Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Neville, a Pioneer of Carnival

Mourners braved the inclement weather yesterday to attend the funeral of 94-year-old masman Neville Romus Aming at the Church of the Assumption in Maraval.
“Daddy was a pioneer of Carnival,” said Aming’s daughter Crystal Aming-Marcus who delivered the eulogy. She fondly recalled memories of him. “His influence lives on in me, as I have been a costume designer for the past 18 years,” said Aming-Marcus.
PIONEER: Neville Aming
Deacon Mike Smith said he recalled growing up with Aming and realising from a young age that Aming had a passion hinged on Carnival. “It was a privilege to know him. Neville intrigued us with his passion for mas,” said Smith.
“His family meant everything to him. Neville was dedicated to his family, friends, vocation to God and his profession—creating mas. This was reflected in him being awarded the Humming Bird Silver in 1996 for his contributions to society,” Smith continued.
Among those in attendance were widow Conchita Aming, eight children, close family members, friends and the president of the National Carnival Bands Association David Lopez. “Neville gave Carnival immense creativity and we thank him for his contributions,” said Lopez.
Aming assisted in developing regional, as well as international, carnivals and was one of the founding members of the Carnival Band Leader’s Association. Some of his most popular Carnival presentations were 1959’s - Reign of the Mings; 1960 - Golden Age of China and 1967 Oriental Fantasy.
“Neville’s passing calls us to look at our own lives. Let this funeral make you reflect on your lives to see if you are living a life that is pleasing to God. Let his death be a conversion for us,” said Deacon Smith. Aming’s grandson Kyle Awah said, “My grandfather was the best and he will be missed.” Aming died peacefully on September 22, surrounded by family. He was buried at the Lapeyrouse Cemetery.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book closes on Benidict Morgan, iconic mas man

Huddled around an old photo album in a small apartment on Nelson Street, tales flow of the extraordinary life of well-known mas man Benidict Morgan.
Two of his daughters, Annette and Christine, smile as they give story after story. It is clear how proud they are of their father, their sadness at his death at the age of 90 on August 8 mixed with the joy of so many wonderful memories.
Though he was popularly known simply as “the Original Bookma
Benidict Morgan portrays the popular Carnival character
 The Bookman at the staging of Camboulay.
n” because this was what he played for the last 20 years or so, he played all kinds of Mas throughout the course of his long life.
Christine remembers when she was a child he played the Art Gallery. “People used to stopped us all the time. On the costume there were pictures of Trinidad from long ago, the tram car, things like that. He lived for his mas. He said he played mas since he was seven,” she said.
“He played with Mac Williams, Saldenha, he played with so many bands, even Peter Minshall in Rats and River. He played sailor. He played Roman soldier. He play a mas that looked like a knight in shining armour from head to toe complete with a shield and spear.
“He was a pan man too, a Casablanca man in the early days of the band,” she added. “He had a tattoo on his arm from the band. All the old members had the same tattoo. He was proud of it.”
Christine takes out his birth certificate to show that this name is Benidict and not Benedict and that he was born on Besson Street in 1927. “His mother was Willimina Morgan, but I don’t know anything about her as she died when he was 12. After that he had to look after himself and his sister. He was a fire officer in his younger days, and then later in his life he became a prisons officer.”
Morgan was one of the few people left playing the Bookman, one of the leading figures of the Devil Band which had its heyday in our Carnival during the first decades of the 1900s.
Originally known as the mythological winged demon Beelzebub, the Bookman carries the Book of Law in one hand and a large pen in the other which he uses to record the names of the subjects of his kingdom.
In the evolution of this portrayal, Bookman characters would write the names of historical/political figures, both local and international, who they deemed to have gone to “hell” through their misdeeds.
There are just a few people left now who consistently play the Bookman. Sylvan Joseph is the main one, while Winston Daniel and his sons play a variety of Beasts, Lucifer, Satan and the Grim Reaper. There are also others who play various characters from year to year, especially the Dragon, but they are also a handful.
The Crosstown Carnival Committee has been trying to keep these traditions alive on Carnival Friday with their Dragon Festival and over the last two years tried to re-imagine Patrick Jones band, Khaki and Slate.
Notably, in 2010 there was a wonderful presentation of a number of the Devil Band characters on Carnival Sunday organised by Lari Richardson with students from UWI’s Creative Arts programme.
What does the future hold for traditions like the Bookman, will this become a figure only seen in old photos?
Or will the theatrics and splendour of this elaborate Mas find revived wings in the fertile imagination of the new generation of Mas jumbies like ten-year-old Jude Sankar, the youngest son of Mas woman Tracey Sankar, whose immediate response when he heard of Morgan’s death was: “I will play Bookman. I will play this mas for him.”
Portrayals of the Devil have very early origins in our Carnival, with references as far back as 1848 in the writing of Charles Day.
By 1900 the popularity of playing the Devil was well established, though not as yet formalised into a band of characters.
A major milestone in this type of Mas came in 1906 when Patrick “Chinee” Jones, a leading Mas man and calypsonian of his time who sang under the name “Oliver Cromwell/The Lord Protector” organised the first devil band called Khaki and Slate inspired by illustrations in a copy of Dante’s Inferno.
This first Devil band included Lucifer, a Dragon, along with traditional red devils which were then renamed as imps. Over the next three decades, when this type of Mas was very popular, the number of characters increased, as did the level of drama in its portrayal.
Errol Hill records in his book Trinidad Carnival that Beelzebub/Bookman was introduced in 1923.
Jeff Henry in his book Behind the Mas writes “with a facial expression dripping with mischief and sensuality, he is an enchanting monster. His feet are hooves turned backwards. He carries an extraordinarily large book, with a large pen in hand and ink well on his heel. Bookman is Hell’s recording secretary. He wears an immaculate gown, beautifully decorated in bright colours, with sequins and embroidered gold braid. His movements are smooth and gracefully exquisite. Among his carefully chosen intricate movements are glides, spins and freezes. Occasionally he moves in slow motion. In a ethereal moment, he twirls and dips his pen in the ink well, pointing to one of the spectators and calming writing something down in his book. The action means the person he points at, or someone close to them, is going to die. The mad scramble to get out of the way when Bookman dips his pen for fresh ink is something to behold.”
Henry goes into great detail on the many characters of the Devil Band were divided into three distinct categories: Rulers/Gownmen, Beasts/Dragons and Imps. Each was introduced by a specific piece of music.
Devils bands were always led by Lucifer, then there was Beelzebub/Bookman, Satan-the Second King, Sun of the Morning and the Bride of Lucifer, who was Queen of the band and it’s only female member. There was also the Ghost figure who represented Death, and a figure known as Gentleman Jim. Next in line were the Uncaged Beasts and the Dragons known as Caged Beasts-Satan in Rage attended to by the Key Imp who unlocks the chains of the Beast. And finally there was a host of Imps whose basic costume was tight fitting with wings, tails and half masks with horns carrying an assortment of axes, scrolls, scales to weigh sin, bells, dice and cards. Imps famously portrayed elaborate rituals and dances for the Dragon to be able to cross water. Among other Devil Band characters were ones known as Billiards, the Prince of Darkness and the Wooly Man.
• Maria Nunes is a photographer and cultural activist who has a special interest in the preservation of T&T’s Carnival traditions.

