|Geraldo Vieira Sr : Carnival Monday 2012 with K2K.|
In the pantheon of Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival, there are hundreds of heroes whose names are emblazed under the disciplines of Mas, Calypso, Pan and Soca. This post is dedicated to the memory of one hero of mas, and his contributions to the greatest show on earth that span a phenomenal six decades.
His name is Geraldo Andrew Vieira.
I refer to Geraldo Vieira as the 'Lord of Time' not only because of the length of his career but because he managed to remain relevant and contemporary throughout the decades while other talents of his generation faded with that period called the golden age of carnival.
|1959: 'The Flowers; designed by Geraldo Vieira .|
To those actively involved in Carnival or are fans of the King and Queen of the Bands Competition, the name Geraldo Vieira Senior can conjure images of golden age presentations of the 50’s and 60’s where the name Vieira, was called in the same breath as Saldenha, Braithwaite, and Bailey.
With a career that spanned just over six decades (1959-2012) Geraldo Vera Sr. was more than a veteran of Trinidad carnival he was an institution. During his career he has designed 10 Kings of Carnival and was involved in the design and or construction of countless other award winning costumes.
In 1996 his son Geraldo Vieira jnr became the youngest king of carnival in history in a costume called “ rain fest” ten years later in 2006 the King maker himself became a King of Carnival (the oldest ever)
Born in Barataria Trinidad in 1938, by the age of 14 Vieira was already “in love” with the creativity of mas but it was not until 1959 that the then 21 year old Geraldo Andrew Vieira started wire bending work with the legendary Cito Valesquez,
|'The Flowers';1959 was one of the last costumes to be designed as a float and won Best float that year.|
(Making mas Milla C Riggio)
“...I started bending wire in the yard of Cito Valesquez one of the great wire benders ten years my senior. We brought fruits and Flowers, Cito was in charge of the fruit section and I did the flower section.” (Making mas Milla C Riggio)
As a master technician and structural engineer Vieira worked with the likes of not only Cito Valesquez, but also Harold Saldenah, Stephen Lee Heung, Wayne Berkley, Peter Minshall and Hilton Cox. As an engineer he pioneered many developments in the construction of large costumes and how they were carried by the masqueraders. He developed both the shoulder harness and the body harness, an improvement he first made for Sherry Ann Guy in the Peter Minshall designed costume ‘Splash’ in 1979 that made her a queen of carnival in that year.
Vieira’s background and speciality in industrial plastics and moulding played an important part in his career in mas and the increasing role plastics had in 20th century carnival.
What separates Geraldo Veiria Sr. from his contemporaries is the longevity of his career and his technological advancements and introductions to mas that always made him a significant factor as the decades went by. This may be because he did not see himself as an artist with a particular style, but as an engineer and an artisan, “...I’m not moody or temperamental enough to be an artist...I am an engineer, an artisan ...I think of the geometrics and the logistics of the idea" (Geraldo Veiria Sr.: Mask Makers and their craft. D Bell)
Being a craftsman, scientist and mas man Vieira applied his powers of observation, his technical skills, and his knowledge of local mythology and humour to produce memorable costumes such as Albert Moore’s ‘Bro Nancy’ in 1971 and” Bachac Pushing Ganja” for Hilton Cox ,his work clearly reflected his philosophy and approach towards his craft .
“I like being able to fantasize things and then bring them to life,...To study a crayfish or an ant or an insect and then give it life and movement in three dimensions, that is what I love. Using a creature as a model, I recreate its life in wire. I try to conquer its movement in the three dimensional form.” (Making Mas. Milla C Riggio).
|The Crystal Crayfish :1980; designed by, Geraldo Vieira.|
Photo (Making Mas; Milla C Riggio)
After failing to make the finals of the king competition in 1992 for the first time in his career, Vieira took note and made changes to his style, so in1993 he produced a winner.
“...we started to build. We were going for a new creation which had a conical shape. Barry came up with the name ‘Splendora, Glory of the Sun’.... the front section being a sunburst, on one side the sun rising and on the reverse the sun setting, Splendora won: the semi final; King of Carnival; Individual of the year; Best Designed costume. It won almost every category....That was when I began to change. We had gotten stuck on insects, animals, birds. I realized it was time to go ten steps farther...”.
(Making Mas. Milla C Riggio)
The costume itself was reported to be 22 feet tall and 300 pounds and comprised of many bulbs and switches, it even had its own power supply and pyrotechnics that went off on stage, it was the first fully self illuminated costume to win the competition.
|King of Carnival 1996: Geraldo Vieira Jr, Portraing 'Rain Fest'. Designed|
by Geraldo Vieira Sr.
“I also incorporated special explosive effects which I procured from the Grucci company in New York, whose fireworks I had seen on the Discovery Channel.” (Making Mas. Milla C Riggio).
This technological advance in mas did cause some controversy as some of the other designers and kings voiced the opinion that this costume broke the rules of the competition. The revised and updated formula to the mas of Vieira made his name and mas once again a consistent contender for, and winner off the title King of carnival.
The Vieira style of ‘big mas’ now transformed on stage through the use of electronics and pneumatics, disks turned into giant frilled necked lizards like’ a Childs dream abracadabra’ in 97 massive snakes seemed to move on their own ‘ in the Balisier’ in 98.
|Left: 1997: A childs dream Abracadabra: Right: "In the Balisier" 1998. Back; 2003 "Trouble in the Bamboo"|
In 1999 his son won yet again with’ let there be light’, and ‘Winds an element of change’in 2001. His presence in the 21st century was just as powerful and relevant as it was in the late 50’s early 1960’s long after his contemporaries of the of that period, became conscious memories of carnivals past. (see more Geraldo Vieira King costumes here.)
|1999, King of Carnival; Geraldo Vieira Jr.|
portraying "Let there be Light"
A prediction he made in an interview with Debora Bell he declared “Next year I will be the oldest masquerader in the history of carnival to win the King costume. I’m sure of this” Vieira did indeed win the King Costume in2006”.
In 2006, 35 years after Albert Moore won the title in a Geraldo Vieira design in 1971 and ten years after producing Rain fest for Geraldo Jr. to become King of carnival in 1996, Geraldo Vieira Sr. himself became the King of Carnival in the epic tribute to the military machine of the old Roman Empire called “The Might of Rome”, in the process he became the oldest winner of the King of Carnival title.
|2006: Geraldo Vieira Sr, wins the King of Carnival title portraying, "The Might of Rome"|
Photo Source: Mark Lyndersay.
Geraldo Vieira Sr. The mas man that started his career in the middle of
the 20th Century was successfully leading the technological
advancements in mas in the first decade of the twenty first Century.
the 20th Century was successfully leading the technological
|2007: Geraldo Vieira Sr; "Vision of the snow warriors; Photo,Trinidad Express|
After 2006 he did not win another official crown, (in my opinion he should have in 2007) but his mas continued to place in the top 3 or finals, and even if they did not place, his legacy of amalgamating the art of mas with modern technology and engineering, expanding the boundaries of what mas can be, will still be seen in King and Queen finals in years to come with flashing lights pyrotechnics, plastic forms, and costumes that transform before our eyes.
On the 22nd of September 2012, it was announced that Geraldo Vieira, Sr. had passed away. A chapter in Trinidad and Tobago carnival of almost limitless ingenious contributions of creativity, engineering, and technological expansion, and awesome memories, has come to an end, leaving a legacy of longevity and creativity than can only inspire new minds and expand young imaginations for generations to come.
A Job very well done.
Rest in Peace.