Peter Minshall, one of the very best mas creators to have graced this planet, returned this year to provide us with a unique offering of mas. Of course it was not without controversy. Peter Minshall’s mas “The Dying Swan: Ras Nijinsky in Drag as Pavlova”, was his way of breaking from the many years hiatus he had taken from participating in any carnival event and this stunning portrayal reminded us that the man still has it. Even after all these years, he still is able to deliver something so different yet so relevant to the carnival arena that one wonders why others cannot seem to follow suit. It appears that no one really delves deep into their souls to create pieces that are so stimulating to the soul and hence the reason why it appears as if the artform is dying.
Unfortunately, the designer of the winning king costume, Marcus Eustace and his brother who portrayed it, Ted Eustace, seem to believe that Minshall’s offering was “not mas” and “that is why the stands are empty”. Clearly I am confused because when last I checked, moko jumbies are not featured in every King of Carnival competition while all of those other recycled costume ideas are. Not to mention, people do not attend the event simply because one does not know when it will be held as well as there are fetes that people would rather go to than to sit and watch the same types of costumes be paraded on stage every single year. Even Brian Mac Farlane, a past winner of the King of Carnival noted that he won King of Carnival a few years ago with a same moko jumbie type costume and sees nothing wrong with it at all. The biggest disappointment is that Minshall didn’t win the competition but he certainly did win because everyone will remember this costume for many, many years to come and no one will remember the hunk of junk that was crowned king on the final night of competition in 2016.
At the end of it, it all comes down to greed. If they did not decide to take the finals of the Kings and Queens out of the Dimanche Gras show on Sunday night, then there would be no problem. When it was together with the calypso finals, more people turned out in my opinion because it was a good intermission between the first half of the calypso competition to see these costumes. So they should rethink that approach and go back to Dimanche Gras. All they need to do is start the competition earlier and ON TIME so that everyone would have enough stage time to satisfy their greedy stage desires.
In addition, they should also be more creative. It is not Minshall’s or Mac Farlane’s fault that they are truly artistic and imaginative people. What they bring to the table is what people want to see and the various times they competed in carnival competitions, they won in the majority of categories in which they entered. They see the soul of what they envision and bring it to life in the form of costumes and give us, the spectators, a wonderful show, one which we do not forget. Minshall’s use of the swan is as usual, metaphoric to what is happening to carnival. Swans are graceful creatures and carnival is supposed to be an art that is graceful and magnificent, one that would leave you breathless. But it is really leaving you breathless all right; with the half naked people parading the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday; breathless because it is so tasteless. It was so bad last year that a sailor band won Band of the Year. Imagine that. That alone is supposed to illustrate to these mas makers that these feathers and beads are not the only things that people want to see.
While not all people would like to actually wear proper costumes, it would be great to see some actual mas and not beads and feathers in every single band that passes across the stage. Because to be honest, when you see one band, you basically see them all. One could basically recycle their costume from a previous year and wear it again the next year to play mas, such is the unoriginality of these mas makers. I have seen one of the traditional feathers and beads bands try to break free from that type of mas this year when I was skimming through some of the carnival bands’ sites to see what they had to offer, so hopefully everyone else would trump and follow suit.
Unoriginality is what is killing the mas. That, Mr. Eustace, is the real reason why the stands are dying. Minshall’s drag ballerina was a breath of fresh air for this carnival and the irony is that his mas depicted exactly how this beautiful artform is dying. Moko jumbie is an integral part of the carnival and I do not see why it shouldn’t be included in the king’s competition because if it was inappropriate, then the judges would not have allowed it to participate in the competition. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the fact of the matter is that you won Mr. Eustace and I think that your remarks were very distasteful towards someone who has an immensely soulful understanding of the essence of carnival.