By Danica Kirka – The Associated Press
London (AFP) – As designer Clary Salandi opens the kitchen door of a nondescript community center in west London, her visitors stop by, amazed at what they have found.
A dozen giraffe heads, made in shades of orange and brown with top hats and flowing eyelashes, smile in a neat row over a commercial-grade stove, while a pair of zebras peer out from a corner near the refrigerator.
That sense of amazement is exactly what Salandi hopes people will experience on Sunday, when giraffes and zebras join a band of dancing elephants and flamingos outside Buckingham Palace as part of a competition that will conclude four days of festivities. 70 years on the throne of Queen Elizabeth II. In the meantime, the plastic foam monsters will be kept closed in the kitchen for safekeeping.
Salandi and her team at Mahogany Carnival Arts want their playful reimagining of where a young Princess Elizabeth learned she was queen in 1952, during a wildlife expedition in Kenya, to spark a sense of fun and imagination in a country recovering from the coronavirus. pandemic.
They want, in short, to inspire joy.
When you see it, you should go, ‘Wow! Salandi said. “We will get people out of COVID and push them forward when they are done. People should feel positive that life is back and that we will move on and get back to enjoying our lives.”
This message will be delivered by a group of 250 artists and artists from the Afro-Caribbean community, which has been hit hard by the pandemic and now under pressure by the cost of living crisis.
But artists want to reach everyone with a presentation that celebrates the diversity of Britain and the Commonwealth.
Kids will turn into swans, old people will ride around on scooters decorated with flamingos and dancers who will revive giraffes and zebras, maybe even mingle with the crowds.
Another group of dancers will unite to form the Queen’s coronation robe, with the symbols of every major religion and the gestures of all 54 Commonwealth nations woven into its purple and white tapestry.
The dances and costumes – truly wearable sculptures – stem from the traditions of Carnival as it is celebrated in the Caribbean. This heritage was the inspiration for the Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of Caribbean culture that has grown into Europe’s largest street festival. The end of summer party has been canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic.
Artist Carl Gabriel, who collaborates with Mahogany, is still finalizing an 85-kilo (approximately 200 lb) bust of the Queen, complete with a tiara and diamond necklace, which will form the centerpiece of the show. It stands four meters (13 feet) tall on its base.
Gabriel spent months building the statue using the traditional technique of wire bending along with his own innovations. Created by painstakingly bending bits of wire around a metal frame using an assortment of pliers and hammers, the nearly completed work looks like a massive macrame project. Wearing safety glasses and a leather apron in his London studio, he said he wanted the work to make sense for the Queen – and many others besides.
“I feel like a lot of people are suffering,” Gabriel said. The least I can do is give those who have had a hard time some pleasure by offering them work. ”
In essence, the show is a celebration of the Queen’s 70 years of service, said Nicola Cummings, a costume maker and teacher at Queen’s Park Community School, which works with 24 young dancers. The Queen is at the center of it all.
“On every visit she ever did, and every time she came out, she always represented the country at its best. We never saw her look so sloppy,” Cummings said. “For that alone, you know, we have to return the favor now. we are here. We’re showing her our best.”
But the performance also carries a message of renewal.
The mahogany community was the epicenter of the first outbreak of COVID-19, and months of preparation for the jubilee lifted the artists, many of whom lost family members during the pandemic.
Just as the Queen promised the nation at the height of the pandemic that people would meet their friends and family again, so are performers celebrating being able to dance again as part of society – a tighter group now than before.
Cummings will think of her father, who also took part in carnivals. He died last year of COVID-19.
“I feel like I somehow represent him,” she said, unable to hold back her tears. “This is almost like honoring him.”
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