October 3, 2022

Vulgar Fraction marks life and death in Mas Mourning–Becoming Wreaths

Vulgar Fraction will present Mas Mourning–Becoming Wreaths for Carnival 2022.

Mas Deuil’s costume design is based on crowns and composed of dried leaves and flowers.

The group is presented by Robert Young, founder and principal designer of fashion house The Cloth.

Young designed the presentation as a response to the overwhelming loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Le mas explores “remembering, commemorating, celebrating […] people who are new ancestors and older ancestors.

He pointed to the many national cultural icons who have died from COVID-19 and other causes in the recent past.

“Because of COVID, we weren’t able to say goodbye in a real way. I know a woman whose mother and sister are deceased. In the Orisha community, several people have died. People in my village are dead. I couldn’t go to wakes.

Vulgar Fraction, a small group, emerges from The Cloth’s Propaganda Space workshop in Belmont. A round table launching the group is scheduled for February 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Panelists include Rapso artist and Jouvert practitioner Wendell Manwarren, art therapist Celeste Walters and Orisha Baba Addelon Braveboy; the panel is moderated by journalist Ardene Sirjoo.

The event will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube and the public will be able to view it as a live projection on the outside wall of Propaganda Space.

UWI Lecturer and Visual Arts Unit Coordinator Dr. Marsha Pearce will also speak on the panel.

The concept is explored by his students in Critical Readings in Caribbean Arts and Culture II, a course at UWI, St Augustine’s Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA).

“This course is very grounded in our cultural context,” Pearce said in an interview. “I felt we couldn’t ignore the pandemic. It has shaped and reshaped the way we make sense of everyday life. This has an impact on the cultural landscape.

She contacted Young and fashioned a mission out of her concept for the group. For the “Becoming Crowns” assignment, the 42 students in the course must create their own mas costumes and design a mourning ritual.

The work will be part of a digital fashion show whose format remains to be defined.

Pearce said: “I felt it was an entry point to broaden the understanding of Carnival. Not like a street party, not to mention jam and wine, but Carnival in terms of memory, a space of memory, a space in which to process [physically]. And if we can’t physically process, how do we process what we feel? »

Crowns are an ancient symbol of the continuity of life. With this in mind, Pearce encouraged students to view the crown as “a symbol of eternity, the triumph of life over death, this circle”.

The idea behind Mas Mourning–Becoming Wreaths “fits squarely into the notion of carnival as an opportunity for public expression,” said Kevin Adonis Browne, associate professor of rhetoric and writing at Syracuse University.

Browne is the author of the award-winning book High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (2018).

“Such public broadcasts are usually inconvenient, often disconcerting and almost always exactly what we need. They are meant to do things with us, for us, but above all for us. Call it spirit, if you like, but it moves us, inspires us to action.

In the pandemic, Browne said: “Everyday life has eclipsed public rituals of mourning in the sense that everyday life in this pandemic moment is a ritual of mourning. We are mired daily in the news of death as matter of public policy, forced into a way of receiving death as a matter of protocol. Wreaths are more than a superficial reminder of this – that we live and die, lose but can still win, struggle but can still get through They show, as an undercurrent of all these concerns, that what connects us is not simply what becomes of the crown, but the desire to become crowns in the first place.

Vulgar Fraction is a hands-on mas, with costumes usually built by masquerades at Propaganda Space on Erthig Street.

“A limited number of people can be at camp, or masquerades can do the work at home. We can do Zoom sessions to support them in the making,” Young said. The mas can be presented in a digital procession on Carnival weekend.

Young, an environmental activist, often uses discarded or unconventional materials in his mas designs. Considering a dried banana leaf, a drummer told him, “People assume that a dry leaf is dead. It is something that we reject. But a dry leaf contains a lot of energy.

The dry leaves can be used for manure, for soil and water remineralization, as fuel, as roofing material, as medicine, as decoration, as a dye, as a fiber that can be woven into textiles. Fig, sohari, coconut leaf and husk, tea towel, cane flowers, ginger lily, cano wood and other plants will form the basis of her band’s wreaths. The mas may look like the historic Cow Mas.

He explained, “We have this tool in Carnival that we can use to build something in someone’s memory, using simple things that you would ignore or throw away, and make it meaningful, symbolic, valuable.”