Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 6th 2016 Contents A30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, February 6, 2016
Photographs and story
Tracey Sankar is gathering long
strips of detailed white cloth
together to run them through her
sewing machine when I finally
pop the question that s been on
my mind for almost eight weeks
"You do realise that you re mak-
ing a wedding dress, don t you?"
Sankar rocks back in the rolling
chair she s finally sat down to use,
squints at the yards of detailed
white cloth in front of her, then
squints at me.
"You think so?" she responds,
more than a little quizzically.
From the moment I met the
petite masquerader in November
last year, she s been working on a
costume for her striking character,
Erzulie Freda, inspired by the Hait-
ian Lao, an Afro-Haitian divinity
of sorrows, never able to realise
her heart s true desire.
On October 31, Tracey Sankar
lost her husband, Cpl Shervaun
Charleau, during an attempted
robbery at Fort George. She was
married for 19 years and the moth-
er of four children.
By mid-November, she had
decided to return to her plans for
Carnival 2016 after a successful
run as an individual in 2015.
"My husband believed in the
costume. As he walked with me
to the stage, he was talking to me
under the hat."
"This will take you further than
anything else, he told me. I think
he was a little afraid of it, he might
have been afraid I was getting lost
When Tracey Sankar talks about
the character, it s less a description
of something she portrays than it
is of an essence, a personality that
inhabits her when she wears the
In casual conversation about the
progress of her work, her personal
pronouns refer as often to Erzulie
as they to do her, which can be a
Sankar also plays a Dame Lor-
raine and has done so for several
years with her mother, June
Sankar s Carnival band, as well as
a fancy jab, but each character
speaks to her in different ways.
"With all the frills and beading,
my Dame Lorraine costume
doesn t speak to me. It s too quiet
as a character; it s too dainty. It
reminded me of knowing my place.
That character takes me back to
when I was a housewife. I was
there for one thing and so was she,
as a slave concubine. I was raised
in a religious home, and you know
your place as a wife."
She plays Erzulie, the La Dia-
blesse as the embodiment of the
privileged slave concubine, both
desired and trapped.
Sankar had another plan for the
2016 version of Erzulie s costume.
"After a while it began to evolve,"
"The mas began to have a life
of its own. I had the skirt, and she
wanted pants. It was supposed to
be dark, but it started to become
In November, the train of the
costume was hanging from the
roof above her workstation at
Granderson Labs, where she has
been afforded space since after
Carnival 2015 to develop her con-
For hours, the costume was the
subject of her careful stitching of
dozens of beads. At one point,
Sankar began vigorously dancing
around it as it hung insouciantly
from clothespins, the masquerader
trying to work out how it would
hang from her body and flow in
the real world.
"I could draw it, but I need to
feel and touch the material to
understand how it will move.
That s how I work."
A week before the costume was
to make its first appearance at the
NCC s traditional costume com-
petition at Adam Smith Square,
Sankar took apart the character s
finished hat, one of the focus
points of the costume, along with
the hoof, and rebuilt it.
"It was doing nothing for the
character," she said dismissively.
It was hardly the first sacrifice
demanded for the costume s cre-
"With every piece, I get
chook. There s blood inside that
View more Local Live stories at
A new dress for The Lady
beading of the
train of the
Elements of the costume
on Sankar's work table
at Granderson Labs.
On a Sunday night,
accompanied by a Police
Band performing outside a
neighbourhood bar, Sankar
would often don her fancy
jab costume and blow fire
at the intersection of
Erthig and Belmont
Circular Roads, a block
from Granderson Labs.
Over the months
she worked on the
gained and lost
affected her ideas
for the costume. A
bustier was part of
the plan here, but
costume on a
the fit of the
• Continues on Page A31
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