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Omowale Stewart

Omowale Stewart

 

OMOWALE STEWART IS a recipient of the Crop Over Stalwart award for his contribution to the visual arts and to Crop Over, over the years. Here is a brief look at his track record and some of his thoughts on a festival that he has been intimately involved with from the inception.

In 1972 Omowale was one of the founding members of DePam (De Peoples Art Movement). In 1978 he was one of the producers of the first ever Crop Over Festival. From 1979 to 1984 he worked in the field as a designer and producer of bands. In 1984 Omowale, as one of the founding members of the NCF, became that institution's first Visual arts Coordinator. In 1986 he introduced Kiddies Kadooment to the festival. Although Omowale resigned from the NCF in 1988 he remained deeply involved in the Festival, producing and designing Kadooment bands and conducting workshops for the NCF (something he does to this day).

Omowale shared some interesting ideas on the festival.

On the importance of the Crop Over: Every society needs a period of harvest and celebration, a period in which they can express and reconnect with self and the ancestral spirits. It is a period of fertility, pride and exuberance.

On the evolution and development of the festival: Crop Over unlike many other regional festivals did not develop organically out of the society but was administered to the society. As a result it is highly bureaucratised, this is not necessarily a negative thing as there is a "fringe" festival of morphs and hybrids that exists alongside the official festival. The Festival is in constant flux. The folk idiom balanced against the contemporary.

On the idea that masquerade is dead: It is true that the element of transformation into a character is no longer an element of mass, the emphasis is "party on the road" and sexiness as an affirmation of self. This could be linked to the media culture and its' focus on sexuality, but it is also an indication of where we are at right now. There is a spiritual need for transformation and so this element of the festival will return.