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Minshall in great griefthat

...as “Spiritus Mundi” denied to the world
Published: 
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Veteran designer and mas-maker Peter Minshall at his Federation Park, home. PHOTO: CHARLES KONG SOO

Veteran designer and mas-maker Peter Minshall was celebrated and honoured on Dimanche Gras (Carnival Sunday) as an icon among other artists. On Carnival Tuesday, his post-nuclear sailor mas, Spiritus Mundi (World Spirit)—meshing together Mary Shelley-like elements of classic robber mas and classic sailor mas was ignominiously deleted from the airwaves during the live coverage of the parade of bands and was replaced with a pre-recorded feed of North American Indian like an Orwellian erasure.

It had a devastating effect on Minshall emotionally.

In stark contrast to the “pretty mas” that preceded his band onstage, his dystopian sailor mas came on in deathly silence accompanied by Exodus Steel Orchestra with grotesque phantom heads and skulls and white banners with gaping mouths and empty sockets in silent screams, trailing suckered tentacles in their wake to resemble a bombed-out post-apocalyptic world.

Minshall said the band was meant to make an anti-nuclear statement to show the folly of nuclear proliferation and how the world had become a more dangerous place in the age of US President Donald Trump.

He said the presentation was inspired by the poem, The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats (1865- 1939) written in 1919, in the aftermath of the destructive First World War.

Speaking to the Sunday Guardian from his home in Federation Park on Friday, the dapper 75-year-old Minshall in his cravat and black long-sleeved shirt-jac, turned the interview into an immersed, impassioned story telling.

Minshall said, “When I saw it on television that they turned the switch off and brought on fancy Indians in our stead, I was in a state of great grief.

“The little band of artists and artisans, people from UWI, my own crew of old men who had crawled out of their cupboards who hadn’t done mas for ten years, Kathryn Chan became the band leader and her aide de camp was Byron Joseph, Tunji and Sam and many others finished it beautifully.

“They didn’t do it in a finicky way of fashion designers, they did it like it was mas, made it up and structured it like it was a tadjah that it had a religious quality.

“I went down on the ground on my hands and knees like some Greek tragic hero pounding the ground and was weeping saying no and weeping for my country.”

He said once one upon a time people came to see the mas, now everybody, mainly women, were “playing the a...”, everybody was bent over and gyrating.

Minshall said it was not a wine anymore, it was a “pum pum spectacle” and it made Trump’s innocuous remarks about “grabbing p---y” seem child-like in comparison.

He said in the Trinidad Carnival it was all turned backwards to you like some offering animal and it was done with such gracious delight.

Minshall’s chicken wire, cloth and glue depiction was to show retro 1950s mas like how it was used to be made taking people back to that time and also forward.

Minshall said it was to show that mas could be elevated as high art as opera, painting or music. He called on the powers-that-be to make sure to correct this injustice not for him, but for the people of the country with a 20-minute time slot at prime time of the mas band performing on stage.

When NCC (National Carnival Commission) Chairman Kenneth De Silva was contacted yesterday for a comment, he said he was unaware of the situation involving Minshall’s omission.