Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 10th 2015 Contents B2
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The moko jumbies designed by Alan Vaughan of Corinth-based Carnival band Touch D Sky parade at the British Museum in London.
PHOTO COURTESY THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM./ BENEDICT JOHNSON
FROM PAGE B1
He studied film at St Martin s School of Art and
went on to direct music videos for the likes of PM
Dawn, Monie Love and Chaka Demus & Pliers in the
UK and Jamaica. He later lived and worked in Trinidad
making commercials including bmobile ads featuring
a young, unknown Rihanna.
"I ve always been back and forth," he says of his
youth. "Spent many summers of my childhood with
old people having been shipped back home, up in Blue
Basin, living in the bush. And that gave me a very
interesting perspective because I grew up in old world
Trinidad in that sense with people still talking broken
French and men like Du Bois up in the hills. It s some-
thing that stayed with me permanently.
"My grandparents ran a big store on Nelson Street,
Jones Hardware Store, the store for the poor. It s been
there since about 1907 and essentially my family s
trade is hardware but also the paraphernalia used by
obeah practitioners: oils, incense, the stuff used in
traditional medicine. Growing up between London
and Trinidad was a weird experience because one was
modern and then you re thrown back into the mix on
Nelson Street and Independence Square."
The old and the new are interwoven in his work.
The cheeky young childlike figures on the ground
could be characters from a sci-fi movie set in space,
but on top of the "bamboo" stilts (actually made of
scaffold) the two main jumbie figures are wearing
masks that could come straight out of Benin.
It s impossible to tell with the naked eye whether
the materials are organic or inorganic, but Ové says
they are mostly aluminium and brass with a "Franken-
stein" of different mannequins cut up to create the
figures. Modern accessories like sneakers, a skateboard
and a stereo boom box are transformed into a kind
of exotic jewellery.
"I wanted to create characters that spoke about the
past and the future, I wanted the amalgamation of
black and gold, the colours and materials to impregnate
that sense of old world: future world. I m concerned
that the characters and timelines in old mas need new
investiture and new powers. What s a superhero if he
doesn t have powers? What s a superhero if his powers
are out of date?"
Ové explains how he became infatuated with the
philosophy and politics of Carnival traditions, partic-
ularly old mas while documenting Carnival in Trinidad.
"When I discovered the intellectual world of Carnival
and how the process of transfigurement enabled people
that had been brought to Trinidad through slavery or
indentured labour and suddenly empowered them to
be anything that they wanted to be, you realise that
Carnival in itself is an incredible emancipator. The
process of transfigurement in old mas is what really
led us in Trinidad to a sense of independence. So if
a men tells you "right, you re a slave, your history is
this" suddenly through the process of Carnival and
costume and the creative investment of how you take
yourself away from what somebody else might see
you as, you ve completed the transformation."
He s received the compliments of museum security
staff from Nigeria and the Congo who recognise the
moko jumbie tradition "which has literally walked the
landscape of Africa before travelling to the Caribbean
with slavery," and see his work as celebratory, quite
apart from most modern interpretations of African
culture and society that are mired in violence, poverty
What the Caribbean retained of African tradition
is its celebratory nature and it s something that will
continue to grow in importance as it is passed back
and forth across the Atlantic.
"The importance that Carnival has to play in the
future of black contemporary arts globally is huge,"
"The other important thing is the return of Trinidad
Carnival to Ghana and Nigeria. They re playing Trinidad
mas in Africa and using it to uphold African mytholo-
gies in the way Trinidad uses Carnival to uphold its
Linking the past and
present; old and new
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