The art of mas: Preserving Carnival’s traditional characters…

As a retired primary school teacher, Virginia Pacifique-Marshall is always thinking of making information available to children. When she observed the traditional Carnival characters are slowly fading from the memories of even adults, she decided to do her part towards preserving these wonderful characters that are integral elements of Trinidad and Tobago’s culture. The result is a series of paintings that explore several traditional mas characters through Marshall’s eyes, as Wayne Bowman reports in The Trinidad Express.

These paintings will be on exhibition at the Ciao Restaurant, Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s, from today to February 7. The paintings will feature, among other characters, the Bookman, Dame Lorraine, Midnight Robber and Minstrels.

Marshall studied the techniques of Pablo Picasso and developed a passion for cubism, which is the common thread in her paintings. She studied the fundamentals of fine art at the Art Academy in Tacarigua and also honed her skills as she prepared her pupils for the SEA exams.

“The emphasis of this exhibition is on the traditional aspects of Trinidad Carnival. I hope this work will augment the awareness that the NCC (National Carnival Commission) is raising through its own traditional Carnival events. Gradually we are losing these wonderful characters that have been with us for so long. I’ve observed that, not only do the children not know or identify with these characters, but even many of the adults don’t know them,” Marshall said.

Marshall is from Torrecilla Gardens in Arima and spends much of her

time with her art. She worked on the paintings to be exhibited for much of last year and is hoping people will appreciate what she has produced.

Marshall said the pieces feature the cubist style she loves very much, but maintains the core identity of the characters she has explored. The idea is for the paintings to serve as proper representations of the traditional mas characters.

A member of the Women in Art organisation and the Art Society, Marshall exhibits with them whenever they hold their membership exhibitions. She has also on occasion teamed up with art instructor Richard Martinez and his past students to present a series of exhibitions, titled Art Expressions, at Nalis libraries in Arima, San Fernando and Port of Spain, a project done in partnership with Nalis.

“I am looking forward to this exhibition to see how people react to the work I’ve done here. Things had to come together in a rush because the original gallery I was meant to show at had to move suddenly. Then only last week I got the call from Normandie that I could have the exhibit there. So I am rushing around to get things ready,” Marshall said.

For the original report go to

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