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Carnival is an artform – Reuse, Recycle, Rebirth

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

By Nadia Goodhart

Hips sway to the rhythm as music washes over the masqueraders in the hot sun. The brightly coloured costumes glitters in the sunlight catching the stares of the eager parade goers. Feathers and beads complete the looks of the revelry along the streets. Every costume looks beautiful. Every person wearing the costume looks happy.

On parade day, there is so much to be happy and grateful for. It has been months even years of planning for this day. Each mas band comes up with a theme and concept. Some mas bands will bring up a large costume in the King, Queen and Junior categories that will complement the concept. These costumes can get up to 20 feet in height and will span the width of a car lane. These costumes are made by local artists and comprises the art of wire-bending. Each costume must be able to be dismantled to be transported from usually someone’s garage to downtown.

When the big costume is on the street, a masquerader will guide the costume to the music. It will be maneuvered to sway, swivel, and bounce. It will have to be sturdy enough to be pulled for 2-3 hours but flexible to shimmer and shine as a spectacle for the parade goers.

Carnival is an artform. Masqueraders are wearing pieces of art. Each feather and sequin are placed strategically to look pleasing to the eye but also to make the masquerader look flattering.

This year we met with the band leaders of MnM Music and Mas, Desmond (Dez) Edwards and Bert Richards. There were some eye-catching costumes with intricately beaded designs that were made for this year’s theme God and Goddesses (The Gods of Egypt). But how did they get them to look so good? It starts with a theme. An idea that takes hold, years in the making. Dez, a pipe fitter by trade, is always looking for something that will make mas. He picks up scraps from his work; pieces of plastic, discarded underlay, and even unused wire used in packaging. All the things that may have been destined for the dump; he sees the bones of the costumes. Bert also works in construction and between them both, they collect things that will build the frames of the costumes. They aim to keep the mas sustainable and to find ways of using unconventional materials to make costumes.

“Take a little bit from each culture and make it your own.”

Carnival was created by imitation. Slaves imitated their slave masters and mas in the Caribbean imitated the political landscape. We saw ‘fancy sailors’ which were costumes to depict the US Navy during World War I and II. It was interesting hearing about how this year’s theme was developed. Dez had a collection of pictures, books and left-over colours that lead to the theme being pulled together. He was intrigued by the stories of Egypt and the gods and goddesses that were brought to life on the pages of history. Just as the people that make up the Caribbean have taken bits of pieces of each other’s culture to make their own, Carnival allows you to take a bit from each culture and make it your own.

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