source: Trinidad Guardian

Neville Aming’s granddaughter: he lived and died Carnival

“He lived and died Carnival,” was how Crystal Aming-Marcus described her grandfather, the late Neville Aming, whom she also referred to as her father. The veteran mas leader, who won the medium band of the year title four times, passed on Friday at 9.20 pm at a private nursing home. Aming’s funeral will be held on Monday at the Assumption Church, Long Circular Road, Maraval. “He passed peacefully. The nuns and his daughters were all with him and they sang him into heaven,” Aming-Marcus told Newsday.

His son, Bobby Aming, who spoke with Newsday via phone, said his 94-year-old father was not ill but rather grieved to death for Carnival and his children.

Bobby said, “He lived and died mas. He retired from Carnival in Trinidad in the mid-90s and then he moved on. He was always into Bermuda and Washington DC, which is where I lived. He would always come after Bermuda and join us and bring carnival. He helped develop carnival in Washington DC.” One of Aming’s daughters, Lisa Aming-Castor also had a band in Washington DC’s carnival.

Aming assisted in developing regional, as well as international, carnivals and was one of the founding members of the Carnival Band Leader’s Association. The band leader was also most known for costumes which referenced Trinidad and Tobago’s history and did not like “bikini and beads mas.” He was awarded the Humming Bird Silver for his contributions to the mas in 1996, the same year Peter Minshall was awarded the Trinity Cross.

Wrenwrick Brown, secretary of The National Carnival Bands Association, extended condolences to the Aming family saying, the entire carnival fraternity mourns whenever one of its icons passes. Aming, he recalled, served on the executive of the then carnival body and was its treasurer at one point. Brown said he was proud to represent TT at the Pan Am games in the US along with Aming.
Aming leaves to mourn his wife Conchita Aming and eight children.

