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Sunday, 25 April 2010

African tribe lost in India

Somali sisters journey from civil war to New York fashionistas

New York (CNN) -- Two Somali women are making a splash in the New York fashion scene, designing a range of clothes that take their inspiration from Africa.
Identical twins Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim were born in Somalia, but left for the United States aged nine to escape the civil war.
They grew up in Washington D.C. before going to college -- one in Boston and the other in Michigan. After graduation they headed for New York City and set up fashion label Mataano -- the Somali word for twins.
Seeing that New Yorkers were wedded to wearing black, the Mohallim twins were determined to brighten up the city with a splash of African color.
Ayaan told CNN, "We came into this industry and realized that with a lot of the clothes that we saw, everything was black.
"You know in Africa, with everything you wear it's almost like the peacock theory -- people want to be noticed, they want to stand out.
"So the world's taking notice. It's not about designers going to Africa for a safari and coming back with an animal print and big bangles and saying 'here's your one trick pony.'
"Africa is not a homogenous place -- it has different cultures. So now there's a medium for it and there's more designers that are traveling abroad and bringing that aesthetic to this market."
The pair have been in business for less than two years, but they are taking inspiration from the entire continent of Africa, drawing on the traditional dress of specific regions and subcultures. Their childhood in Somalia has left a lasting impression that can be seen in their designs.
The Somali woman has strength and we want to evoke this through our collection.
--Ayaan Mohallim
"The Somali woman has strength and we want to evoke this through our collection," said Ayaan. "So we design really flowy, beautiful dresses that have a nice strong print that showcases the strength these women really have."
"For our Spring 2010 collection we also used Somali references and inspirations," said Idyl.
"There was one silhouette that's worn by every woman in Somalia, called a 'dirac.' We didn't want to recreate it too much, we just wanted to introduce that and say 'it's relevant and you can wear it in a western culture.'"
But while they are fusing traditional African clothing with modern Manhattan sensibilities, they have to be sensitive to cultural differences in their more conservative homeland.
"We got a lot of feedback from Somalis everywhere," said Idyl. "A lot of our consumers and fans are writing us and saying 'you guys are making beautiful clothes but some of them are not modest enough, especially not for the Somali culture and Somali woman.'
"So that's something that we really had to pay attention to and try to create something for everyone, while staying true to the collection."
The twins' new collection will debut on runways in South Africa this summer during Africa Fashion Week. They say it's a big step in the right direction, but they have their sights set on expanding even further.
"In the next few years we definitely want to expand our business," said Idyl. "We want to go global. We want to be in Europe, the Middle East, and especially Africa.
"We want to speak to the global consumer -- and not just for women -- we've been getting a lot of requests from men."
As they grow beyond the boutiques of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the twins believe their story is one that resonates with people from all backgrounds.
"We're bringing a positive story and people connect with that because we're following the American dream and we've overcome a lot of obstacles," said Idyl.
"We've had to assimilate, but at the same time there are so many immigrants, so many different individuals doing that throughout the Diaspora, throughout Africa, so there is a positive story that needs to be told.
"I think it's really refreshing to hear a different side of Somalia ... that we're not all pirates!"
Mark Tutton contributed to this report

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African Masks and African Masking Traditions

I have no doubt that within the roots of Caribbean culture are these and many more African Traditions.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Behind the Masks in Mexico

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...Image via Wikipedia
I came across this video surfing about Mexican masking traditions and thought to my self there is a lot of African influence in there, take a look at the video its a lesson in history too...

"Masked festivals in Mexico are a thriving tradition; their unbroken evolution can be traced from the pre European period to the present, including African influences introduced by slaves of the Spanish. BEHIND THE MASKS IN MEXICO, exhibited at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, is the most comprehensive museum exhibition on Mexican masked dance in the United States. Curators, exhibition designers, a camera crew and consultants spent thousands of hours in six Mexican villages researching the festivals of Carnival, Holy Week, Corpus Christi, Day of the Dead Christmas, and Patron Saints Day. The Museum of International Folk Art houses a large Latin American collection, including this country's largest holding of Mexican folk art and one of this nation's largest museum collections of Mexican masks. PROFILE: Miguel Caro Albuquerque dancer, specializing in traditional and contemporary dance. Here Caro dances several Mexican folk dances with his usual high energy and love of Mexican folk life. Orginally broadcast on New Mexico PBS station KNME."

