Friday, May 27, 2011

Wire-Bending, a dying art

INTRICATE: Jeffers with his piece, “Wire Bending Dying”.
Claude Swami Jeffers was literally bearing a cross when he came into the Express recently.
His elaborate wire structure “Wire Bending Dying” was not only visually compelling, but spoke in volumes of a practice that could be lost in time.
As the president of Swami Design Workshop, Jeffers has been making costumes and doing wire-bending for the past 20 years. 
He recalled: “I grew up in a mas camp and panyard, so to speak; St James Tripoli. Then I migrated and was part of the Labour Day Parade [in New York] for many years. I came back to promote wire bending because it is a dying art.”
Jeffers, creator of the first costume museum in Brooklyn, said this unique, cultural art form should be preserved, developed and promoted. 
It is the foundation for creating big mas costumes and should be taught in schools and costume design centres. We want a wire-bending centre in Belmont as a pilot project for the artistic and creative youths in the area. We need a wire-bending competition to promote this (it).”
He said he has spoken to several Government ministers about getting a project off and running but so far nothing has been done.
“This project I envision is about creating wire-benders and costume designers for the future of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival culture. I have sent my proposal to the Ministry (of Arts and Multiculturalism] who in turn sent it to NCC, who in turn sent it to the NCBA and [nothing happened).”
Jeffers hopes that a large corporate entity could assist him in giving back to the culture of this country.
“If government is slow in acting, I believe a company could take up the cause.”
He believes he is the best wire-bender in the land and is hoping to encourage youngsters to take up the craft.
Of his piece, “Wire Bending Dying”, he explained that the pregnant woman on the cross symbolises that even though wire-bending is a dying art form, there is the possibility of rebirth.
“It does not have any religious ties to it,” he stressed.
Jeffers is no stranger to the foreign press and has been photographed with several dignitaries including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. 
“I believe that the time has come for us to have a centre where artistic youths could come and learn crafts. There are people right now who can make mas for the next few years, but I am thinking 20 years from now.”
Jeffers can be reached at 492-488

By Sateesh Maharaj 

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