The Mas Effect – The DNA of Trinbagonian
I am writing this piece because I have heard rumblings that we may get a Carnival in 2022. As an ex-pat, who has been without Carnival four times in my entire adult life, I cannot begin to express how desperately I need this to happen.
In my musings of how extra I will be in the Republic if we get to play mas, I realize how ironic my hunger for Carnival is. I say ironic because, in my late teens and early 20s, friends of mine would travel aboard for school, and I would always make fun of their “Carnival Tabanca.” One friend almost delayed an entire CAL (BWIA – or Bee Wee back then) because she refused to get on that plane unless they checked her Carnival costume for her to wear in Canada on Carnival Monday and Tuesday and I felt like she was a total drama queen. Well, now I am at that level of a queen. That notion that Trinbagonian exports exaggerated the anxiety and melancholy they felt was completely inaccurate. The truth is, Carnival is so engrained in who we are as a people; we diminish without it; I call this “The Mas Effect,” and I know every Trinbagonian in and out of the Republic is feeling it deeply.
I have had the privilege to learn Carnival from its birth to its current incarnation as I worked closely with the National Carnival Commission, Fantasy and Entice for several years. Truth be told, I am a lover of Traditional Carnival more than a fan of Beads and Feathers. Don’t get me wrong, I am a jamette at heart and can throw some waist on the road Monday and Tuesday, but my heart belongs to the history of mas and the traditions that bind us.
Carnival and mas have an ancient spirit bound deeply into our African roots and have filaments of indigenous, East Indian, and Asian traditions that come together into something uniquely Trinbagonian. It is also the foundation of the liberty we sing to in the anthem. The line “Forged from the love of liberty in the fires of hope and prayer” to me speaks directly to the Camboulay riots where Port of Spain was set on fire to ensure we were free to celebrate our rituals and freedoms. Carnival was the first major rebellion against colonialization, and its celebration was close to every significant protector and fighter of liberty in our history. This spirit of freedom, combined with the season’s artistry, has created The Mas Effect, hardcoded into our DNA.
The Mas Effect goes well beyond the season as well. The legendary artist, teacher, and son of the soil, Embers, said something in one of his final art exhibitions dedicated to Carnival that I will never forget. “You ever wonder why for a small island, Trinis will win at everything, and when they try their hand at anything, they succeed in the most creative ways? Art, Music, science, bobol, it doesn’t matter; a Trini will have the most innovative and creative way to approach anything. That is from the Mas. Carnival is color, Music, and motion that we are exposed to from birth; before you can read or talk, you’re in kiddies Carnival moving. That type of thing changes your mind in your formative years. That is why we are so powerful.” I remember his words verbatim because they forever changed how I viewed mas and truly understood The Mas Effect and why we feel so crippled as a people when we cannot return to Carnival. Therefore I hope that we get to return to the mas in 2022 so that we can all return and reset our DNA.
So, I beg everyone to get the vaccine and behave so Keith Christopher can ok the Republic for Carnival! Have a mercy.