First produced as a teleplay for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation in 1973, Sylvia Wynter’s Maskarade stands at the juncture of art-making and statecraft. The play centers on the Jamaican performance tradition of Jonkonnu, an African-descended carnival practice. Wynter’s state-commissioned plays funded by the now defunct JBC were part of a larger trend in the Caribbean in the mid-twentieth century, a time when governments in the region sponsored theatrical works in order to teach newly minted citizens how to relate to emerging states. These works also reconfigured and centralized the role of Black working-class and poor women in the new national imaginary through characters like Maskarade’s Miss Gatha. Using archival recovery and critical fabulation, I analyze the origins of the 1973 teleplay and subsequent 1983 published script in order to demonstrate the connection between twentieth-century Caribbean statecraft, media, and post-colonial theory (namely Wynter’s theorizations of “Indigenization”).
Sylvia Wynter, Maskarade, and Performing the State
Danielle Bainbridge is an assistant professor of theatre at Northwestern University. Her manuscript in progress, Refinements of Cruelty: Enslavement, Enfreakment and the Performance Archive, examines the lives of disabled African American freak show performers enslaved in the nineteenth century. Her second book project, titled How to Make a New Nation, is about performances of new forms of nationalism and national identity during the twentieth century. She was the host, co-creator, and primary writer of the PBS web series Origin of Everything. She is currently a host, writer, and consulting producer of PBS’ Historian’s Take. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Danielle Bainbridge; Sylvia Wynter, Maskarade, and Performing the State. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2022; 8 (3): 75–85. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2022.8.3.75
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