DANICA KIRK, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — When designer Clary Salandi pushes open the door of a kitchen in an unremarkable west London community center, visitors stop, amazed by what they find.
A dozen orange-brown giraffe heads with top hats and loose eyelashes smile neatly alongside on an industrial-grade stove, while a pair of zebras peek out from the corner near the refrigerator.
It’s that sense of wonder Salandi hopes people will experience on Sunday when giraffes and zebras join a troupe of dancing elephants and flamingos outside Buckingham Palace in a theatrical performance that ends four days of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th birthday celebrations. on the throne. Meanwhile, the Styrofoam Beasts will remain locked in the kitchen for safekeeping.
Salandi and her team at Mahogany Carnival Arts want their playful reimagining of the setting in which young Princess Elizabeth found out she was queen in 1952 on a wildlife expedition to Kenya to evoke a sense of fun and fantasy in a nation recovering from coronavirus. . pandemic.
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In short, they want to inspire joy.
“When you see this, you should exclaim: “Wow! You know it’s amazing!” Salandi said. “We are going to get people out of the COVID state and bring them forward when they are done. People need to be sure that life is coming back and we are going to move back and forth to enjoy life.”
This message will be delivered by a group of 250 artists and performers from the Afro-Caribbean community, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and is now suffering from a cost-of-living crisis.
But the performers want to reach out to everyone with a presentation that celebrates the diversity of Britain and the Commonwealth.
Children will become swans, the elderly will fly on flamingo-decorated scooters, and dancers will bring giraffes and zebras to life, perhaps even to blend in with the crowd.
Another group of dancers will join to form the Queen’s coronation robe, with symbols of all major religions and bows to all 54 Commonwealth nations woven into a purple and white fabric.
The dances and costumes – truly wearable sculptures – grow out of the traditions of carnival, which is celebrated in the Caribbean. This 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 has been canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic.
Artist Carl Gabriel, who is collaborating with Mahogany, is still putting the finishing touches on the 85-kilogram (nearly 200-pound) bust of the queen, complete with crown and diamond necklace, that will be the centerpiece of the performance. On a plinth, it is four meters (13 feet) high.
Gabriel spent months creating the sculpture using traditional wire bending techniques along with his own innovations. The near-finished work, created by painstakingly bending pieces of wire around a metal frame with various pliers and hammers, resembles a gigantic macrame project. After donating goggles and a leather apron to his studio in London, he said he wanted the work to make a difference to the Queen and many others.
“I feel like a lot of people are suffering,” Gabriel said. “The least I could do was to please those who had gone through hard times by presenting my work to them.”
In essence, the performance is a celebration of 70 years of the Queen’s service, said Nicola Cummings, costume designer and teacher at the Queen’s Park Community School, which works with 24 young dancers. The Queen is at the center of it all.
“Every visit she has ever been on, every time she has performed, she has always represented the country at its best. We never saw her messy,” Cummings said. “You know, this is the only thing we have to pay for now. We are here. We show her the best.”
But the performance also carries a message of rejuvenation.
The Mahagonny community was the epicenter of the first COVID-19 outbreak, and the months leading up to the anniversary have lifted the spirits of performers, many of whom have lost family members during the pandemic.
Just as the Queen promised the nation in the midst of a pandemic that people would reunite with their friends and families, so the artists are celebrating the opportunity to dance again as part of a community – a group that is even more united than before.
Cummings will think of his father, who also participated in carnivals. He died from COVID-19 last year.
“I feel like I represent him in some way,” she said, unable to hold back her tears. “It’s almost like a tribute to him.”
Follow AP reporting on Queen Elizabeth II at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii.
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