings effectively.
Using bright colours and organic shapes, Bain shares representations around the celebrations of Junkanoo and the connectivity and the spirit of communing together. Faces come to life and are wild, tribal and connected to the iconography of African and Black representation and spirituality. Deities and spirits, while invisible, fill the space and the celebratory surface of the images, where the tradition is not watered down but is the lifeblood and rhythm of Bahamianness.
His craft—while still in its early days and years—is garnering attention locally, while his love of and for Bahamian culture continues to propel him forward with ambition, entering into local art competitions and building monuments at prominent historical sites, including Fort Charlotte, where his pieces are on view. His proclivity for Bahamian culture aided him in travelling to different parts of the world and he is working to become an ambassador and advocate for the tradition of Junkanoo to the broader world.
It is this type of thinking and action that has enabled Bain to become a cultural entrepreneur through his work with “Cultural Arts.” In 2016, The Bahamas held its first year of Junkanoo Carnival, which is a collage of Bahamian culture and a festive weeklong celebration, where Bahamians and guests from around the world are immersed in all things Bahamian entertainingly and interactively. Bain competed for the King of Carnival and won the top prize, the first king of Carnival.
Continuing his work in the shacks and going back to the root of it all, in 2017 he was afforded the opportunity by Masqueraders Carnival Band to design a section and won best designer and section. Bain is an unyielding believer that one can never have too many goals and aspirations, when one goal is put to bed, he moves on to the next. We at the NAGB look forward to seeing what tricks are up his sleeve for this season and beyond.
 JUNKANOO IN THE BAHAMAS: A TALE OF IDENTITY By Nicolette Bethel. Accessed on November 23rd, 2018: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279193531_Junkanoo_in_The_Bahamas_A_tale_of_identity