Gloria Dallsingh portrays “Glamour Queen” for the band Kallicharan Carnival. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival prides itself on its traditional masquerade, but Carnival lovers are just as appreciative of the “big” mas — the incredible and often massive costumes that compete for the coveted titles of King and Queen of Carnival. Not only are they works of art; they are also feats of engineering!
These individual costumes are usually part of larger Carnival bands, which each have their following and portray different themes from year to year. Widely shared on Facebook, here's a quick look at some of the beauties that photographer Damian Luk Pat captured as they crossed the main stage at the country's Carnival mecca, the Queen's Park Savannah, for Carnival 2017.
Other countries, different cultures
Carnival is an escape from the rigors of everyday life. Many Carnival King and Queen contenders transport spectators to other lands (Africa, China, Arabia) and other worlds (enchanted rainforests and underwater kingdoms). Either way, you are immersed.
“Wings of Africa” portrayed by Ryan Sooknanan; photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Raymond Mark's portrayal of “The Yellow Emperor And The Winged Dragons”, for the band “Chinese Dynasty”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
The beauty of Trinidad and Tobago
Some costumes this year represented various aspects of life in Trinidad and Tobago. “Down de islands” (DDI), for instance, depicted in the portrayal below, refers to an idyllic cluster of islands off the north west coast of Trinidad that is home to the country's boating industry. It is also a favourite domestic tourism getaway.
Christopher Saldenha portrays “Down The Islands” for the band Soar! Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
The 2007 King and Queen contenders also included a nod to the country's national instrument, the steel pan, which was birthed in Trinidad and Tobago and is the only surviving non-electronic instrument to have been invented in the 20th century.
Ronald Mayers portrays “Musical Vibrations” in the Fancy Sailor category for the band “Swirls!” Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
There was also a modern take on the Midnight Robber, one of the most iconic traditional Carnival characters. Reminiscent of a bad-guy cowboy with his wide-brimmed, fringed hat, the robber is very flamboyant, sporting a cape that goes well with his signature “robber talk”, which is rather highbrow and quotes liberally from biblical verses, Shakespearean monologues and other famous literary sources. The character typically uses props (fake pistols, swords and even miniature coffins) to enhance his intimidation quotient.
Masquerader Roland St. George portraying a costume entitled “Doodad Daddy”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Other portrayals depicted topics of interest — social, political and otherwise — with originality and a bit of humour. The Zika threat in the region and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump were just two of the issues covered.
Ronald Blaize as “De Injector”; photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Clyde Blaize's “Category 5 – Hurricane Trump” for the band “D’ Element – Earth, Wind and Fire”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Fancy Indian mas
This is one aspect of traditional Carnival that maintains its allure year in and year out. Featuring colourful and elaborate headdresses adorned with hundreds of feathers, the more modern King and Queen costumes for these bands are expensive to make, due to their sheer size and the materials used. The most popular bands of this genre tend to spring from south Trinidad, with longtime band designer Kallicharan leading the charge.
“Lady in Blue” is portrayed by Laura Rampersad for the band “Kallicharan Carnival”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Lionel Jagessar Jr. portrays “Monia Haka – Out of the Ashes” for the band “San Fernando Heartbeat”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
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Rose Marie Kuru's “Queen Chirapaq – A Tribute to Esther Theodore” for the band “Lionel Jagessar and Associates”; it eventually placed third in the Queen's competition. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
It's always incredible to see how brilliantly various animals are represented in the mas — birds are a favourite, as are powerful, elegant species like tigers and mythical creatures such as dragons — and they all seem to have personalities, which the masquerader further brings to life through the dancing.
“Nazgul – Harbinger of Death”, portrayed by Ravi Lakhan in the Creative category for the band “Journey Beyond Imagination”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Veteran masquerader Roxanne Omalo’s “Sheera – The Ice Queen” actually earned the same number of points as the costume that was finally voted Queen of Carnival, but the judges’ nod went to her competitor. Still, it was a strong portrayal that made quite an impact on stage.
“Sheera – The Ice Queen”, portrayed by Roxanne Omalo. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
Of course, the Carnival gods are not always benevolent: the costume below experienced an onstage mishap, collapsing and breaking when the masquerader tried to open the wings. Although he bravely attempted to carry on, the weight of the costume was too great.
Glen Dave Lakhan portrays “Argus Le Grand”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
More and more common is the incidence of Moko Jumbie (stilt walker) costumes competing in the King and Queen of Carnival competition. A skill that is typically found in the traditional mas circles, it is always a joy to see these artists on stage — a stark departure from the heavy costumes that are usually borne with the help of wheels.
Qiana Moore's portrayal, entitled “I Am Not the Bird of Paradise, I Am a Bird from Paradise!” Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
And the 2017 winners are…
As dazzling as all the costumes are, someone had to win. In the King of Carnival competition, defending champion Ted Eustace grabbed the title once again, with his futuristic portrayal of “Crypto – The Lord of the Galaxy”.
