“A Tribute to Trinidad Carnival” and “Tribute to the Mas Player”, the challenge trophies for the King and Queen of Carnival, have found “permanent” homes. But this was never the intention of the designer, Kenneth Matthews.
The trophies, valued at US$5,000 each, are still in the possession of the 2005 King and Queen of Carnival, and not with the reigning champions.
“When I handed over the trophies to Richard Affong and Michael Heath of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) in February 2005,” Matthews tells Express Online, “it was conveyed that they were challenge trophies and can only be kept permanently if an individual won the King or Queen title for three consecutive years.
“However, in 2009 I was informed that the trophies were in the possession of Curtis Eustace and Pamela Gordon, after being presented to them on winning the respective King and Queen of Carnival titles in 2005.
“I subsequently wrote the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and the NCBA in an attempt to have the situation corrected, but I never got a response from either party.”
Matthews, a Carnival mas man in the 1960s and 70s, is very disappointed that winners subsequent to 2005 were denied the honour of being presented with the trophies.
“Something must be used for which it was made. Additionally, they were created with the hope that youths will be inspired and get involved in arts and culture, especially the art of metal craft.”
Matthews, a former secretary of the Arima branch of the NCBA, shut down his mas camp in the late 1970s after becoming a Christian, and eventually migrated to the United States.
However, he felt the need to continue to make good use of his skills, and built the beautiful four-by-four-foot copper trophies.
“You can’t stay with a skill and not make a contribution to your country. I donated the trophies to the country so in effect they belong to the government, so they (government) should be concerned with them.”
Matthews says he sent a letter to the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston “Gypsy” Peters, via Tourism Minister Rupert Griffith, in the hope of bringing closure to the issue.
The retired mas man has also crafted a challenge trophy for Panorama, but is reluctant to hand it over because of his experience with the Carnival King and Queen trophies.
NCBA secretary, Wrenwrick Brown says he knows the trophies ought to be returned to the NCBA, and so does Gordon.
“She cannot lift the trophy because of its weight, so we will have to make arrangements to have the ‘Tribute to the Mas Player’ trophy collected and returned to our office.
“We need to have the trophies returned,” he continues, “so that they can be used for the purpose for which they were intended.”
Brown tells Express Online that because of the busy schedules of NCBA officials, no arrangements were made during the past six years to retrieve the trophies.
The NCBA secretary says the trophies will be returned, but could not guarantee it would happen in time to present them to the 2012 King and Queen of Carnival, at the Dimanche Gras show on Carnival Sunday night.
But even if the NCBA does make the return of the trophies a priority, retrieving “A Tribute to Trinidad Carnival” could prove a logistical nightmare since it is currently in Toronto, Canada.
Eustace, who received the King of Carnival trophy in 2005, says he was never informed by the NCBA that it was a challenge trophy.
“That information was never passed on to me. I have between four and five hundred trophies and they are all in Toronto.
“Had I known it was a challenge trophy,” the veteran mas man ended, “I would certainly have given it back.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Curtis Eustace is a nine-time winner of the King of Carnival title. His most recent victories came in 2005, 2007 and 2010. Pamela Gordon won successive Queen of Carnival titles in 2005 and 2006.