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Monday, 15 February 2010

Mac Farlane resurrects mas

Marion Seelbach of Germany, left, Bernd and Beatrice Hirnschrodt of Austria, right, look at the illustration on the front wall of Brian Mac Farlane’s mas camp on Rosalino Street, Woodbrook. Photos: Dilip Singh

On the front wall of Brian Mac Farlane’s mas camp on Rosalino Street, Woodbrook, there is a large cream and brown illustration of Carnival in Port-of-Spain in 1888. It is a copy of an actual illustration done by one Milton Prior for a London newspaper of that time. Resurrection, Mac Farlane’s presentation this year, seeks to reproduce as closely as possible the bats, jab molassies (molasses devils), cow heads, burrokeets (donkeys), dragons and other mas of the 1870s to 1930s. It was the mas that came from the “jamette society” of Port-of-Spain, University of the West Indies Creative Arts lecturer, Lari Richardson, browsing around the camp last Monday, offered.
Eva Kenton of England views costumes on display.

The costumes were designed by Mac Farlane but the ideas were derived from Professor Jeff Henry’s book, Behind the Mas. It is the kind of mas that seems to attract foreigners, like 34-year-old Jeremy Powell of Miami and his Trinidadian friend, Brian Wong Won, who came early to collect their stickfighter costumes. “It’s similar to what we are doing for J’Ouvert. Brian is bringing out a band called Mas Jumbies,” Powell said. Eva Kenton of England, who visits Carnival all over the world, from Rio de Janeiro to Venice, seemed enthralled by the displays in the reception area. “I am trying to get as much Carnival information as possible,” she said. Austrian couple, Bernd and Beatrice Hirnschrodt, who visited the camp, said they were making a documentary on T&T Carnival, while German, Marion Seelbach, was helping out and playing with the band.
LEFT: Workers putting the finishing touches on costumes in Mac Farlane’s mas camp.
RIGHT: Delia Carmino attaches bells to a jab molassie costume.

Invoking fear
There are over 1,000 costumes in the band and the sign, “Sold Out”, was above many of the 16 sections on display at the camp. Costumes range from $2,800 to $3,800, plus VAT. “Bats,
Red Indians and Black Indians went first,” Maurice Chevalier, public relations officer, said. A mannequin in the full dress of a woman of the plantation era holding a child stood prominently in the middle of the reception room. “It’s from the section, Baby Doll,” Chevalier said. “It represents a bondwoman taken by the slave owner for copulation, who bore a child for him.”

A sailor with a very long nose made like a phallus stood nearby.
“It’s from the Suck Me Nose Sailor section,” Chevalier said.
“It represents misbehaving sailors who landed at the port and went carousing about town.” A costume of a woman on a horse is from the section, Soumayree. It depicts a Hindu religious rite in which the horse was used in worship to the goddess, Durga (Kali), Chevalier said. A demonic-looking cow’s head comprises most of the Mad Cow but it only depicts cattle brought to the island at the time which went “mad” after their long sea’s journey, Chevalier explained. The Bat section shows that bats were plentiful in T&T in the old days and mas makers found it easy to mimic them. The king of Mac Farlane’s band The Dragon Can Dance, a massive dragon with wide open mouth and prominent teeth, was already placed first in the preliminaries of the King of Carnival competition.

                                   Maurice Chevalier, public relations officer, shows the Suck Me Nose Sailor.

Queen, Dame Gwo Bunda, with oversized bust and rear end, placed first. All in earthy browns and creams, with no glitter, it’s not the “pretty mas” of Trini Revellers. “Costume like Jab Molassie is macabre mas, the kind that invokes fear,” Chevalier said. Mac Farlane’s band is one of the large ones that do not import costumes. “Everything is locally made,” Chevalier said, with almost reverence. Distribution began last Monday but workers were busy putting the finishing touches on costumes in a large shed. A sewing room with piles of costume material and dozens of finished pieces on racks in a nearby room also testified to Chevalier’s claim.
Ryan Persad, left, and Damian Moore reinforce cows’ heads..
“Everything is made individually, one piece at a time,” he stressed. “So much is being done outside. We make an effort to maintain the local creativity.” While there is some wire bending, most of Mac Farlane’s mas seems to be made from cloth and papier mache. In the mas camp, youths, Ryan Persad and Damian Moore, reinforced cows’ heads while Delia Carmino attached tiny bells to jab molassies. Carol le Pierre put earrings on female sailors and Vanessa Bowyer and Judy de Freitas stuck flowers on dame lorraines’ headpieces. Kirk Richmond monitored large bags of finished costumes in the distribution section of the camp waiting to be collected.


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