Saturday, July 28, 2012

Of Beasts,Butterflies and the Bacchanal of online shopping

I guess if you have any interest in Carnival (and its associated Bacchanal), you would have had to be living under a rock if buy now you have not heard the drama surrounding the design methodology of Tribe's artwork for their bands this year. Long story short, some shrewd detective (presumably a graphic artist) discovered that Tribe had bought and used artwork from a stock photo site online to use as the logos for the band as well as other artwork; including the print on one of the backpacks of a section.  (James Hackett I take a borrows eh).

I have seen the ongoing drama on Facebook in regard to the morality behind Tribe's actions and have also noted an abundance of asinine remarks. I was not going and say anything eh but is long time I eh rant and I figured this was as good a time as any to start. And before allyuh jump on my case, just remember this is my personal blog and I works for no one in any of these industries.  PERSONALLY, when I saw they get make out I had a good laugh about this.  I lie, I had about 10 'cause all those memes that were created by sticking those wings onto all kind of characters was effin' hilarious. Darth Vader being my personal fave. But you know what? Then I moved on. I was extremely surprised when I saw the level of outrage, horror and disgust vented at Tribe by doing what really and truly many ad agencies do on a daily basis for their clients.  Captain Obvious could tell you, that's why these sites exist, to download a picture or graphic that you don't have to shoot  or design yourself, you pay a small fee ( cause any number of  people could be using the same exact image for other purposes) and you slap on you own text and off you go. My response was, ok its lazy on their part and what?

Yeah,yeah I've heard all the arguments about Tribe profiting and its a disgrace to our culture blah blah blah. I've even heard those who criticize the practice  then come to the defense of Peter Minshall doing something quite similar in his "Papillion" Queen saying its "symbolically" different. Meh. To all that I say, who allyuh really thought you were dealing with and why allyuh fooling yourselves to believing otherwise? Tribe not here to make money? I am pretty sure when Tribe started their section and ultimately their own band they did not say to themselves "We need to be true representatives of Trinidad culture." Tribe was started as, and still is, a bikini,beads and feathers band who produces one of the biggest moving fetes on the road. They compete in no road competitions, they do not even require you to stay in your section. A significant number of their masqueraders never leave home with the full costume that they paid for because all they concerned about is the id band on their hand that allows them to drink freely. Why is everyone so shocked that they could possibly do something like this especially when they have been criticized year after year by so many calling them "unoriginal" and typical "bikini mas". Their market is commercial and hence their production is commercial.

From a strictly business standpoint, if I hire an ad agency or maybe use and in-house graphic artist and I am given the option to either use a stock image that I can buy for $50 usd now or have my people labour over creating original art which may take weeks and cost 10 times more; What am I going to pick? Not the cheaper more efficient way? That's assuming that option was even presented.  I would love to know if when Dean was presented with the drafts of these things he specifically said "Aye, did you download those images from a stock site on the internet? ". I wonder how many graphic artists would have even volunteered such info and that was how they came up with the designs. I certainly don't want to hear about artistic integrities because just this week I went to two major printeries to enquire about reproducing a similar themed image based on a hardcopy sample I had in my possession and neither of the companies seemed hesitant about digitizing the sample and duplicating the image outright. As a matter of fact they volunteered to do so. As Saucy rightly said, I wonder who gets the credit for the more literal images like the Monarch costume? God? I may have to take a cut cause one of them costumes looks mighty similar to my tattoo.

 I am certainly not bashing the talent in this country or the quality of our graphic artists. I am just pointing out the commercial aspect of the industries we are speaking about. They are in it to make money at the end of the day. As much as all the  Tribe shareholders may love their mas, if Tribe was not a profit they would not still be producing a band. And when you in business you cut expenses, this is why their costumes are produced in China. Did we all not know this? Why would you think that a band who makes bikini costumes in China would decide to bear the full responsibility of enriching the creativity of traditional carnival? I dunno bout you but I never believed that to be Tribe's bag. And I certainly don't fault them for making their business as profitable as it is. 'Cause no matter how much ppl criticise their costumes, their originality or their service they still sell off. I wish I had a business model so!

It should be well known by now that although I usually play in Tribe myself, I have never been one to let them slide when they do shit. More often than not,I'm calling them out on it. In this case , it was more amusing to me than anything else. And the whole argument is really just based on one section. Not really a stretch when you take a butterfly logo and place it on a butterfly costume. Seems like good branding to me. They now have a walking logo of their band. I wonder if the images were just used for artwork and not replicated on the costume wings if it would be such a heated topic. All I really care about is that the product they advertise is what I receive. Maybe I am just a bit more realistic about what I am buying into with Tribe. I don't expect them to be the saviour of Carnival.

To those who cry about the death of an art form. I would agree, to an extent, that the commercial nature of carnival is overshadowing the creative aspect of the culture. Don't blame Tribe though. Before Tribe it had Poison yuh know. Blame governments present and past who have not invested in our culture and in making factories and downstream industries where they can have the facilities to produce the costumes locally. Blame those who don't pass on their creative knowledge to others and blame YOURSELVES as the ones who don't care to learn about the traditions and techniques that go into mas. The same people who complaining going and jump up in any number of choice BBF bands. And I not just talking about costumes because I am always hard pressed to find a Midnight Robber on the streets Monday and Tuesday. It have some mad people in government talking about privatizing carnival to entities that are based in the U.S. If our own government don't care about keeping our culture Trini why you expect Tribe to shoulder that burden?

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