The creativity of Trinidad and Tobago’s culture and unique traditional aspects of this country’s Carnival characters have been documented in a book by artist, turned author, Virginia Pacifique-Marshall.
The book is hailed as an essential and vital link to the country’s rich heritage. Titled The Carnival Suite, the book is a collection of traditional Carnival characters of T&T and represents the collection from Pacifique-Marshall’s 2012 body of work from her series “Traditional Carnival Characters”.
The gala launch of the book was held recently at the National Library and Information Centre (Nalis) in Port of Spain. Pacifique-Marshall said she is humbled by the support for her latest project. She said the intention of the book was to preserve our tradition but also to excite the minds of students, teachers and the general reader. The book, she said, is also aimed at creating a greater interest in local traditional mas and will also serve as a catalyst for discussion and research. “We are losing these beautiful characters that have been with us for so long. I’ve observed that, not only do the children not know or identify with these characters, but even many of the adults don’t know them,” Pacifique-Marshall said.
Writer Marina Ama Omowale Maxwell lauded Pacifique-Marshall’s work. She said The Carnival Suite captures our exuberant creativity in a kaleidoscope of colours and structure. Maxwell, however, said she was deeply concerned that some of T&T’s culture and heritage are not being properly documented.
She called for a museum to document mas. “We are hardly getting this kind of documentation of our culture and traditional mas. We are a very young nation and we are going to make a lot of mistakes and we have made a lot of mistakes; but we are teenagers when it comes to the growth of the country and we have to document our past. We have to create institutions that will document our past and prepare for the future because if people grow up not knowing what existed in our society what are they going to produce down the line? Think about it...our mas will get cheaper and cheaper until they won’t even bother to wear the feathers anymore and we are waiting for the day when somebody comes out in body paint and it is happening already and this is because we would have lost our heritage. We need a tremendous Carnival museum to document mas; not only the first part of mas but ongoing mas and to lay a foundation for the future mas,” Maxwell said. Maxwell said as the Caribbean Commissioner for Schomburg, Centre for the Preservation of Black Culture, she is concerned not only with black American documentation of black culture but the entire diaspora. She said more of Pacifique-Marshall’s work is needed and must be embraced.
Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Doctor Lincoln Douglas said he was happy with the publication of the book. He said the book was timely and represents the creativity and understanding of our history and values which are hidden behind the Carnival characters.
Praise and tributes for Pacifique-Marshall’s work also came from master artist LeRoy Clarke who described the book as a “Renewal of faith”. “just when our memory bank is arriving at a defunct state where foreign images threaten to obliterate our confidence in traditional forms bequeathed us as foundation; a very impressive suite of rich illustrations emerges from the concerned heart of Virginia-Pacifique-Marshall. Here is simple, literal and unblemished touches which remind us of things, peculiar to undertaking critical retrospection at strident junctures open to renewal of faiths, those that grant new possibilities,” Clarke said
The Star Apple publication features the artist’s own representation of various traditional Carnival characters including Bookman, jab-jab, Jab Molassie, Midnight Robber, Pierrot Grenade, Indian Mas, Fancy Indian, Minstrels, Burrokeet, Baby Doll, Fancy Clown. Also included are 15 interpretive pieces of three of Pacifique-Marshall’s own creations including “Regeneration” which according to the artist is designed to tickle the imagination of band leaders. The pieces “The Sound of the Wind” and “Queen of the Colony” are also part of the artist’s original work. There is also a representative of Peter Minshall’s famous Tan Tan and Saga Boy.
Virginia Pacifique-Marshall is a retired primary school teacher. After retirement, she plunged fully into art. In December 2005, she completed a study in the Fundamentals of Fine Art at The Art Academy in Tacarigua. This included drawing, proportioning, shading, colour theory, painting, perspective, pen and ink drawing and creativity. However, when Picasso’s cubism was introduced to her, she was drawn to it immediately. Cubism continues to dominate her style. In February 2012 she had her first solo art exhibition at the Normandie Hotel in St Ann’s. This special collection featured in The Carnival Suite of 12 traditional Carnival characters along with some of her own Carnival creations and her abstract experimental artwork.