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Friday, 23 April 2010

Mas Man and Mas Man Redux, Two for your Trinidad Carnival Collection

When Mas Man the movie premiered in London last November I leaped at the opportunity to  not just to see the move/documentary but to meet Dalton Narine,  because even as a child I always associated the Dalton Narine name to one of my greatest sources of information of anything Minshall.
So I went to the London premier of Mas Man and thought ‘YES! Narine just did it again!’

Now to tell the truth the festival cut of Mas Man is great, for me it was an analysis of Minshalls contribution to Mas made by those who had the opportunity to work with him learn from him, and define his massive contribution to the culture to Trinidad and Tobago ‘s Carnival, through the art form Mas.
I loved it! The only problem I had with it is that growing up watching Minshalls Mas with my own eyes I felt I needed to see more, my childhood memories reignited by Mas Man festival cut demanded more than 87 minutes that Mas man gave me.
The next time I spoke to Dalton Narine he told me about the director’s cut, that it was shorter than the festival cut but more coverage, MORE MAS.
And so about a week later I sat watching Mas Man and then Mas Man Redux, back to back, and trust me, Mas Man is great, but Redux is a whole different creature. While this director’s cut does feature some of the festival footage, there is a whole lot more Mas, probably all of Minshalls presentations are packed into this DVD, and the story is not just told by those who have worked with him and played in his band, a lot of the story is told by Peter Minshall himself.

From the empowerment and inspiration he got from Sailor Mas, in the beginning to  what inspire ‘This is Hell and the band RED, to the feelings he sometimes gets when he looks at his life in retrospect in the end, Mas Man Redux, is simply the second half of a fantastic voyage into the Mas, and Mind of Minshall. I will recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn more about Mas, to get these DVD’s, anyone who wants to know more about Peter Minshall, get these DVD’s  or if you are simply a collector of Carnival history, get these DVD’s , you simply won’t regret it.

Mas Assassin.

A little trivia for you guys Peter Samuel’s body suit for the Sacred and the Profane was hand painted by Peter Minshall while Samuel was wearing it and it took 61/2 hours to complete.

If you wish to see more of Peter Minshall's work or read more critiques on the movies see the Minshall Mas Man fan page on facebook.

If you want to purchase MASMAN go to the website here.   
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Monday, 5 April 2010

Friday, 2 April 2010

Man behind Mas Man

Dalton Narine, writer, filmmaker and Vietnam War veteran is a Trinbagonian cultural ambassador who had a first-rate childhood. While one may not link growing up dirt-poor in what he calls “the badjohn era of steelpan” as such, it was that very environment that fuelled his artistic adventures. David Rudder now sings longingly about that era when brilliance arose from the grimy streets and harsh hillsides in places like Belmont and Laventille. It was a time when the class system was clearly defined, and though the majority of residents fell at or below the poverty line the souls of many overflowed with a wealth of creative energy. Some of that energy was manifested as violence, but, for the most part, it articulated creative expression. Dalton recalls growing up in Gonzales, when music, art and culture were basically all he had to subsist on.

“My father so wanted his three children to turn out to be good people he begged a piano to teacher to give us lessons on the cheap. It’s funny because we barely had money for food, yet the piano nourished my mind and soul and led to pan.”
Today, the gruesome headlines about Laventille and places like Gonzales makes Dalton’s experiences seem like an idealistic Billy Elliot-style fantasy. But he is living proof that our culture, music and art could help one transcend barriers of class, race and nationality. He became a decorated U.S veteran, and was a respected writer for The Village Voice, Esquire and Ebony, where he served as associate editor. But he's always had a toehold in Trinidad, and continues to write feature stories for The Guardian. He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His transition from print to filmmaking was seamless perhaps because it was destiny.

“I am a filmmaker because I am a writer who likes to add pictures to prose. If it sounds voyeuristic then it is. It’s my art. Not my subject’s art. When I was about 12, my friends and I used to go down to the old Pyramid theatre and they always used to laugh at me because, after the movie, I would still sit and watch the credits and I would tell them, ‘One day my name going to be up there!’ And you know, to this day, I don’t ever walk out of a movie until the credits finish rolling,”

Currently, his favorite subject for artistic voyeurism is undoubtedly Peter Minshall. Mas Man is his latest exploration of his intrigue with this Emmy and Trinity Cross award-winning carnival artist. After his successful and celebrated Minshall Triology, Dalton realized there was more to be told, and he is hoping not just Trinibagonians but the world will appreciate the genius of Minshall.

