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Mess & Merriment

I felt like Mother Earth, so alive, so connected to everyone and every bit of positive joyful energy on the planet…

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Without a doubt, my favourite part of Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is J’ouvert. There is something about leaving the house in my old clothes in the wee hours of the morning, meeting up with friends to slather ourselves in baby oil and then find the band and get mud (my favourite), or paint. (I’ve never really been into the oil or cocoa options.)

I remember one year, I wasn’t just a reveller, I actually worked with the J’ouvert band. This was way back when I was a spring chicken living in T&T and working with Peter Minshall’s Callaloo Company. As members of 3 Canal (a top local rapso band) were also affiliated with Callaloo, we all downed tools after the last costume was made and left the mas’ camp to get muddy with their J’ouvert band. I loved it! It wasn’t my first J’ouvert but… standing on the back of that little pick-up truck with a giant barrel of mud at my feet, passing bottles and pans of mud out to the revellers – at one point literally flinging mud with my outstretched hands – I felt like Mother Earth, so alive, so connected to everyone and every bit of positive joyful energy on the planet.

It sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Like it couldn’t be real? Well it is. This is the magic of Carnival in T&T (sadly I have no pictures of my Mother Earth moment, lol!) – the messy, the muddy, the pretty, the sparkly, the nasty, the wild, the demure… everyone has a place in mas’ to revel and play themselves the way they want. The only rule is to let all your worries and fears go and just ENJOY! And it all starts officially with The Opening, The J’ouvert that I love.

“Mess & Merriment” is a painting about my first J’ouvert since migrating to the UK. Father forgive me, it had been over 10 years since my last mud madness. On this occasion, I was with friends introducing my British husband to T&T Carnival for the first time. He was in heaven! From 2am to 9am, we all sprayed each other with paint, wore massive colourful afro wigs, danced til our feet hurt and the sun came up. The photo is me jumping up behind my friend Joe as the hubby snaps a quick pic (while hoping no stray paint lands on his camera!) The joy on our faces is evident. The music kept us going, the water truck at the end hosed us all down while we danced in it like it was rain and sang along to our favourite songs. Naturally, somewhere along the route, a muddy band passed us and some very muddy souls infiltrated our paint band and the mess just increased! It was brilliant and I wanted to find a way to capture that messy, merry feeling again.

This piece was part of the collection I created especially for Carnival Expo 2016, which was held at The Oval in London.

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