Carnival Procession

Carnival Procession
Carnival procession in Cavtat

In addition to traditional masks and individual and group masquerade processions around houses and villages, the carnival period is rich in other carnival events. Numerous masked parties, processions, balls, children’s carnival events and the like are intensified by the passage of time towards the end of February, and culminate in the last three days of the carnival on the so-called first and second carnivals and ‘ultimi’ or final carnivals. One of the most important final carnival custom, spread mostly in the Adriatic area, is certainly the masquerade procession with the final act of condemning and burning the carnival doll as the personification of all the evils of the past year.

This type of carnival is strongly associated with the idea of ​​social order and is aimed at entertainment and social criticism. Through laughter, ingenious masks and folklore dramatic expression, masquerades depict and condemn evil in society. This type of critical carnival is recorded in Konavle as well, mostly in Čilipi, Cavtat and Gruda after the Second World War, until the mid or late 1980s. It was revived in Čilipi after the War of Independence.

Carnival Procession
Carnival procession in Gruda

The processions that took place as part of Gruda and Cavtat carnivals’ dramatic and humorous performances of condemnation took place through the centre of the town and in Čilipi through several hamlets. The procession consisted of group and individual costumes, and at the head of the procession were the main actors of the carnival show. The masquerades gathered at a traditionally prescribed gathering place such as the winery on Gruda or in front of the church in Čilipi, from where they set off on a tour of pre-determined routes and ended up at a prepared place where the final carnival drama took place.

The processions took place on foot, on donkeys, horses, with or without harnessed carts, until the animals were replaced by motorized vehicles, primarily tractors, trucks and cars. On these moving stages, real dramatic performances of various social current affairs took place, primarily from the local area and to a lesser extent national and world politics.

Carnival Procession
Masquerading musicians play for the procession in Čilipi

The masquerades provoked the theme they presented through their costumes, props, banners, decor and acting. Costumes were seldom sewn until the 1960s and 1970s, more often they were every day or old clothes, but upside down, finished, borrowed from the opposite sex or in different combinations than usual: Mostly people wore clothes that they had at home, curtains, hats and work clothes.

It is similar with props and decor, namely everyday things were used in an unusual way, and live music regularly participated in the processions: local musicians in Čilipi, brass band with majorettes in Gruda and Cavtat. The procession aroused great interest of the community, it can be said that it was about the movement of entire performances through the settlement, and these performances entertained and made their audience laugh.

Carnival Procession

The Čilipi carnival procession toured all the hamlets and was greeted individually with an appropriate reception. The masquerades went crazy, danced, teased the spectators, improvised a carnival performance, while the Gruda and Cavtat carnival turned the whole centre into a stage and an auditorium: first that music would go, then old trucks, those on trucks demonstrated, sawed wood… On the second truck there would be a stage for hanging, on the third truck the judge would sit, then the jury, and the people would stand on either side all the way to the place where they would preform the dramatic scene.

The masks were sometimes realistic images, such as at the carnival on Gruda in the 1970s, when the process of roasting rakija on a cauldron in a carriage was staged, because that year Konavle had a lot of money from the production of distillates. Describing this scene, the narrator remembers: he was roasting rakija and he was so drunk, drawn, and dirty even when he took a bath, and by the cauldron, rakija was burning and he was driving, and five old people from Konavle in old Konavle costumes were drinking rakija and shouting.

Carnival Procession

In Čilipi, the narrators still remember the spectacular entry of the procession on donkeys into the newly opened airport: Then that year they went to the airport, entered the airport with their donkeys, and his donkey slipped as though he was on ice.

Although the carnival widow played by a masked man attracted the most attention for her dramatic performance, throwing herself, screeching, but also watching, winking, flirting, crying and without tears to make the people laugh as much as possible, other masquerades are consistently provoking a reaction and making the audience laugh, especially by localizing the performance, which is understandable only to one who knows the local circumstances. Thus, through the folklore dramatic expression, the carnival achieves its goal: the democratic role of a smiling and effective critic of social reality.