Deaf university lecturer vows to return for Carnival 2025

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Kristin Snoddon and Dr Benjamin Braithwaite – Photo by Gregory McBurnie

As many spectators sat and watched the parade of the bands at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Tuesday, Dr Kristin Snoddon danced among them with her eyes closed and a look of elation on her face.

No one looking at Snoddon would ever guess that she was unable to hear the music.

Seeing the look of enjoyment on her face, Newsday approached her to get her thoughts on this year’s music.

She responded by pointing to her ears and mouthing, “I can’t hear you”, leading this reporter to believe it was just because the music was too loud.

But after asking the question again, Snoddon pointed to a man, sitting nearby, who explained that she could not answer because she is deaf.

The man, UWI linguistics lecturer and sign language interpreter Dr Ben Braithwaite, said Snoddon is from Canada and is here to research deaf people’s experiences of Carnival.

Snoddon agreed, through Braithwaite, to an interview.

A university lecturer at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson University), Snoddon studies early childhood learning for deaf children.

She explained she has a friend in Toronto, Robert Bhola, who makes sign language song translations.

Bhola’s father was deaf and from Trinidad.

Snoddon said loved the work Bhola did and became interested in how deaf people relate to music.

She also started reading about TT Carnival and understood that music is an important part but it’s also about community and culture.

This led her to explore the deaf community’s relationship with the festival.

Snoddon took part in J’Ouvert celebrations with about 40 other deaf people and said although she did not play mas this year, she now understands what Carnival is about.

“I’ve been learning about Trinidad Carnival and what it means, and I think I’m starting to understand it now. Before, I didn’t really understand it, you know, I thought it was just bikinis and dancing. But now I’m starting to understand the real meaning of Carnival.”

Snoddon, who contracted meningitis when she was five and became fully deaf, said she can dance in time with the music when she feels the vibrations caused by the speakers.

Having experienced TT Carnival, she said it makes her “feel free” and vowed to return next year.

“There’s a song by Joni Mitchell called Free Man in Paris. When I feel the music here, that’s what I feel. I feel free, like a free woman in Trinidad, so I do my best to just party and enjoy myself.

She said before she returns for Carnival 2025, she will be in TT for a sign language conference she is planning later this year.

“We’re going to have deaf people coming to Trinidad from all around the Caribbean and all around the world. We’re encouraging deaf people to come here to Trinidad in December. So from Jamaica, from Puerto Rico, from everywhere else.”

Snoddon said her Carnival experience has been amazing as the people are wonderful, the food is perfect, and the mas is beautiful.

“I like to see the different aspects of the culture, the different things, like moko jumbies and then there’s sexy mas and then the culture and the traditional mas. I like to see all the variations.”

She urged anyone who has never experienced Carnival to come to TT and see what they are missing out on.

“They need to come. They better come. Come to Trinidad.”