By DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) – As designer Clary Salandy opens the kitchen door of an indefinite community center in west London, her visitors stop, amazed at what they find.
A dozen giraffe heads, handmade in shades of orange and brown with bowler hats and flowing lashes, smile in a tidy row on top of the commercial-grade stove, while a pair of zebras are admired from a nearby corner. from the fridge.
This feeling of surprise is exactly what Salandy hopes people will experience on Sunday, when giraffes and zebras join a group of elephants and flamingos dancing outside Buckingham Palace as part of the upcoming pageant. four days of celebration celebrating the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II. to the throne. Meanwhile, the plastic foam beasts will remain locked in the kitchen to store them.
Salandy and his team at Mahogany Carnival Arts want their playful reimagining of the stage where young Princess Elizabeth learned she was queen in 1952, while on a wildlife expedition to Kenya, to spark a sense of fun and fantasy. in a nation recovering from coronavirus. pandemic.
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They want, in short, to inspire joy.
“When you see it, you should say,‘ Wow! You know, that’s amazing! ” Salandi said. “We are going to get people out of COVID and move them forward when they are finished. People should feel positive that life is coming back and that we will move forward and enjoy our lives again.”
This message will be delivered by a group of 250 artists and performers from the Afro-Caribbean community, especially affected by the pandemic and now plagued by the cost of living crisis.
But the performers want to reach everyone with a presentation celebrating the diversity of Britain and the Commonwealth.
Children will turn into swans, the elderly will move in mobility scooters adorned like flamingos and dancers will give life to giraffes and zebras, perhaps even to mingle with the crowd.
Another group of dancers will join together to form the Queen’s coronation robe, with symbols of all major times and a nod to the 54 Commonwealth nations woven into their purple and white fabric.
Dances and costumes, truly wearable sculptures, stem from Carnival traditions as celebrated in the Caribbean. This heritage inspired the Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of Caribbean culture that has become the largest street festival in Europe. The end-of-summer party has been canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic.
The artist Carl Gabriel, who collaborates with Mahogany, is still giving the final touches to a bust of the queen of 85 kilos (almost 200 pounds), with a crown and diamond necklace, which will form the centerpiece of the performance. . At its base, it is four meters (13 feet) high.
Gabriel has spent months building the sculpture using the traditional wire bending technique along with his own innovations. Created by carefully folding pieces of wire around a metal frame with a variety of tweezers and hammers, the almost finished work resembles a giant macramé project. After putting on some safety glasses and a leather apron in his London studio, he said he wants the play to have meaning for the queen, and for many others.
“I feel like a lot of people are suffering,” Gabriel said. “The least I can do is offer some enjoyment to those who suffered, by presenting the work to them.”
At its core, the performance is a celebration of the Queen’s 70 years of service, said Nicola Cummings, a costume designer and teacher at Queen’s Park Community School, who works with 24 young dancers. The queen is the heart of it all.
“Every time he visits, every time he leaves, he has always represented the country at its best. We’ve never seen him look messy, “Cummings said.” Just because of that, you know, we have to go back now. Here we are. We are showing him the best of us. “
But the performance also carries a message of rejuvenation.
The Mahogany community was the epicenter of the first outbreak of COVID-19, and months of preparation for the jubilee have lifted the performers, many of whom lost relatives during the pandemic.
Just as the Queen promised the nation at the height of the pandemic that people would reunite with their friends and family, performers celebrate the ability to dance again as part of a community. , a group even tighter now than before.
Cummings will think of his father, who also participated in carnivals. He died of COVID-19 last year.
“I feel like I represent him in some way,” he said, unable to hold back tears. “That’s almost like a tribute to him.”
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