Sunday, January 24, 2010

From calabash to cane arrows

In the yard of a small, ageing, colonial-styled house on Kitchener Street in Woodbrook, veteran wire bender Stephen Derek and his helpers worked quietly on making what they call “true mas.” Behind jalousied windows inside the yellow house came the whirring of a sewing machine, as Denise Duncan stitched, surrounded by brightly-coloured costume pieces. Large, skeletal wire frames, already bent by Derek, stood in the yard, waiting to be transformed into elaborate costumes. This is the mas camp of D Midas T&T, led by Derek, a protégé of late mas icon George Bailey.
To calypso music, Derek and his helpers, bent wire, covered frames and glued gold sequins. “Everything here is hand-made,” said Derek, two pencils behind an ear, a measuring tape around his neck, a roll of wire at his feet, and pliers and a utility knife on the table nearby. The band’s 1,000 costumes are made right here in T&T, and not imported, as is usually the practice with the big bands, committee member, Tony Alleng says. “Ninety-five per cent of the big bands, who have corporate sponsors, purchase their costumes from outside. “Wire-bending and making mas is a dying tradition in T&T. Big bands who want help with their few local pieces pay Derek to bend wire for them.

Worldwide demand
While it’s a dying art here, Derek’s wire-bending services are in demand in Carnivals all over the world, from Miami to South Africa, he said. Alleng claimed that foreign mass-produced costumes are made using child labour in countries like China and Bangladesh. Derek said two tourists from Seattle walked into the mas camp last Monday night, and said it was exactly what they were looking for in T&T’s Carnival. “They said it was real. Most of the big bands use aluminium and lots of fabric and air-brush it, Minshall-style. That’s it.” Is the mas getting modern?
“They getting lazy,” Derek, 58, of Diego Martin, said. “The craftsmanship, the creativity of the people...they have taken that away from Carnival. “What’s there is somebody’s else mas dumped on us. They are eliminating the people from Carnival.” He predicted: “There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when the word bandleader will become extinct. They will have CEOs.” Godfrey “Box” Marchand, 69, bent wire frames for the children’s band, a bag of tools near him last Tuesday. Fellow wire-bender and close friend of Derek, “Box” comes from Brooklyn, New York, every year to work in D Midas mas camp. “Since age 12, I’ve been doing this,” he said. Ronald Mills, 71, sat near his fancy sailor costume, while Vijay Goorasingh covered the frame with metallic lamé.
Mills, of New Jersey, is playing king for the band, The Boss. D Midas was hired to make the costume. “I’ve been playing mas all my life and I come every Carnival,” he said. In a corner of the camp, Lucinda Patterson, 48, painstakingly glued gold sequins onto part of a costume. Patterson, of Laventille, a mom, is a volunteer, and said she had to glue on hundreds of sequins. About 30 people work from morning until 10 pm in D Midas’ camp, most of them volunteers. They all work under a poster on the wall that says “Costumes designed and produced in T&T.”

Fantasy mas
Derek said the Samaroos, who owns a carnival business, had been placing the sign in “local” mas camps across the country. D Midas, as is its custom, uses a lot of natural materials. “We’re using the calabash, for instance. We cut, clean and paint it. “Beads are not new, but when I was young, we made our own beads from natural products.” The band has been collecting whatever cane arrows they could salvage from abandoned sugar cane fields all over T&T, as well. Derek, who, as a little boy worked in Bailey’s Buller Street, Woodbrook mas camp, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Bailey’s death in his production, Call Dat George. The 14 sections of the medium band will feature each of Bailey’s years in mas, from 1956 to 1970.
“It was from Bailey that Derek learnt the art of wire-bending,” Alleng said. “It was Bailey who changed the look of Carnival. He was the first to bring out a fantasy band.” A mas designer’s fantasy was like an artist’s abstract art, Alleng explained. Derek’s “Bible,” an album of old photographs of Bailey’s mas, lay on the table near his pliers. D Midas, which also produces a children’s band with Zebapique Mas Camp, has won several titles, including last year Junior Carnival King, played by Yanick Holdip.

Trinidad Guardian

Post a Comment

Share it.





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Google+ Badge


This is MassassinnatioN




Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner