Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 21st 2015 Contents B3
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Hill Carnival since 1981 but this year
Simon-Hartman has surfaced a new
sub-brand and called the band Resur-
rection. It s a band of about 100 people
and she promises to deliver a Carnival
experience never before seen in Britain.
She s determined to take Carnival back
to its roots and takes inspiration from
the mas men of the past. On her band
website a quote from Peter Minshall
decries what Carnival has become: "We
are collectively stuck in a rut and sinking
fast and furious as a participant in a
bland museum diorama of Africa, pass-
ing by without the rousing heartbeat
of a single drum or the earth ever once
being thunderously stamped into sub-
Simon-Hartman is an alumnus of
the London College of Fashion where
she studied theatrical costume inter-
pretation, fine arts, drawing, millinery,
corsetry and even learnt how to make
prosthetic masks and tutus for the Royal
Ballet and costumes for the horseman
at the Queen s Golden Jubilee in 2002.
Her family on her mother s side are
from Maracas-St Joseph and her father,
who died when she was six years old,
was Ghanaian. She began playing mas
with Elimu at eight years old as the
Junior Queen and describes the band
as being "like another family."
At Trinidad Carnival she played mas
with Poison as an adult but she laughs
when she looks back at that decision
now. Her artistic sensibilities mean that
she, like Minshall, mourns the death
of mas making.
At Notting Hill Carnival the mas
parade is hardly even seen among the
Red Stripe---swilling, spliff-smoking
hordes who are there for the dancehall,
reggae and to throw bottles at police-
man when the sun goes down.
Simon-Hartman tells me the best
place to view the parade is at the spot
where there used to be a judging point.
"They still have a seating area there
but it s no longer a competition."
I ask whether the parade itself is in
decline and she says, "The thing is
there have always been those people
who go just for the sound systems, that
hasn t changed. But the costumes
among the bands that go out have
become a bit weak now there s no ele-
ment of competition. A lot of them
have become repetitive as there s no
desire to win anything or be better than
any other band. So it s become a money
making commercial thing."
"Beads and feathers are cheap to buy
from China, for four times cheaper
than here, so the emphasis is no longer
about putting theatre on the road or
the theatrics of mas, it s more about
It s less expensive to play mas in
London than in Trinidad but there are
now all-inclusive bands offering a Car-
nival "experience" not just a costume.
Of the costumes Resurrection are
selling---and most sections have now
sold out---the front lines cost £300
while the individual costumes are £450.
Back line costumes start at £150.
So why is she doing it?
"My focus is to pay homage to the
past," she says. "My influence is Peter
Minshall obviously, I have to mention
Minshall, and Brian MacFarlane. They
brought theatre to the streets and that s
the sort of designer I am. But I think
Resurrection represents the past the
present and the future. If you look at
Minshall s Mancrab, if that came out
now it would still be seen as futuristic
and that came out in the 80s."
She thinks prosthetics should be used
in carnival because "when you re play-
ing mas you re taking on an alter ego,
you should become the costume, so I d
like to incorporate cosmetic make-up."
And her ambitions stretch beyond
the concrete jungle of London. "Res-
urrection is part of a two-year plan to
embark to Trinidad and launch out
there with a tribute to the masters. I m
not going to compromise my desire to
tell a story just to look sexy, I believe
you can be sexy and still tell a story."
Designer Melissa Simon-
Hartman takes her
inspiration from many
sources including fantasy,
Japanese manga and African
art. PHOTO COURTESY
My influence is
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