Artist Che Lovelace on Freedom in J’ouvert

Che Lovelace can talk for hours about J’ouvert. The memories he’s had, how it shapes his perspective and most importantly to him-how it brings people together. He’s been involved in the muddy morning melee for years and is launching his latest project tonight.

Friends For The Road J’ouvert band stays close to the core energy of J’ouvert, celebrating the freedom of self-expression and to connect with fellow masqueraders. The main ingredients are pure and simple: Mud, Colour and Rhythm. Add a wild, creative costume that was could put together in that fine tradition of J’ouvert morning and you’re IN!

Related to this project is also a series of J’ouvert inspired paintings depicting unmistakable J’ouvert moments.

What exactly is friends for the road?
As you know I’m a painter and I’ve always been involved in J’ouvert. It’s a Carnival event that I’ve been most drawn to. I had a small band called Lily Bud J’ouvert which was my first formalized J’ouvert project. It was a small band, mostly friends, mud and small mobile rhythm section. From there I developed Clay J’ouvert with some friends and I’ve subsequently moved on to create this new project which I’m pretty much taking on on  my own from a creative standpoint. I see it as an opportunity for growth and for a certain amount of independence as to what I can create using this platform. I think that artists have to find different types of contexts to share their ideas and how they feel about the world and who we are. I’ve always found that J’ouvert and Mas in general is one of those spaces and trying to find a language that will connect with people as to what J’ouvert is, it’s importance to us.

Sometimes we don’t emphasize those things and I feel like that emotional component is something that is not developed enough. I’ve always seen an opportunity there to talk on that level about J’ouvert.

What does Carnival and especially the  Jouvert aspect of  it mean for you?

It’s a magical time. It transforms the very space that you’re in. Most of the time we’re just driving around or walking and we see the space but I find that there is a different layer of energy that happens during Carnival and during J’ouvert. It’s almost as if  you see the space with new eyes during that time and maybe it renews the way that you see the space. It’s then that I notice buildings, little nuances of the street chipping down the road for J’ouvert.

Of course, there are some things that are hard to put into words when trying to describe what makes it so special. But all the components are there; the darkness to the light, the celebration with your fellow man, the coming together of people. I love to observe and interact with people and this is a context where people interact in a particular type of way. We’re sharing something that is very unique . I’ve been to many festivals around the world, fetes and parties but I always find that J’ouvert gives this extra layer of connection. May be because you’re moving and covering a certain amount of space together. The other thing that I find pretty profound is the layering of stuff on your skin. We start with who we are then little by little we become unified. The mud brings us all on the same level. I feel it really happens, I always tell people to come put the mud on,you don’t even have to believe anything, just get into what J’ouvert is and it will have that effect and I’m usually proven right—that it does transform us.

You have a real retro sense of doing  things. What your feelings about Carnival nowadays and how do you incorporate those elements while still being relevant in today’s space?

One of the things that I’ve always said draw on the best that has been produced, not only on what is current. I don’t see current stuff as trumping anything else. I’ve always tried to find ways to  incorporate classics and the powerful music that has been made in the past with the new. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised especially in the last couple of years where there has been a resurgence of melodious music. I feel that in terms of a project and in terms of evoking  and making reference to the past I feel that it is a very important way to give us a foundation- a place to stand to see the world from. And it inspires us, as ephemeral as that sounds, the inspiration is not necessarily something that you can touch. But in terms of the imagery I can touch that, in terms of style I can make reference to it,I can visualize that. Hence, even with this project the paintings that I’ve done deals with the memories of J’ouvert when I was growing up. The little iconic things you see like somebody on a wall,  the fat man or the fat woman who is completely liberated and absolutely as free as anyone else without the restriction of concepts of beauty. Freedom is what the space allows. So for you to really take that in and re-present that as part of a project I think you have to look at it not just from one period of time but from the larger scope of time . Identify what has been interesting , iconic or powerful and then try to find a way to tap into it to give people a sense of context and an understanding of where they’ve come from.

I’m always trying to tie the past with the present.

What inspired the collection, how many paintings does it involve?

I’m close to about ten completed paintings related to the project. The whole idea is that  as the season develops, I will make more work specifically in painting but I’m also going to be drawing on vintage video elements to compliment that and also to outline what the identity of the band is. I want it to be rooted in a Trinidadian culture not just to past but to the best that we have produced. So, the collection will continue to grow and maybe at the end of the season I will probably exhibit the work.


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