Playing Mas!

Struttin their stuff in the Road March

 A Bacchanal in Brooklyn

Once again Brooklyn’s beautiful Eastern Parkway was awash in colorfully costumed revelers on Labor Day. It is the biggest annual parade in the USA – although partisans of the Puerto Rican Day Parade dispute this claim.   On this day the Trinidadian tradition of road marches, playing mas and Calypso music is employed to celebrate the cultures of all the English speaking Caribbean.

Its Carnival time in Brooklyn and everybody “jumps up” for the sheer joy it brings.  No matter where I happen to be I make it my business to get back to the Big Apple for the Labor Day bacchanal, a restorative ritual that rejuvenates the Caribbean community through the joy of music and dance, breathes new life into the culture, cements a sense of community, and showers observers of all backgrounds with good vibes that makes the spirit dance!

It is a colorful and dynamic spectacle that is unique among public events in the US, except for Madi Gras in New Orleans, but is common fare south of the border.  Although Carnival serves many functions, social catharsis chief among them, the display of black bodies and the celebration of their beauty is a major raison d’ eter.  It’s one of the main things that attract revelers of both sexes to the Eastern Parkway “jump up.”

The big event of the day is the road march.  This is where those who dress up in costumes – which the Trinis call “playing Mas’ – stroll through the streets singing Calypso songs, strutting their stuff to the beat and trying to compete for the coveted road march prize.  The judge’s standards are demanding and the competition is fierce.  Groups are graded on costumes, floats and music.

This competition is taken so seriously that the different organizations work and plan all year in order to compete on this very special day.  This kind of serious effort is characteristic of organizations that participate in this public Dionysian ritual.  One need only look at the “Samba Schools” of Brazil or the Mardi Gras clubs in New Orleans in order to witness the intensity of the preparations.

Whatever else Carnival may mean it is an opportunity for narcissist of both sexes to display their assets; thus proving a visual feast for those who love human eye candy.   Here are some select images as seen through the lens of the internationally renowned art photographer, Ms. Lisa Dubois.

 The Joy of the Moment Beams from their Faces

 Jubilation!

 Winding!

 

Getting down and Dirty!

 

 The Art of Carnival

 

 The complexity of design is marvelous
The Goddess Oshun Personified!

 

 Elegant Erotica!

 
A Golden Gal

 

 Paint and feathers are pervasive in the costumes

At Carnival….

 

…..The Women Rule

 

Flying the Flags High….

 

 Celebrating their Island Homes
 
The Boy’s Rubbing Up!

 

She’s playing it off …chillin in the groove

 

 Salivating over the Pulchritude!

 

Intricate designs painstakingly executed

 

 A Trini Dougla Gal!

 

Africa and India meet in Trinidad

 

 Watch the Hands!

 

 Jewelry as Art

The Next Generation

 

 

 Passing on the Tradition

 

 At The End Road March

 A graceful stroll down Eastern Parkway

 

 The Masquerade is over!

 

 

Looking to next year

 

  “Da Mayor” of Harlem Leslie Wytche was There

 

 

Partying Hearty Jumpin Up in the Streets!

 

 

 ***************

 

Photos By: Lisa Dubois

Text by: Playthell Benjamin

New York City,

September 26, 2012

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