I’m not a bikini and beads kind of girl. In the few times I’ve played mas, it’s been with Minshall’s Sacred Heart and Ashraph Ramsaran’s Snake in the Grass in Port of Spain and the Jagessar family’s Fancy Indian mas in San Fernando.
One year, we even had our own mas band. We, being just three of us friends.
Conceptualized on Carnival Friday, we called our three-woman band Rage of the Goddesses. There was a water goddess, an earth goddess and a wind goddess, and we were vex. The water goddess, me, was vex too bad about the water wasted at too many wet fetes. The earth goddess was damn vex about how Carlos John paved the savannah. The wind goddess was rightly vex about all the pollution.
On Carnival Saturday, we hit Queen Street cloth stores and Samaroo’s in town, and changed our telephone message to say that the caller had reached the Rage of the Goddesses Mas Camp and we were sorry that we missed their call. You could tell we were young, idle and had ketch a Carnival jumbie.
We figured out how to make backpieces from the leaf spines collected in a cocoyea broom. They were strong and supple, holding sheer material glued to either side, looking like large leaves of a lash plant, but in shades of blue, earth and green tones, and white and silver respectively. I made a long skirt with layers of blue hues, crunching white cotton along all the edges to look like the foam cresting the ocean. The earth goddess had a brown dhoti, vines with green handsewn leaves dangling from her arms and a turban, and the wind goddess had a short skirt of white feathers matching those in her hair. We had face paint too, of course, as one must when one is a minor pantheon of nature spirits on an urban warpath.
On Carnival Monday, after scrubbing off the black paint of Jouvay with 3 Canal, we finished decorating our large flags which each said the name of our band and which goddess we were.
On Carnival Tuesday, along with another friend who, for religious reasons, didn’t play Carnival, but who was curious enough to accompany us and who we nominated to be our ‘security’, our motley crew got in a maxi, making the surreal look normel normel, as happens every year.
We had no music so we jump with every truck and pan side that pass, people appreciatively, jokingly asking us if we were the whole band. At judging points, in the space between bands, we jumped with abandon in front of amused judges. The sweet-talking security of one big band even said, doh worry, we go hold back de band for all yuh nice woman. Dat was story for the rest of the week.
And when we encountered Peter Minshall’s M2K, we emerged sprayed down with black and white, having passed through art in the making, living and breathing work beyond anything non-Caribbean Jackson Pollack could bend his mind around. Catching sight of us while he rolled ahead on a van, Minshall looked at us and touched his finger below his eye, indicating recognition. Better than entering and winning any competition, dat was story for the rest of the year.
Finally, flags waving, we crossed the stage, playing weself euphorically. Dark would find three dusty goddesses, vexation unapologetically expressed, tiredly walking home. How could I possibly buy a costume made in China after knowing creativity, celebration and critical consciousness made from scratch? All yuh understand now why I could never just play a bikini mas?