Thursday, July 06, 2017


The year is A.D. 2017 and the Addicted Mas section invites you to join us on a journey of realisation, revelation, enlightenment and new understanding.
Come with us and re-examine your past and present, through the
lens of Afrocentric eyes.

Afro Domini is the awakening of African history and consciousness.  It is taken from the Latin “Anno Domini (AD)” meaning “in the year of the Lord”, based on the traditional year of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Anno:  in the year of his age, taken from anno aetatis suae
Domini: originating from the word dominus, meaning “belonging to the lord god or lord master”
Because of Africa’s presence in World history and events, our designer believes that Anno Domini should be Afro Domini (belonging to Africa). AD is a term used in Western history to define every period of history by Latin Christian dominion, despite the fact that the African continent, its civilisations and histories have pre-dated, contemporised, interacted and interwoven with European history as a silent continuous and undoubtedly dominant partner in history.

Africa and her resources have been tied to humanity’s development in recorded and lost history. Her religions, social and spiritual philosophies have formed foundation blocks in every great empire and epoch in the history of man.  Her mythologies and cultural traditions have survived attacks and atrocities that span geography and time. Her people have been disseminated around the world via land, sea and air; all contributing cultural growth wherever they set foot.

Afro Domini is then the awakening and understanding that we are the inheritors of this hegemony.
In the Western cannon, the Motherland is depicted as a dark savage land and her people, an undeveloped nation lacking all necessities that can sustain quality living. When in fact, Africa is the giant that that holds the world on its shoulders. Her people on her lands and her people that make up the Diaspora are the creators of religion, language, music, beauty, fashion, philosophy, art, and society.
Afro Domini is the understanding that you do not sit at the bottom of every social ladder as depicted in the media; but you are the foundation stones of every great society. You are not a symbol of poverty, starvation, illiteracy, and death; but icons of strength, stamina, longevity wealth, knowledge, and immortality.

Our costumes consist of three main colours: Green, Gold and Black, two of which can be found in the flag of the Pan Africanism movement.  In the flag of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA, Black represented the people and Green the land of Africa. These colours, together with red, can be identified in the national colours of many African and Caribbean countries that share the pan-African philosophy.
Green and Black are also associated with the Oresha Ogun, god of labour, war and technology.  It is said that Ogun clears the roads, and was the first of the Oreshas to come to earth and make a home for humankind.  Ogun is the energy that sustains life and motion, constantly evolving and manifesting in form as we develop.  When the demands on our energies change, Ogun adapts.

Afro Domini is an African theme but not an ‘African mas’. In the   The design was also influenced by the rebirth in afro centric awareness in the mainstream society today, especially in fashion. 
tradition of African mas, there are
motifs which are influenced by the African masquerade traditions.

The male headpiece and chest plate draws influence from the Zulu warrior’s traditional costume. The triangular motif throughout the costume echoes that of traditional African design in sculpture and clothing.


 The female leg pieces and wristbands are both designed with strips of cloth, a tradition of Carnivals in the Caribbean with its roots in West Africa. Like her counterpart, the triangular and diamond motif is repeated on the leg and armbands.

The stylised sun burst on the skirt, which is repeated on the tiara and headpiece, not only echos Egyptian iconography, but symbolises the awakening and understanding of AD - seeing yourself in a new light that illuminates the past, present and future.


The loincloth/skirting on the female carries a motif influenced

by the fashionable print seen today.

Like ZeroFive Fifty, Kingdom come and Unstoppable, Afro Domini is another commentary on of the   Once again the philosophy of Ethiopianism and its base in Psalm 68; 31 “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands onto god” and the belief of the Hebrew Israelites whose ethos lies in the scripture of  Deuteronomy 28; 68 “The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again . There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves” have been used by the designer as the philosophical foundation blocks of the theme.
importance of Africa, her Diaspora and the present Caribbean’s contribution to global development.
Africa’s history has been one of ‘running her jewels’. All her resources including her people, a people the ancient Greeks once believed were so beautiful the Gods dined only with them, have been and is still sought after by her global neighbours. The gold around your neck, the diamonds on your fingers, and the Coltan in your mobile phones. Africa, while excluded from the pages of Western history has spread her arms around the world, her story is not always a beautiful one but her dominating presence is a historical and contemporary fact.

How else can the meek inherit the Earth?

S. A. Armstrong
Addicted Mas Designer 

Monday, August 01, 2016


In 2010 ADDICTED exploded on to the streets of Notting Hill carnival with our presentation Chaos
Seven years later Addicted invites you to explore our theme for 2016 Seventh Heaven.

