Pageant participants celebrate diverse UK at Queen’s Jubilee

LONDON ( Associated Press) — As designer Clary Salandi opened the kitchen door at a nondescript community center in west London, her visitors stopped, amazed by what they found.

A dozen giraffe heads, dressed in shades of orange and brown with top hats and flowing lids, smile in a neat row above a commercial-grade stove, while a pair of zebras hang out from a corner near the refrigerator. Comes out.

This sense of wonder is exactly what Salandi hopes people will experience on Sunday, when giraffes and zebras join a group of elephants and flamingos dancing outside Buckingham Palace, celebrating 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II. The four-day festivities will come to an end. on the throne, In the meantime, the plastic foam animals will remain locked in the kitchen for safekeeping.

Salandi and her team at Mahogany Carnival Arts want their playful reimagining of the setting where young Princess Elizabeth learned she was queen in 1952, while on a wildlife expedition in Kenya, to spark a sense of fun and imagination in a nation reeling from the coronavirus. for the pandemic.

They, in short, want to inspire pleasure.

“When you see this, you should go, ‘Wow! You know, this is amazing!” Saalandi said. “We are going to get people out of COVID and take them on when they are finished People should feel positive that life is coming back and we are going to go back and forth to enjoy our life.

The message will be delivered by a group of 250 artists and performers from the Afro-Caribbean community, which was badly hit by the pandemic and is now being squeezed by the cost crisis.

But the artist wants to reach everyone with a presentation celebrating the diversity of Britain and the Commonwealth.

Children will become swans, older people will zoom into mobility scooters decorated as flamingos and dancers will bring giraffes and zebras to life, perhaps even mingling with the crowd.

Another group of dancers will unite to produce the Queen’s coronation robe, which will have symbols of every major faith and all 54 Commonwealth countries woven into its purple and white fabric.

The dances and costumes – actually wearable sculptures – grew out of the traditions of Carnival as it is celebrated in the Caribbean. That legacy inspired the Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of Caribbean culture that has grown into the largest street festival in Europe. The End of Summer party was canceled in the last two years due to the pandemic.

Artist Carl Gabriel, collaborating with Mahogany, is still finalizing an 85-kilogram (nearly 200-pound) statue of the Queen, complete with the crown and diamond necklace, which is the centerpiece of the display. Will happen. At its base it is four meters (13 ft) tall.

Gabriel has spent months building the sculpture using the traditional technique of wire-bending, along with his own innovations. Made by painstakingly bending pieces of wire around a metal frame using an assortment of pliers and hammers, the nearly finished work looks like a giant macro project. Wearing safety glasses and a leather apron at his studio in London, he said he wanted the work to be meaningful to the Queen – and many others besides.

“I think a lot of people are suffering,” Gabriel said. “The least I could provide was some joy by offering work to those who faced tough times.”

At its heart, the performance 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 working with 24 young dancers. The queen is at the center of it all.

“Every tour she has been on, every time she has come out, she has always represented the best of the country. We have never seen her raucous,” Cummings said. You know, we have to give back now. Here we are. We’re showing him our best.”

But the performance also conveys a message of rejuvenation.

The community of Mahogany was the epicenter of the first outbreak of COVID-19, and months of preparation for the jubilee have lifted the cast, many of whom have lost family members during the pandemic.

Just as the Queen promised the nation at the peak of the pandemic that people would reunite with their friends and families, artists are celebrating the ability to dance again as part of a community – a group that previously stricter than that.

Cummings must have been thinking of his father, who was also involved in the carnival. He passed away last year from COVID-19.

“I feel like I’m representing him in a way,” she said, not holding back the tears. “It’s almost like a tribute to him.”

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Follow Associated Press’s coverage of Queen Elizabeth II at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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