Caribbean vibes at Brooklyn Museum

From left, Martin Haywood, former band leader and current distributer of the Peter Minshall documentary “Mas Man,” Shelley V. Worrell, founder and chief director of caribBeing and Dalton Narine, director and producer of the Peter Minshall film documentary, “Mas Man.”
Photo by Kevin Bollers

This past Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 was Target First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum. Every first Saturday of the month, the Brooklyn Museum attracts thousands of visitors from all over to free art and entertainment each month. This month in collaboration with caribBeing, they celebrated Brooklyn’s vibrant Caribbean Communities through music, film and dance. The Brooklyn Museum and caribBeing tag teamed this past Saturday to feature among many events, a live fashion show, showcasing Caribbean designs by Tiffany Rhodes, founder and Chief Designer of BUTCH DIVA. There was also a live performance by the Brooklyn-based Request Band (RQB), who blends a unique style of calypso with reggae, dancehall, funk and alternative music.

The organization known as caribBeing promotes the Caribbean Diaspora through the lens of Caribbean culture, art and cinema. One such cinematic attraction for the evening was the movie, “Mas Man” directed and produced by Dalton Narine in 2010. The movie tells the story of Peter Minshall, the avante guard artist who changed the face of carnival culture in Trinidad. In the opening scene of the movie, we see Peter Minshall sitting down with reporters saying, “Do not get me confused with a band leader or a fashion designer, I am more than that. I am a Mas Man!” The film shows the journey of the legendary Mas Man who made his debut in 1974 in Trinidad’s Kiddies Carnival with his winning costume portrayal, Hummingbird. Hummingbird was worn by his adoptive sister Sherry-Ann Guy.

Peter Minshall now 71 years of age, produced twenty-six bands and trotted them out as street theatre. However, according to Dalton Narine, his seminal work was his 1985 Carnival presentation, The Golden Calabash, which comprised two distinct bands about Good and Evil: Lords of Light and Princes of Darkness along with “Paradise Lost” inspired By Milton. This presentation, according to Narine, was a watershed moment that turned Mas upside down and caused many people to gravitate to Minshall. This would also lead him to become an Emmy Award-winning artistic director for no less than an incredible and unprecedented three Olympic games. In watching the film, the one thing that will stick out for the individual that knows anything about the artistry of Mas is that Minshall’s work is the type that is timeless. His work can never be considered dated. The ever-relevant messages conveyed through the artistry of his work makes it such that it transcends eras and generations. Dalton Narine’s “Mas Man” has been shown in various areas of Europe, Africa, Latin America, South America and has won eleven awards worldwide.

On being able to showcase films like “Mas Man” and other Caribbean art mediums, Matthew Branch, the Academic Programs Coordinator for the Brooklyn Museum was asked how this collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum and caribBeing came about as well as its benefits. According to Branch, the museum is responsible for 400 to 500 programs a year, so they felt privileged to be able to celebrate the Caribbean community every single year. The museum realized that as individuals, they did not have the expertise necessary to reach every single community. That being the case, by reaching out to organizations like caribBeing which have more of a specialty and in some cases more deeply rooted in certain communities, the Brooklyn Museum is able to find the freshest films, like “Mas Man” and other artists from Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean to connect more with the community that they are trying to represent. The Brooklyn Museum has actually been working with Shelley V. Worrell, the Founder and Executive Director of caribBEING for three years, not only for the carnival season, but for Black History Month as well.

In talking about the origins of caribBeing, Shelley explained that while she was attending college right here in New York City, she felt that the Caribbean was severely underrepresented and needed a voice. While people were able to find parties and Mas camp events, when it came to Caribbean films and other underrepresented emerging artists, she felt that there was a huge gap in opportunity. At the time, she had neither the resources nor the experience or the network to get the organization off of the ground, but around 2010 Shelley ran into a colleague who she had went to school with. This friend remembered that this was the type or organization and program that Shelley desired to bring to life. Her friend was programming a space in Flatbush called the Caribbean Literary and Cultural Center at the Brooklyn Public Library where she asked Shelley and her crew to put up a series of films, which they did. However, it wasn’t very successful because frankly, according to Shelley, they weren’t very good at what they did back then. However, caribBeing learned a lot in the process and they were able to grow and refine since then, presenting annual programming. After this past Saturday’s event, many would say that the union between the Brooklyn Museum and caribBeing are a match made in Caribbean heaven.

Tiffany Rhodes (center) founder and chief designer of Butch Diva standing with her models wearing Carribean fashion.
Photo by Kevin Bollers

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