I have a couple of new video clips (well not new but newly uploaded as I was working on an essay about my life in mas for submission and I needed to upload the videos) from Grace’s Merrymakers 2017 debut and finale during Antigua and Barbuda Carnival’s 60th anniversary. Seriously when I play mas again I want to not have to worry about all the behind the scenes stuff – though my mas was micro I have newfound respect for the leaders of mas I’ve played with over the years, because seriously when is their Carnival. I’m half-kidding. I had fun. We all did.
It’s funny how quickly Carnival goes by. It’s like this two week alternate reality where everything else ceases to exist, and then, in a blink, back to reality. Within those two weeks there is pageantry, soca, calypso, pan, controversy, and, of course, mas including the epic Carnival Tuesday parade (all 10,000 plus steps of it). Carnival is mas, and mas is an opportunity to showcase our creativity and that, the opportunity it provides to showcase our creativity, is the purpose of this post.
See, I wrote a children’s picture book called With Grace (released last December), and the world of that story became the pattern that we drew from in crafting our mas – in great part because I wanted to see the tree faerie come to life.
We had more elaborate plans to start but adjusted to our reality and are grateful that with the help of sponsors (shout out to Titi Rent-a-Car, Townhouse Mega Store, and Pink Mongoose), we were able to bring the tree faerie to Carnival City.
I’m not going to pretend that I had any hand in the actual building – I am rather lucky that my friends (Helena Jeffery Brown and Augusta Scotland Samuel) who do have experience with costume building were interested in taking on this project.
Material was bought ,
Wire was bent ,
Shapes were drawn ,
Fabric was cut ,
& Details were added (these are for the headpieces and standards – because we might not have had a mango tree like we’d hoped but the standards made for a good stand-in).
In their skilled hands (plus seamstress, Ms. Blaize, who sewed the tops they then decorated), it all came together..
We had to do a product description for the stage and here’s some of what we said – “The fairy’s bodice is the colour of tree bark crisscrossed in green. Her skirt consists of green leaves, with stripes of gold, hanging from her body like leaves from a tree. Look closely, you’ll also see mango blossoms – between the fairy’s wings, pinned into her hair, and along the leaves making up her hand pieces. The fairy’s wings spread wide as she wakes, the orange pink hue of a ripening mango, made of bent wire in the tradition of Antiguan mas. Another feature of local mas, the standards – poles wrapped in leaves, in hues of green and gold – are the trees waving in the breeze. It’s mango season, Carnival season, a season of creativity in full bloom.”
On the Road
After all that, we were only on the road on Carnival Tuesday (shout out to Just Friends, for being so welcoming to us on the road); on Carnival Monday, given our size, we only crossed the stage. Shout out to our banner holders …and our back-up banner holders.
We were happy to have the opportunity to showcase what mas is about to us – not just fun (though it is always that), but the colour, spirit, and creative energy of our Antiguan and Barbudan people. As a writer, it made me happy to see a character I imagined (a character then illustrated by Cherise Harris and re-imagined by Jeffery) come to life as a part of one of my favourite events, Carnival, mas, Tuesday, the biggest live theatre event (for that’s how I’ve thought of our mas since I first witnessed it as a child). This year I also spied a smurfette and a mermaid (dope); so why not the mango tree faerie, a 100 Wadadli character. Again, thanks to our sponsors (Titi Rent-a-Car, Pink Mongoose, and Townhouse Mega Store) for supporting our vision – remember, support the businesses that support the arts.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Grace, of Grace’s Peak, loves her hill, and her home above the village, above the whole island. All her trees are lush and full of ripe fruits, except for the one at the far end of her orchard. She hates that tree. So when the smiling, barefoot, girl from the village asks Grace if she can pick fruits to sell at the market, it is from that sad, bare tree that Grace “generously” allows her to pick. Little does Grace know that the young girl’s kind, generous heart and her sweet special song will make the impossible happen, and change life at Grace’s Peak forever. Published by Little Bell Caribbean.
Also, for news on Antigua’s Carnival, go here.