MAS: Costumes from Hartford's West Indian Community
Each year the Institute for Community Research's CT Cultural Heritage Arts Program partners with the Connecticut International Carnival Association to run a Mas Camp, where a group of young women from Hartford learn how to make and wear colorful imaginative costumes (Mas) such as those worn in Trinidad-style carnivals around the world. The six-week camp operates under the direction of Linford Miller and master costume maker Keimaai "Q" Delpeche. Each teen designs and builds her costume, including a headpiece, arm and food bands, girdles, collars, backpacks, and frames and attachments needed for wearing the elaborate structures. The teens form a Carnival "band" and display their costumes at the Taste of the Caribbean Festival and the West Indian Anniversary Independence Parade and Festival.
In addition to being worn in the parades, the costumes are displayed in an exhibit at the Institute for Community Research Gallery. The exhibit opening event features an awards ceremony for the teens and volunteers. Visitors get the opportunity to try on a costume and learn about the art of costume-making as well as Caribbean culture. The exhibit opening features music by the Hartford Steel Symphony and Caribbean food.
Mas represents an important and beloved art form in the West Indian communities that make up a vibrant component of Hartford's population. The costumes and traditional knowledge behind them serve as expressions of Caribbean cultural identity. Through this project, teens in Hartford are able to learn and carry on the traditions of Carnival, so important to their heritage. They are also able to share their culture with a broader audience.
Click Here to hear WNPR's Diane Orson's story about MAS.
The 2012 Mas Camp was the second year of the program and also featured a six-week course for 16 young women from Hartford as well as over 50 volunteers. The teens learned about Carnival traditions and were taught by master costume maker Keimaai "Q" Delpeche, experienced assistant Larry Cooper and several parent volunteers. They learned and performed dance routines for "displaying" the costumes from artistic director Harold Springer, dance teacher Coryse Villarouel and dance assistant Uniqua Jones. The costumes were worn in the Taste of the Caribbean Festival at the Riverfront on August 4 and at the West Indian 50th Anniversary Independence Parade on August 11 under the Carnival "Band" name the Exotic One's Part II. The costumes were then displayed at an exhibit in the ICR galley. The exhibit opening featured music by the Hartford Steel Symphony, Caribbean food, and an awards presentation for MAS Camp participants.
This project is is made possible by the City of Hartford Jobs Grant for 2012, as managed by the Greater Hartford Arts Council. CHAP's participation is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts (DECD), and the Institute for Community Research.
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The 2011 Mas Camp was the program's inagural year. The 15 participants in the six-week course were taught by master costume maker Tynsley Charles and experienced assistants Grace Wright and Keimaai "Q" Delpeche and volunteer Cassie Harper.
The teens were trained in "displaying" the costumes by artistic director Harold Springer, and performed in
the Taste of the Caribbean Festival on August 6 and in the West Indian Anniversary Independence Day Parade on August 13 . The teens named their Carnival "band" the Exotic One's. After being worn at the events, the costumes were put on display at an exhibit in the ICR gallery. The exhibit opening featured music by the Hartford Steel Symphony, Caribbean food, and an awards presentation for MAS Camp participants.
The project is supported by a City of Hartford Jobs Grant for 2011, the Hartford City Council, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council through contributors to its United Arts Campaign and the United Way Community Campaign. CHAP’s participation is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and the Institute for Community Research.
Flyer | Press Release | Photos