Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Studium Generale lecture on Maastricht Carnival
Keen to join in during the Maastricht Carnival? Be prepared. But don’t worry – Ad van Iterson, associate professor at the School of Business and Economics and Carnival – goer by birth, is here to help you through these weird three days and nights. “Get over your shyness, but don’t overdo it; don’t be too enthusiastic. The best way to get into the Maastricht groove is to shuffle a bit.”
Van Iterson grew up with Carnival: “It’s in my genes. What’s learnt in the cradle is carried to the grave.” But newcomers can adapt, he assures his audience during the lecture organized by Studium Generale last Monday in the Minderbroedersberg Aula. A few years back he wrote a Dutch booklet about Carnival, Three days and three nights, for which he received a medal. “It took me almost 55 years to get one!”, he says, displaying a number of Carnival medals on screen. “The small one is a badge for children. If you’re offered one of these by De Tempeleers, the official Carnival organizer – you can recognize them by their red, green or yellow mitre – refuse it! Don’t let them fool you. Thirty thousand of these are made every year.”
Dreaming of becoming Prince of the Carnival, the main character of the festivities, in a few years? Don’t. Especially if you weren’t born in Maastricht. To become a City Prince, like the current Prince Bastiaan, you need to meet certain requirements. You should be about 38 years old, be married to a lovely princess, live in a nice neighbourhood, and have two or three children and, like Bastiaan, two goldfish. A dog is also acceptable, or a rabbit. And, of course, you have to serve community – be a board member of the hockey club, for example, and show up on the hockey field every Saturday.
Van Iterson: “The Prince used to be just someone off the street, chosen from the masses to lead the city during Carnival. But more and more it’s become a bourgeois exercise: nice family, good career, et cetera.” During Carnival the Prince goes from pub to pub. “If you see him, give him a hug and kiss and say you love him, because it’s not easy being Prince of the Carnival.”
Bastiaan Klomp, director of the Kruisherenhotel Maastricht, is the City Prince, “but there are more of them, because every neighbourhood has a Prince of its own, just as they have their own Carnival organizers.” Those neighbourhoods tend to be less conservative, says Van Iterson: “There you see girls as youth princesses.” To date, De Tempeleers have never put forth an adult City Princess.
So what is actually on the cards, starting this Sunday morning at 11:11? “Drink beer, dive into the mess. You can go alone if you want, dressed in a crazy outfit. That’s not strange – we see a lot of Einzelgängers”, Van Iterson says. Prefer to go with a group? Get a unique costume and follow one of the Zate Hermeniekes, the drunken brass bands – an invention from the late 50s – that proudly play out of tune. “Or join the grand parade on Sunday afternoon that starts at the Station and ends at the Vrijthof.” The Vrijthof is the heart of the festivities, the square where a huge doll, the Mooswief – a female vegetable seller – is raised on a flagpole. The Mooswief is the patroness of Carnival: “As long as you see her hanging, it’s safe to be in fancy dress.”
Van Iterson ends his speech with a nod to the Russian thinker Michael Bakthin (1895–1975) who described Carnival in his book Rabelais and His World, an analysis of the writings of the French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais. According to Bakthin, Carnival’s liberating force is “laughing truth … degrading power.” Power is to be ridiculed; Carnival is all about “the reversal of high and low”. Later, he shows a photo of a Carnival reveller with a fake penis on his nose – some people take the reversal of high and low quite literally.
N.B: You may find yourself in trouble if you dress like a terrorist or jihadi. De Tempeleers have announced that they will be keeping an eye out for this, especially during the grand parade.