Monday, 22 August 2016

Monday 22nd August: Notting Hill Carnival Mas Camps - Flamboyan International Carnival Arts






















 Flamboyan Arts run by Gloria Cummins is as truly glorious as her name.  From the Trinidad flag hanging out of the window, to the Trinidadian tinsel trimming kept in spectrum order on the bookshelves - this is the authentic Carnival Mas Camp.  Founded in premises along the W9 Notting Hill Carnival route in 1986, it  has evolved into a real-time living museum to the art form.  As soon as you enter the ground floor of the town house, walls are covered in relics of costumes and Caribbean paraphernalia.  Painted designs and sketches are tacked up alongside paper clippings and historical photo montages.   A reoccurring face in the mix is of Gloria's co-founder and late husband Larry Ford whose legacy is intrisic to each year's new direction.  His mantra of "Nothing Beats Experience" is emblazoned on the band's T-Shirt artwork for the 2016 theme "Wear In The World".  This title doubles up for both the act of playing mas and wearing innovation, but also the story of the world with different countries being represented in each section of their parade.  Designs incapsulate all continents from India to Greece, Africa to Japan and The U.S via New Orleans.  Within this artwork are also the two birds from the crest of the Trinidad & Tobago coat of arms, which is at the heart and root of everything from Flamboyan.  Here you can see a print of an etching from 1888, depicting early carnival in the Port of Spain, showing the procession led by the devil character like a Pied Piper. Traditional Carnival characters like these will appear in this year's cast but given a contemporary twist so that the "Jab Jab" is combined with an Italian clown jester.  This particular modern re-invention was a suggestion from an assistant who is at the studio on work experience and part of the Flamboyan scheme for providing apprentice placements.  His skill is in fine-art and his canvases hang amongst the artwork's on the walls since Gloria held an exhibition of his paintings.  His portraits of Pierrots with beautiful crisp ruffles are currently being translated into silk bloomers on the pattern-cutting table.    
I was like Charlie entering The Chocolate Factory when I visited and didn't realise I had spent nearly two hours looking around!  I absolutely love the essence of Carnival in its purest form being carried thru from generation to generation in this way.  I cant wait to see how it all comes together this weekend, especially the "Midnight Robber" which is getting a hat so big that it was taking up a whole table to be decorated with fringing.  I'll be snapping away on the day, so check back to see the final results from the road ..........

Check out the Flamboyan website to find out how to get involved and learn the arts of mas and play steel pan.



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