Traditional Mas – An Expression Of Grenada’s Unique Carnival Celebrations

The truth is, I cannot remember why I did not attend the first year; and last year, which was the second year, I arrived late and only saw one presentation; but I made a personal promise, once I am alive to not miss the third year.

And although I had a very important work assignment scheduled to end at 3:00 pm which I could not say no to, I did arrive in Victoria for the third Traditional Mas competition. Believe it or not, I arrived in time to see the first band — the Wild Indians — chanting and displaying the appropriate body movement as the group passed the judging point. I was most happy to see the young people’s involvement, as once the history and love is ingrained in them, the traditional will continue.

Some were tall above the crowd, some were short by nature, some were young and growing, some were mature and educated; some were colourful while some were environmentally friendly, but they all shared one common message — the tradition of our carnival celebrations.

It was an evening that reminded me of my younger days when I had the pleasant opportunity to see the traditional mas portrayals from the Queen’s Park stage for the Carnival Monday Pageant. To those of you who did not go to Victoria, all I can tell you is that you actually denied yourself the opportunity to see and experience what I will describe as “Real Grenadian mas.”

The rhythm from the special wooden clogs as the Vieux Croix chant, plus the mixture of sounds from drums and reusable items such as plastic or aluminum buckets, pots, and I even saw an abandoned sink, created a festive atmosphere where music from a sound system was required but selectively necessary.

IMG_0524It was not an opportunity for colour “fancy” costumes comprising mainly of beads and underwear which have become outwear, but an occasion where 13 bands from throughout various communities comprising the Shortknee, Wild Indians; Moko Jumbie or Stilt Walkers, and Vieux Croix dress in traditional attire or costume told us why they are integral and enshrined in our carnival celebrations just the same way Jingle Bells is a must for Christmas.

As she stood and watched the parade, I am certain that Ms Claudette Joseph who was the chairperson of the Subcommittee when that competition started, felt a pride that only winners feel when they arrive at the end of a race. The decision for Victoria to be the home of the Traditional Mas was not decided by chance, but was based on factual historical research which showed that this rural community was the foundation for many traditional mas especially the Vieux Croix and the Shortknee. The Shortknee technique eventually moved North to Chantimelle, and the Vieux Croix moved south to Gouyave depriving the true owner of their rightful traditional knowledge expertise.

(As I write this I am wondering how much did migration through marriage play a role in this movement spreading to other villages, when men or women found love and took with them the traditional knowledge and educating their new friends.)

Speaking after the parade, the Chairman of the Spicemas Corporation said that it was a great success in terms of participation. “I am seeing a great improvement of the event. However we have to rethink the choice of location of the staging area. The resurgent of Traditional mas is gratifying” said Arthur Hosten, who felt that the crowd attendance and appreciation of the event was evident by the numbers.

By Linda Straker

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