2017 King of Carnival, Ted Eustace, with his costume “Crypto – The Lord of the Galaxy”.
The Queen of Carnival honour, meanwhile, went to the captivating “De Nebula”, portrayed by Krystal Thomas for the band “Paparazzi”.
2017 Queen of Carnival Krystal Thomas, portraying “De Nebula” for the band “Paparazzi”. Photo by Damian Luk Pat, used with permission.
carnival majesty: Ted Eustace's "Crypto-Lord of the Galaxy" glides majestically across the Grand Stand stage at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain during the King and Queen of Carnival finals on Tuesday
Ted Eustace retained his King of Carnival title when his portrayal 'Crypto'-Lord of the Galaxy” amassed 431 points to defy all comers at the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah on Tuesday.
Eustace, whose costume depicted an over-sized extra-terrestrial, had to defy a stiff challenge from “Falconidae - D Desert Prey”, the portrayal of his older brother Curtis, a nine-time King of Carnival.
In the preliminary round of the competition, Curtis' golden falcon with its flapping wings and rhythmic head movements was 14 point adrift of his brother, but he was unable to make any headway, earning 415 points to be 16 shy in second.
The surprise of the evening was Keston Benthum's “Nibinabe”. His portrayal of an imposing God-like representation in well-blended colours of light blue, white and purple, depicting the source of life, impressed the judges enough to earn him 409 points, that saw him snatch third place away from Ravi Lakhan's ”Nazgul Harbinger of Death”.
Benthum picked up 43 points more than he accumulated in the prelims, in moving 11 position up the ladder, relegating Lakhan to fourth.
And in competition among the queens, Krystal Thomas created quite a stir when her portrayal “De Nebula” prevailed in a tiebreak over “Sheera The Ice Queen” the costume of frontrunner Roxanne Omalo, to clinch the Queen of Carnival title.
Queen of Carnival, Krystal Thomas and her winning portrayal "De Nebula".
Her large bird with an elongated neck, wide wing spans and flowing tail was adorned with an array of soft and bright colours as she smoothly manoeuvred her way across the stage.
Thomas earned 378 points to finish 11th in the preliminary round, however, adjustments to her portrayal saw he collect 430 points, same as Omalo, to eventually triumph via the tiebreak rule.
Omalo, a veteran masquerade, was left still seeking her first title after her portrayal of a queen decked in white and surrounded by three sabre tooth tigers with glowing eyes had jointly topped the prelims with Kay Mason, where they both earned 406 points.
Mason dropped down the order to finish sixth.
Roxanne Omalo's "Sheera The Ice Queen" glows splendidly on her way to copping second place in the Queen of Carnival competition.
And Rose Marie Jagessar climbed three notches to cop third place with her portrayal “Queen Chirapaq - A Tribute to Esther Theodore”.
1. Ted Eustace – “Crypto–Lord of the Galaxy” - 431
2. Curtis Eustace – “Falconidae D Desert Prey” - 415
3. Keston Benthum – “Nibinabe” - 409
4. Ravi Lakhan – “Nazgul Harbinger of Death” - 407
5. Raymond Mark – “The Yellow Emperor And The Winged Dragons” - 398
6. Ronald Blaize – “De Injector” – 385
7. Roland St George – “Doodad Daddy – 380
8. Marlon Rampersad – “Bazodee” – 378
9. Ronald Mayers – “Musical Vibrations” – 377
10. Wade Madray – “A Saga of Piracy” – 374
11. Christopher Saldenha – “Down The Islands” – 368*
12. Lionel Jagessar Jr – “Monia Haka Out Of The Ashes” – 368*
13. Joel Roney John – “Splash! Drop D Anchor” – 365
14. Clyde Blaize – “Category 5 - Hurricane Trump” – 358
15. Glen Dave Lakhan – “Argus Le Grand: All Eyes On Me” - 270
Keston Benthum's “Nibinabe” made a surprise run in the King's final to snatch third place.
1. Krystal Thomas – “De Nebula” – 430*
2. Roxanne Omalo – “Sheera The Ice Queen” – 430*
3. Rose Marie Jagessar – “Queen Chirapaq - A Tribute to Esther Theodore” – 426
4. Savitri Holassie – “Guardians of the Sacred Forest” – 417*
5. Donna Phillip-Forde – “A View from The Heln - Dance Of The Dolphins” – 417*
6. Kay Mason – “Out Of The Blue” – 417*
7. Laura Rampersad – “Lady in Blue” - 415
8. Jonell Dick - “Kuan Yin - The Goddess of Mercy” - 414
9. Gloria Dallsingh – “Glamour Queen” - 408
10. Alendra Bailey – “La Reflexion: Amour De Soi/ The Reflection: Self Love” – 405
11. Peola Marchan – “Princess Samar Under The Wedding Tent” – 400
12. Shari Derek – “Odahingum -Rippling Water A Tribute To Stephen Derek Sr” – 393
13. Tamika George – “Hypnosis” – 383
14. Lisa Banfield – “The Queen Of The Sea” – 372
15. Sonya Blaize – “Reaching For The Stars and Beyond” – 370