SEVEN is one of the most mystical and magical numbers in human history, from the seven deadly sins to the Seven Wonders of the World, the number seven is clearly recognised as one of the most significant numbers/symbols.
In almost every religious text, there is also mention and recognition of the number, in the bible seven is mentioned over 700 times, and we all know that according to the bible the world was created in seven days and we live in the 7 day week even today. In Numerology, seven is seen as the number of sacred spirituality, mystic energy, completion and both spiritual and physical perfection.

Heaven the religious concept:
Regarded as the home of God or the gods that exists in the sky depending on the belief system, heaven is that Utopia that those whom do good in this life, or lives by the universal law of love are sent to as a reward when life ends. Also known as Zion, paradise or nirvana, there is the myth within some systems that heaven is divided into seven divisions.

The notion of 7 heavens, goes back to ancient Mesopotamian religions,  they believed  that the  heavens were divided into  seven parts, this concept is repeated in  Judaism, it is believed that the universe is made of seven heavens, the seventh heaven being the home of god and his most exaltedangles. Islam also speaks of seven heavens and Muslims on pilgrimage make  the kaaba seven times.

 In Hinduism, the belief is there are seven upper worlds and seven lower worlds, and the human body is said to have seven chakras or wheels of energy. The Buddhism belief says that when the new born buhadda was born he rose to his feet and took 7 steps.

Of the seven heavens the seventh is said to be the highest and final level, not only is it where God and the angles exist but it is also the a place of supreme happiness and ecstasy. 

Our colour scheme Pink and blue.

The colour combination of pink and blue are our main colours of choice this year, while most will associate heaven with the traditional angelic white, we at addicted  never comply with such norms, in the creative imaginative spirit of carnival we expand the boundries...

Pink has been long understood to be the universal colour of love, blue the colour of trust loyalty and wisdom
According to the belies and traditions  of sanitaria the Oresha that governs the colours pink and blue as well as the number seven is the Orisha Oko, Oko  is the oreisha  of harvest, fertility and abundance. 

i.e. Nirvana, Zion, Heaven.

Religious connotations aside Addicteds Seventh heaven is an analogy for our lives and the release and bliss we experience on the days of carnival, the creative energy that can only be described as mystical,  the ecstasy we experience on the road on carnival day,  the mental and spiritual harvest that we reap after a year of hard work and sacrifice, the exaltation we feel when we raise our hands to the sweet vibrations of soca music.

Completion: Perfection:Reward;
7th Heaven

 7th Heaven.

For Teresa Shirley Armstrong
3/10/37 -31/12/15
My Mother, My Compass, My Friend.

I know exactly where you are.

S.A. Armstrong

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Broadway to Biennial: A Carnival Timeline 1930-2015 By Claire Tancons

 "With Caribbean migration to and from European colonial capitals and North American urban centres, Carnival, and other festivals such as Junkanoo, have influenced and in turn been influenced by artistic developments and social events around a reconfigured, postcolonial, circum-Atlantic circuit.
This timeline chronicles the creation of diasporic pan-Caribbean carnivals from Harlem to Notting Hill in the pre-and immediate post-Independence era, as well as in Brooklyn and Toronto in the mid- to late 1960s.

It traces the emergence of Caribbean carnivals and festivals on theatre, dance, and Broadway stages in New York and London, in metropolitan contemporary art galleries and biennials from São Paulo to Havana to Gwangju, at the Olympics and other games since the 1980s as well as in protest and other movements, all the way to Occupy Wall Street.

 Cursory yet never compiled before, this account seeks to record the impact Carnival has had on contemporary artistic and curatorial practices as well as critical discourses on art and performance, participation and the public sphere among an increasingly global ever growing number of creative domains. It highlights the contributions of artists, critics and curators, many of whom are collaborators of En Mas’, while pointing to the way in which these events have provided benchmarks for their practice–from Lorraine O’Grady’s attendance of the Caribbean Carnival musical in Boston in the 1940s to Marlon Griffith’s experience of Peter Minshall’s Rat Race in Port-of-Spain in the 1980s.

Like most exhibitions about the Caribbean produced in the English speaking world, this timeline is predominantly about the English speaking Caribbean even as it strives to account for accomplishments in the Spanish and French speaking Caribbean as well—even as it also shows how Carnival continues to dismantle such boundaries in a post-colonial, multi-focal, global arena.
 Like En Mas’ , this time-line places a great emphasis on the Trinidad Carnival and its diasporic exports, due, in part, to the unprecedented reach of the Trinidad Carnival model—akin to, say, the recognition of Jamaican music globally.
 And like En Mas’ as a whole, it is only but a bench-mark towards further studies and future creative endeavours." (source;Claire Tancons)

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