Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Look a mas!

It's Carnival Tuesday. I am in my hill home. The bush is green and cool - that February warm dry breezy slanting southern light makes being away from the heat and dust worthwhile. Early pouis ablaze in the hills. Immortelle flowers float off the branch, and parrots are squawking as they fly. Like a whisper, soca rises from the village, reminder that there is a Carnival and gatherings amid noise and heat and dust of the roads in town. Sometimes, a wave of memory rises.

It's 2006. The headpiece - a wizard's cone of flat galvanize - is light, but tall and unwieldy. The leggings force us to walk with our feet apart, like horse riders who just dismounted. And the length of red fabric - where was that supposed to go? - starts off draped around the neck but alternates as a headtie to keep sweat out of our eyes and cushion the high headpiece. We look like an old army, with hardware glinting in the sun - a Byzantine glory in the age of sequins and beads. Minshall's Sacred Heart -  a tribute to the fast beating slow expiration of an era that began decades ago.

The Black army of M2K masses on the north side of the Savannah battleground.

Reel back to the first mas of the new century.  M2K is a black and white Minshall mock battle. There is a costume waiting in a car on a side street to the Savannah early Tuesday morning. The jumpsuit slips easily over street clothes and I join the Whites with a squeezy bottle full of black paint. As participant I give myself over to the childish fun of squirt and run. But most of me - then as now - is observer. As the band blends and pours from Savannah to the streets, we channel River and Callaloo and The Golden Calabash,  Minshall's magic Trinity (1983-1985) with costumes as canvas. Pagwah, Jackson Pollock, a paint-in, a Minshall mas distilled by the artist to an elemental interaction. Shades of Red Army, Sailors Ashore, khakis in the jungle, infantry and artillerymen crawling on their bellies of other Carnival stages. Toobesides, this was jouvay freeing up in Mardi Gras.

The White army musters and marches towards the Black.
Go further back, the year is 1974. Traditions of mas are relearned by the newly returned university graduate. The Savannah stage still marks the centre. And there is only one takeaway from that Carnival. A child's mas, From the Land of the Hummingbird cuts sharply through all confusion. It is a single statement, a high point that sets the tone for 1976 - Paradise Lost, the Stephen Lee Heung presentation designed by Minshall from the poem by John Milton. The rest as they say is memory.

Battle done, and white shall be black and black white, and "all ah we is one..."


(Photos of M2K by Ranji Ganase)

1 comment:

  1. ..great photos in black and white,...and the mas gathering is much more impressive compared to what I've been seeing passing thru QPS today...

    ReplyDelete