The Essence Of Mas: Traditional Carnival Characters That Tell The Stories Of Our Ancestors
Photograph credit score: RAPSO Imaging Restricted

Carnival celebrations within the Caribbean are deeply rooted within the cultural traditions of Africa and have been typically used as a type of resistance to colonial oppression. Carnival was a strong methodology of asserting cultural identification and reclaiming autonomy after chattel slavery was abolished.

Mixing African traditions with European influences over time resulted in a novel expertise evident within the numerous types of carnivals throughout the Caribbean area. This fusion displays the complicated historical past and cultural alternate that has formed the area.

Whereas Fairly Mas, the place folks in bejeweled costumes and feathered backpacks parade via the streets, is what most could consider when carnival celebrations come to thoughts, it’s essential to acknowledge that there’s rather more to the celebration. 

Conventional mas, or Previous mas performs an important position in preserving the cultural reminiscence of the area’s ancestors and embodying varied elements of Caribbean identification and historical past. Conventional mas characters carry layers of symbolism and cultural significance. They function reminders of those communities’ resilience, creativity, and resistance all through historical past.

When folks embody these conventional mas characters, they pay homage to their ancestors and proceed the cultural preservation and expression legacy. Carnival stays one of the crucial vibrant and cherished cultural occasions within the Caribbean, serving as a testomony to the area’s wealthy heritage and identification.

Listed here are some conventional masquerade characters you may even see throughout Caribbean carnivals. 

Moko Jumbie

“The moko jumbie or stilt walker is a standard masquerade character typically seen all through the Caribbean throughout carnival season and past. The creativity of their elaborate and colourful costumes, coupled with distinctive acrobatic talent, is without doubt one of the most lovely sights to behold throughout carnival, from events to the parade of bands. The tradition was introduced throughout the Atlantic from West Africa. The lore of the moko jumbies is that they walked throughout the Atlantic as protectors following the slave ships in the course of the Center Passage,” ESSENCE beforehand shared. 

The phrase “moko” is an African phrase that means god or Orisha, and “jumbie” is a standard phrase for spirit or ghost used within the Caribbean. Moko Jumbies are extremely considered protectors whose towering peak may also help them foresee evil. If you see them, take into consideration the importance of what they signify: the spirit of our ancestors who stroll alongside us as protectors.  

The Essence Of Mas: Traditional Carnival Characters That Tell The Stories Of Our Ancestors
Shynel Brizan at Memorial Park in Port of Spain, Trinidad

Jab Jab

The Jab Jab masquerade is related to resistance and freedom. When enjoying jab, the physique is roofed with black molasses, oil, or charcoal, and horns and chains, symbolizing the defiance of slavery and colonial oppression, are worn.

On the core of the standard mas kind is satire, from its identify to the act of blackening one’s pores and skin. In French, “Jab” means “satan,” a derogatory time period by which slave homeowners would consult with enslaved Africans. By portray themselves black and taking up the persona of a satan, or “enjoying the satan,” the previously enslaved and their descendants mocked their former masters and the horrifying remedy inflicted upon them.

“Jab Jab is freedom. Jab Jab is a post-emancipation masquerade,” says Ian Charles, CEO and Founding father of Jambalasee Grenada, a gaggle dedicated to documenting and preserving Grenada’s Jab Jab custom, emphasizing the Jab sound

This masquerade dates again to 1834 when slavery was abolished throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. “We’re ridiculing what the oppressors informed us we’re: substandard, Black, and no good devils. In different phrases, we’re saying; you name me a satan? Effectively, I’ll present you a satan,” says Charles.

The Essence Of Mas: Traditional Carnival Characters That Tell The Stories Of Our Ancestors

Midnight Robber

The Midnight Robber is a colourful, conventional carnival character instantly recognizable by his extravagant costumes and distinct speech. “Robber Speak” is predicated on the African griot custom, and the speech sample and vocabulary are a direct imitation of his former grasp and is marked by its boastful, mocking model. It’s derived from a number of sources, together with the Bible and literary texts, and describes the Robber’s invincible ancestry and terrifying exploits.


Sensay Mas is a signature carnival custom in Dominica. Sensay is derived from the Ghanaian phrase “senseh,” which implies a rooster with ruffled feathers in Twi. A conventional masquerade dropped at the Caribbean from Africa, the place folks put on feather-like costumes produced from sislana fibers. This costume is produced from pure fibers and covers the physique in layers. Sensay figures or dancers have been historically seen as protectors of the neighborhood, keeping off evil spirits. Now, they’re usually related to carnival.

 Pierrot Granade 

The Pierrot Grenade is a personality that embodies a wealthy custom of satire and social commentary inside Caribbean carnival culture utilizing his sharp tongue to critique and entertain. His colourful apparel and skill to interact audiences with reside performances that contact on present points and occasions showcase the enduring relevance of carnival as a platform for cultural expression and social commentary.

Whereas the modern-day Pierrot Grenade could not have as many verbal sparring companions as earlier than, his presence continues so as to add vibrancy and depth to carnival celebrations, reminding us of the ability of humor and satire in reflecting and shaping society.

The Essence Of Mas: Traditional Carnival Characters That Tell The Stories Of Our Ancestors

Dame Lorraine

This character is a satirical portrayal of a rich, typically European, girl. Dame Lorraine wears extravagant costumes, exaggerating the options of upper-class people. This character serves as a type of social commentary, critiquing the colonial elite and their life.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *