[MARTINIQUE CARNIVAL] Neg Gwo Siwo: User manual!

1 February 2023

Advanced black is here !!! 😎. As Carnival 2023 approaches, this catchy refrain sounds like sweet music to my ears 🎶. 

Yes, yes, people, Carnival is here!!! And if there’s one thing I love about Martinique’s Carnival, it’s the Neg gwo siwo. Who is he? Where does he come from ? Why this growing success ?

Crédit photo : Michel Louis

The Neg Gwo Siwo, an essential part of Carnival.

The “neg gwo siwo,” along with the Hommes d’argile, Maryann Lapo fig, the Diable rouge, Karolyn zié loli, is one of the iconic characters of our Martinican carnival.

The Carnival of Saint-Pierre, before the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902, invented these characters which later reappeared in Fort-de-France, now the capital.

The neg gwo siwo is a tribute to the neg marrons who covered themselves in a mixture of soot and molasses syrup to escape the scrutiny of their masters. Today, the Neg swo siwo are more than ever part of our traditions. Men, women, children, families, or friends: Martinicans are increasingly numerous in perpetuating this tradition which is modernizing. Personally, since my first experience as a negresse gwo siwo, wearing my siwo costume remains the very essence of Carnival.

Crédit Photo : Michel Louis

‘The Neg Gwo Siwo or freedom in your skin

What I like:

  • What I like about it: The feeling of the siwo on my skin, plus my skin is all smooth afterwards as a little bonus! 😁🤭
  • Scaring the carnival-goers who move aside when the group of siwos arrives 😂😏
  • Perpetuating the tradition of the neg gwo siwo because it belongs to our culture.
  • The feeling of freedom: yes, the neg gwo siwo is a rebel who only obeys its own rules. Its great pleasure is to come down while shouting its war cry ! /span>
  • Not having to think about what to wear #teamlazy. 
Crédit Photo : Michel Louis

Some rules to follow:

  • Avoid using cream or oil as it may cause the siwo to come off and require frequent reapplication.
  • Tie your hair back (for those who have it 😅). You can make a pretty red “maré tèt” hairstyle that will look great with the siwo !
  • Don’t put too much siwo on your face, or it will end up in your eyes.
  • Wear long leggings or tights to protect your thighs. Otherwise, the siwo between your legs and the physical activity of the carnival could cause an unpleasant tingling sensation.
  • Cover your car seats with trash bags and towels, even after rinsing the siwo off.
  • Don’t forget to bring a backpack with a change of clothes, soap or shower gel.
Crédit Photo : Michel Louis

For the fans of siwo, soca, and bouyon 🥳🥸, there’s the Jab Jab Carnival 2023 on Saturday, February 4th at the Balata Shooting Range with Dj Payou, Dj Dankers, Dj Amigo, and the VK’band to make you wine. Don’t wait too long, the early bird tickets are already sold out !

The associations that perpetuate the tradition.

And you, what do you prefer in carnival? Team traditional costumes or super elaborate costumes? Or maybe both? In any case, the Airlocal Martinique team wishes you a happy carnival 2023!!

MARKOS Muriel 

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