Mas man Brian MacFarlane recently returned from a trip to India where he was the only Caribbean designer to showcase his Carnival costumes and lecture on the art of mas making, writes Melissa Dassrath for Trinidad’s Newsday.
The High Commissioner Malay Mishra invited Mac Farlane to present a local piece of textile with some historical value at the Commonwealth Costume Design Exhibition.
Mac Farlane arrived in India on the September 20. Designers from member nations of the Commonwealth displayed their indigenous fabrics, traditional wear and costumes at the exhibition entitled “Power Cloths”. The event was a prelude to the opening ceremony of the 19th Annual Commonwealth Games in Delhi last Sunday.
“The Commonwealth countries came together to show their traditional textiles. In the exhibition, garments worn by Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, statesman Jawaharlal Nehru, Queen Victoria and many others were exhibited. It was a very interesting and humbling experience because I was the only individual invited from this hemisphere. So I was not only representing Trinidad and Tobago, but I represented the entire region.”
He highlighted the history of the classic Carnival character, the Pierrot Grenade, who is an exquisitely dressed masquerader. The Pierrot is a fashionable scholar often represented as a mime.
“Our culture is roughly about 180 years old and the Pierrot is a mimic of the European scholars. I chose a grand Pierrot costume which was all ivory and pearl. I carried a costume I created about 18 years ago of this traditional Pierrot. The entire face mask was jewelled. I thought it was a nice representation of our culture which was influenced by the English, French and Spanish.”
The Pierrot costume was labelled “The Power of Celebration”.
Mac Farlane stated that: “My piece was referred to as a community piece because it was from Carnival which is an event that brings people together to join in human celebration.”
Mac Farlane also lectured at several universities across India and has been asked to head a costume design course. “It was again very humbling to speak at the universities because there were banners with my name and an entourage welcomed me. They put a tika on my forehead and consecrated me with water and blessings. There was an elaborate Ganesh design on the floor made from coloured salt. Everywhere I went the people presented me with gifts and in this particular village they are known for the their woven textiles. Some students travelled 12 hours or more to sit in the seminar. So it was overwhelming and powerful.”
“India was a very fascinating experience. I saw the drastic contrast of extreme luxury and severe poverty. In 2007 I did India: The Story of Boyie, but I never visited India so I accomplished that through research and dreams. And I was pleased so see that what I had produced was very true to the culture, but if I had the experiences then that I have now I would have injected more elements of poverty and the beauty in the poverty.”
Typically, the costume designer uses mas to explore social, environmental or political issues. On Friday, Mac Farlane launched his presentation for Carnival 2011 which is themed Humanity: The Circle of Life. The costumes were revealed in a saddle tent that represented the womb of creativity.
“This portrays the journey of man from birth to death. There will be sections like birth, baptism, love, work, time, passion, good and evil, joy and sorrow, prayer, marriage and all of the different milestones in our lives. All of the costumes are black and white highlighted with metallic silver, glass and crystal.”
An interesting feature of the costumes is the black and white newspaper clippings that have been incorporated into the design. Says MacFarlane, “Human lives have always been documented in print. Whether on paper, in books or in the press. Birth, marriages and even death notices or obituaries are printed in the newspaper. The costumes are beautifully geometric. But it is also like a tapestry that ties the whole storyline together.”
For the original report go to http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,128907.html
Image: Bat from MacFarlane’s “Ressurection” design