An Atlas of Carnival Customs and Costumes
By Rob Flowers
Published by Cicada Books ISBN: 978-1-908714-57-2
Reviewed by Louise Date
Most people across the world will have experienced a folk festival; they are a uniquely human thing. From eggs at Easter filling supermarket shelves to mistletoe covered wrapping paper at Christmas, numerous themes and aspects of folklore permeate the major celebrations that we celebrate in the Western world. In many places however, ancient folk traditions are still lived, loved and experienced in the modern day.
Festival Folk is a new book by Rob Flowers, an illustrator with a very distinctive and eye-catching style. The book covers festivals from around the world, and illustrates the festival goers, their costumes and the significant details of each, as well as a breakdown of the recurrent themes that crop up, a calendar of the festivals throughout the year, and the spread of the celebrations across the world, showing just how many different cultures love a party.
At the beginning, a foreword by the director of the British Museum of Folklore explains the importance of celebration, and of ‘stepping outside of our ordinary lives, to become, however briefly, something extraordinary, and in doing so, to celebrate our existence’. Flowers himself then goes on, in his Author’s Note, to initiate us in the world of Festival Folk as an introduction to ‘some of the world’s most unique and remarkable events’.
Each page is attention-grabbing, with colour a-plenty and the figures boldly and exuberantly captured by Flowers. Festivals and pageants are given a page or double page spread each, and are covered in information as well as the illustrations, with the time of year and the location supplied for each. Around, under and between the figures and decorations, small paragraphs allow us a little more detail of what we are looking at (and some of the details are truly bizarre!) and are brief, but informative.
The use of colour is unusual, with the bright reds, blues, pinks and yellows used not just in the illustrations but as the background for the page, a move that adds lots of activity and liveliness to the image, but also makes some pages difficult to read, as the colours too easily distract from the text. With the images acting as the primary draw to each subject the text has to work hard to compete for attention, but in breaking the text up Flowers does allow us to divide our attention more easily between the two.