Abigail’s Traditional Portraits

At the Traditional Mas 2007 at Adam Smith’s Square in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Abigail Hadeed was prodding her subjects to do a number of poses in the hope to capture the masquerader at his best. Her makeshift studio was located behind the stands, and was confined by a large navy green cloth draped between two trees. Hadeed was assisted by a staff of four people and the event looked very professional with a range of equipment such as a large format camera, and a gofer who ran back and forth replacing the negative film.

The scene looked as if it was taken from the nineteenth century as the photographer was caped with a heavy black cloth and soon was disrupted by a pack of Red Devils who just wanted to part take. Whether or not if these photographs are for her commercial or personal archives, she is preserving a part of Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival culture which is dying.

The individual being photographed is called a Fancy Sailor, a traditional masquerader who are less seen at Carnival competitions.

Death to the Traditionalists

Over the years I have always found that the closer the time gets to Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the more exciting and sentimental one becomes. Part of this feeling comes from going to see the old mas characters. Somehow this show provides a sense of history and continuity of the art form. However, in the past few years, the old mas portrayals have been steadily lessening. But what makes it sadder is that there are also fewer and fewer people going to the event.

I am not sure why this is the case and can only speculate. it may be that there are so many things to go to that cost more and thus cannot be missed. It may have been because pan finals took place in San Fernando San this year for the first time? Or it may be that the show has not expanded on its theme and people feel that every year it is the same thing. Whatever the cause, the presence of more photographers than spectators may prove its demise. – Adele

A Burrokeet performing at the square shows the sample of the public turnout.

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