“He's enigmatic and enthralling, an artist who is driven to be the best at his craft, which is to design events that dance and tell stories that may not reach you literally, but, like all art, communicate within the purview of your sense of reasoning, sometimes even beyond the scope of observation. What amazes is how he channels your vision and mental processes so that you get it. You must get it. It's all subliminal, particularly in the detail of the mas, how he can provoke response.”

He recalls how during research for the filming of the Triology, Minshall “…became something of an apparition,” when the mas man tried to convey the scope and sentiment of his art by re-enacting the entire concept himself with naught but a candle in the kitchen for dramatic lighting effect. That was when Dalton discovered that it was best not to try to shape the man into the film but let the film be shaped by the man. Dalton knew he wanted to capture more moments like this within a more organic and free-flowing structure for another project. Mas Man would be that vehicle.

“I decided this time around there would be no narrator. Instead, what we would do is to interview as many as 32 people and edit the film so that they all contributed to the narrative. It worked brilliantly, I think. Imagine panning for gold and you come up with diamonds, rubies and rare gems in the editing room. Editing was a dream because you also got to analyze Minshall’s British delivery and intellectual gems, and suddenly he would floor you with a left hook, ripping it with street-corner ole talk. I swear if he weren't a mas man he'd be one fierce dude on the block, regaling limers with stories, all of them newly minted. And he does these mental gymnastics with so much ease. He really embodies Shakespeare’s As You Like It which says, ‘All the world is a stage,’ Well Minshall was both the stage and the entire play during a total of five hours in front of the camera. He's a natural."
Dalton recalls one particular moment at Minshall's home on a Carnival Sunday. “While associate producer/cameraman Benedict Joseph and myself were searching for interior shots, he was seated at a table with a sketch pad, the camera wandering around the room, when he suddenly started ramajaying with his pencil, then breaking the silence with a pithy statement: ‘If there's going to be another band, it would be Paradise Regained, and maybe it would be called (spelling it out) “Rezarrek”. How do you spell 'resurrect?' "

Dalton compares Minshall to “The Joker” in The Dark Knight with a mind full of pyrotechnics but behind the façade has a playful heart and a passion for the country some folks still do not fully appreciate, perhaps because they don't understand his calibre of art and gift of patriotism.

“In the film, a Uruguyan art critic and university professor in New York, breaks down the methodology by acknowledging that art used to be for those that understood and preserved it, not for the community; and Minshall, with his knowledge of class structure, pushed the mas up into this other sphere, making it alive by combining it with tradition -- a major cultural achievement, this tightrope that he walks.”

Even though the film is going through the "sweet pain of the final cut," like all experienced filmmakers (this is his 14th documentary), Dalton is not waiting till completion to tackle the business end of things. He envisions Mas Man as a self-sustaining documentary that will be screened at renowned film festivals around the world and art channels like Ovation for a long time. Although Dalton is a do-it-yourself kind of guy, he is beside himself with gratitude to his team and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company.
“They played an integral role in the post-production. They were not there at the start and during the four and a half lean years, but they came in the nick of time. Talk about the ‘universe being patient’! I tell you by that time we were battered and bruised and they were like a knight in shining armor. I fully intend to make myself available for their workshop sessions, whatever they need, 'cause you have to give back. That’s what it is all about.”
Indeed, that is a sentiment Peter Minshall also shares, always quoting Federico Garcia Lorca, who once said that water drawn from the well of the people should be given back to them in a cup of beauty.
Dalton recounts when Son of Saga Boy, an ode to survival of the indomitable human spirit in the face of HIV/AIDS, didn't make the Kings Finals in 2006, an admirer said to Minshall, ‘I'm so sorry about your king.' Minshall’s response was, “Damn it! You got it all wrong. It is not MY King, it’s YOUR King. I did it for YOU!”
Whether or not Mas Man is the result of voyeuristic artistry or uninhibited storytelling on Dalton’s part there is no doubt a similar motivation is guiding this intimate portrait. By revealing the man, he has revealed himself to be a patriot and “soul brother in arms” to the man behind the mas.

“In Trinidad and Tobago, we have been looking for a standard-bearer all these years. Well, this is your standard- bearer!” Dalton proclaims.
Trinidad and Tobago Film Company

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