Portraits of Mas

Curated by Wanna Thompson

Film Photography


As the commercialization of Carnival becomes more and more prevalent, people have started to forget, or not even know, why our acestors participated in Carnival. The pre-Lenten festivities of Carnival was brought by French settlers to the islands. These celebrations included elaborate Mask Balls, street parties, and processions. With newfound freedom, enslaved individuals began to organize their own Carnival celebrations, incorporating elements of African and European traditions into the festivities. This marked the beginning of Carnival as a symbol of liberation and cultural pride for the Afro-Trinidadian community. The modern form of Trinidad's Carnival began to take shape in the 19th century, as formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants reclaimed the streets to celebrate their cultural identity and express their freedom through music, dance, and costume.

Representation is such an important aspect of my art practice and the message I aim to share. As a Moko Jumbie, l integrate traditional masquerade elements into my artistic expression, exploring the intersection of cultural heritage and identity. Through costumes and personal style, I celebrate Black identity and cultural pride within the context of Trinidadian masquerade. The term “Moko Jumbie” draws from West Africa, where “Moko” signifies spirit or ancestral presence, while “Jumbie” is a Caribbean term for a ghost or spirit. These towering figures historically guarded villages and tribes and symbolized protection. This becomes part of the message I want to bring to people who don't know the meaning of Carnival.

Curated by Wanna Thompson and photographed by Brianna Roye for Portraits of Mas.

To learn more visit portraitsofmas.com 

“Before going up on the stilts, I think back on how important this work is. To know my ancestors were taken from Africa, enslaved and still managed to continue cultural traditions speaks volumes to the endurance of our culture, to reclaim and celebrate who we are should never be forgotten.”

Using Format