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Sunday, 21 February 2010

After 30 years... Jagessar enthroned

Jagessar, Hinds and Kallicharran, families prominent and synonymous in mas’ circles in San Fernando and indeed, T&T. This year taking top honours as Queen of the Bands at the Dimanche Gras show last Sunday was Rosemarie Kuru-Jagessar the 58-year-old matriarch of the Jagassar family of Gransaull Street, San Fernando with her portrayal as “Waka-Nisha-The Sacred Water Bearer” from the Fancy Indian band ‘Sioux Nation’… The lavishly plume-adorned costume with layers and layers of feathers was designed intricately to portray an Amerindian legend from a past indigenous empire, the trademark of the Jagesssar brand of mas.
Said Rosemarie: “This year our costume was different from the rest…it is symbolic of the significance of water to the people of the Sioux Nation and ironically, relevant in a sense somewhat given the unusually dry season in T&T and the Wasa woes that we are experiencing.” 2010 was this petite dynamo’s (mother of four, playing mas for over 30 years) 16th time in the Dimanche Gras finals, her 26th time in the semi finals and her 28th year in the National Queen of the Bands competition!
While ecstatic over her victory she admits to having lost hope of ever winning the national title, but the Carnival fever that she caught in her childhood in the heart of San Fernando (Coffee Street) as well as family support have kept her going from strength to strength, and according to her, “Only the love for Carnival kept us going.”
As she jokingly told fellow San Fernandian PM Patrick Manning who came to look her up with his wife Hazel: “I beat them in the East, I beat them in the West….” much to the PM’s amusement. The former Naparima Girls’ High School student and Grant Memorial Elementary School student was honoured on Friday by the latter for her prominence and contribution to culture in T&T.
‘My Husband, the driving force’
As a child she painted her face and ‘ran away’ to take a chip down the road with friends. “Carnival has been in my blood and on my mind every moment and in everything I do. I’m always thinking of colour schemes that would look good in costumes. I think of materials, and designs. I live for the joy of creating and making mas."
Husband Lionel Jagessar has been the driving force and backbone behind the family’s mas’ productions for over 30 years and is the recipient of the Humming Bird Silver Medal. He is the band leader/designer and chairman of Lionel Jagessar and Associates noted for his wire-bending, carving, use of cane and moulding skills. He is also a self-taught sign painter and screen printer who designs using theme methods which have gained him recognition locally and internationally.
One of his creations occupies a place in the St Louis Art Museum. As a boy Jagessar was fascinated with the lifestyle and culture of the native American Indian. He learnt his craft at an early age from an elder brother, Errol. He too, Lionel, has featured in the grand finals at the Dimanche Gras on a number of occasions. In addition to being awarded the Humming Bird Silver for his dedication to culture, his awards and achievements include those from the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA), the San Fernando Carnival Committee, the San Fernando Arts Council and San Fernando Senior Comprehensive (Tech Institute).
Coming stronger for 2011
Jagessar has been producing for several other countries, among them the United States/Labour Day, England/Nottinghill, St Marten, Tortola and Saba. Other bands in Trinidad have sought his experience, skills and mas’ producing services, such as Harts, Tribe, and Island People. Son Lionel Jr has been to the ‘Big Yard’ three times already in his relatively young mas’ career and is set to follow in his parents’ footsteps. Queen Rosemarie is also involved in events management, is an accomplished floral arranger and decorator and enlists the help of her family in her home-based business: “They all pitch in when I have to do event decorations such as weddings and other functions.”
The absence of a Carnival museum in the country is of great concern to her, along with the lack of proper staging facilities for what we like to call the Greatest Show on Earth. “We need a place to house and display our costumes throughout the year so that visitors could learn more about our Carnival, our country and our culture.” Asked about plans for Carnival 2011 the feisty 5’3” queen says she will be coming even stronger and will be up to the challenge of taking the title again knowing full well that so too will be the challengers.

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