Published on December 15th, 2008 | by carnivalnetwork3
Outsourcing Our Culture: From Trinidad to the Caribbean to Asia
Outsourcing Our Culture : Carnival Moves From Trinidad to the Caribbean to Asia
As a child during carnival my mother would drive me to different mas tents to see what camp had what theme for that year. Some themes we saw repeatedly, some tents were so colorful, some costumes we thought lack luster but what we saw consistently were vibrant mas men and woman; cutting, pasting, coloring, stitching, glittering a costume down, all while dancing to sweet Soca music. Mas tents are one of my favorite places to be during carnival. Those very same workers would be out on the streets with us masqueraders.
Download Maashup For More Carnival Costumes, News, Fetes and Photos.
Those who help produce costumes would earn their right to play free mas and participate in the street jump up, while others would walk side by side making sure each costume is still fresh byÂ having glue on stand by, or a staple gun, or glitter and oil to make sure every piece looked magical and priceless for street judging. As we fast forward to present time Iâ€™ve noticed a new trend in certain countries (the states included) I see lessmas men and women crafting costumes and intricate pieces, and I see more generic costumes that clearly show they were manufactured in a shop. Some costumes look like a repeat from another island, or just a repeat from the previous year. One island in particular that seems to endorse outsourcing the production of their costumes is Trinidad and Tobago (the mother island of Carnival).
Outsourcing costume productions help cut cost, and produce by the masses that many tents cannot do with just man power. Another argument thatâ€™s been circulating is why not cap the amount of masqueraders in a band hence hiring enough man power that can help produce the expected amount of costumes. Why outsource from China when Trinidad (and several other countries) has manufacturing plants that could produce the costumes that way it creates jobs for those living in Trinidad and keeps the money flowing throughout the economy. I spoke with a manufacturer who said he isnâ€™t the mastermind behind the creativity of the costumes he just produces them and heâ€™s very impressed with whatâ€™s created out of Trinidad. But through observation you see some mas camps producing the same style with maybe a change in color, or theme.
Many years ago mas was about expression of our culture with bursts of self expression. With the outsourcing of costumes you see the first stages of watering down the culture, keeping it rather simple. You see less mas men and women in mas tents singing, dancing, cutting, and altogether creating, but rather them taking your names at registration and asking for your name to give you your costume.
What can we expect for the future of Carnival if we start with something as small as outsourcing costumes what will we do next? Another question that comes to mind is if itâ€™s so cheap to outsource a costume than why a masquerader must still spend hundreds of dollars on a costume, shouldnâ€™t that cost also be cut considering you donâ€™t have to pay a person to work half as hard as the one pushing the buttons to produce the costumes by the dozen. Trinidad is the mother of Carnival it was the last place many expected to outsource costumes, with all the patriotism the people display you would hope keeping the production of costumes within the country if not the Carnival region a must. I hope when my children are old enough to play mas I could still find a mas camp filled with mas men and women creating a costume for my child to chip down the road in. Are we really cutting cost or creating a new trend that is killing our culture?
For carnival 09 take a trip to the various mas tents and observe who created their costumes versus who manufactured their costumes. Then imagine if all costumes for Carnival were outsourced what does that really mean for the future of Carnival? Keep in mind some shipments come in late while others may not come in at all, if they are produced at home all you have to do is stand in line and wait for the mas camp to create that missing piece or mend that broken piece. Carnival is our culture, yes itâ€™s fantastic that other cultures are interested in how we have Carnival but certain things should be kept at home and not taken abroad one of those things is the creation and production of our carnival costumes.
-Written by Chandy
- Photography by Sean James