Kevin Adonis Browne’s High Mas takes stage: Presenting mas as fine art

New book:
High Mas – Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture
Kevin Adonis Browne
University Press of Mississippi, October 2018
256 pages
ISBN 978-1496819383 (hc)

See our earlier post here.

A review by Marshelle Haseley for Newsday

HIGH MAS: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture, a book featuring photography and text by Kevin Browne, was launched on November 4. The vivid imagery, capturing characters of traditional mas, is accompanied by whimsical poetry and essays interwoven in the coffee table book.

A lecturer in cultural studies in the Faculty of Literature, Culture and Communication studies at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Browne has a doctorate in English from Pennsylvania State University, with a concentration on rhetoric and composition.

Browne, 44, previously had his photography published in his book Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean in 2013 and Caribbean Quarterly in November 2018.

In High Mas, he captures TT mas as a powerful, and multi-layered form of cultural expression. Photographs from the self-taught photographer’s collection are now on display at the Loftt Gallery at 63 Rosalino Street, Woodbrook.

Browne said the book is not a commentary on mas, but instead an exploration from his point of view, and he was hoping to present something new in the Caribbean space.

“As a writer, or creative person, you want to do something different. Not (something) that may have never been done before, but feels novel.”

His memory of the expression High Mas, he said, is not linked directly to the song by David Rudder, but based on memories during his childhood in San Fernando. “There was an attitude of reverence toward mas. High Mas is not merely in reference to old/traditional mas, Dimanche Gras or pretty mas, but a reverence for the art.”

Recalling his own experience with mas, Browne said while he enjoys capturing mas in photographs, “The magic of mas is in the playing, the making, the seeing, the feeling, the remembering.” He said it is in carrying out in the procession of the masquerade that there may be the conjuring of the true spirit of mas.

The content of the book, Browne said, began taking shape about 20 years ago, and it therefore captures both youthful and adult experiences and interpretations.

Work on it did not intensify until 2015 when he got the contract for the book after pitching the concept to the University Press of Mississippi.

Kevin Brown as a blue devil in 2015.

“They were excited by it not being solely street photography, but I was making an effort to create a space for viewing photography, capturing Carnival as fine art.”

He said the key, for him, was to create a book that would be accessible and comprehensive for anyone who comes in contact with it – any age group, from any part of the world. By doing so, Browne wishes to open a space, for some kind of conversation, exchange and interaction on the essence and beauty of mas.

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