Children mas band targets fight against bullying

Fighting against bullying is the focus of Zante’s 2020 Children’s Carnival Band.

The band, billed as Mas with a Heart, will feature a dramatic presentation titled Inaru’s Gift.

The costumes in the band each relate to a story, written by Zante director Dara Healey.

Designer Nia Thompson said the story starts with the Blue Devils bullying the protagonists, children dressed in drab ponchos with harmful words and sayings on them.

“They are so sad that they drown themselves in the Ocean, and it’s a sad beginning because we talk about how bullying can lead to self-harm and suicide.

The Fancy Sailors go to sea to look for them but don’t find them, and they wash up on shore somewhere in the past, where hummingbirds and butterflies take them into the magical forest.

“The take on the forest costume, which takes the shape of a Fancy Indian, was a combination of our First Peoples, so it says their spirits never really left us and they’ve become part of the forest now. It’s in the forest that Inaru gives them the gift of self-confidence.

“After that, they feel brave enough to enter the barrack yard with all the other traditional characters, the Midnight Robber, the Pierrot Grenade and the Dame Lorraine to celebrate, and after they have their jump, they return glorious in their regalia.

The costumes are well-sewn and constructed, as we feel that children’s mas tends to be pieced together and look like a DIY project, so we’re trying not to have that look.”

Thompson, along with Anthony Dinally and Donna Charles-Gittens, form the design team behind the mas band. Thompson and Charles- Gittens met Healey through the Mentoring By the Masters programme taught by Eintou Springer, and were drawn into the project from there, while Dinally, a recent UTT fashion school graduate, leapt at the opportunity when it was offered to him. “I was enthused about the project because Zante focuses a lot on social issues, which is part of my aesthetic, especially with the environment, and Zante has incorporated a lot of recycled materials like cardboard and plastic bottles, into the backpacks and headpieces of the costumes.”

Healey said the decision to talk about bullying was influenced by her research into the topic and her experiences with her own children. “I’ve been reading reports about children being bullied in schools for various things. I find that there’s a lot of quiet acceptance by parents when their children are damaged and I’m not seeing enough outrage and activism where that is concerned. I’m not seeing enough forceful action being taken by the ministry and so on.

It’s something that concerns me a great deal, because I think it is symptomatic also of the violence that is becoming so prevalent in our society. So because the work that we do is arts and culturedriven, it was the best way to try and deal with it. We just want to make a public statement about the fact that bullying needs to stop and the various elements in society have to devise mechanisms and take positions that would prevent our children from being harmed.

School is supposed to be a place where you enjoy learning, where you make friends, it’s not supposed to be a place where you’re afraid, and of course now we have the added element of online bullying, and so we need to do better at protecting our children.”

Healey said the band can be described as the evolution of children’s mas. “From what I can observe, I don’t see that there’s much of the element of storytelling in children’s mas.

The idea of having a story brings the mas alive, according to a teacher we presented the story to. It’s beyond having one theme, it is having a whole storyline with protagonists, a plot, settings, drama, conflict and resolution, and storytelling is a teaching tool that I don’t think we use often enough in school. For us, this is an evolution where we are introducing the component of telling stories, and this is an original story, created specifically for the band, and that originality is something we want to continue exploring, and the use of these art forms that are so dear to a lot of the indigenous cultures that we have in T&T.

“For me the band is the beginning, it doesn’t end with Carnival, because we want to find ways to continue to focus on that theme throughout the year. We haven’t worked out yet how but we want to focus on that and we’re willing to speak with any organisations that are doing something proactive about this whole issue of bullying to see how we can collaborate towards making a deeper intervention.”