Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community opens August 27 at the Connecticut Historical Society

July 31, 2015 · Press Releases

Hartford, Conn., July 30, 2015 – For the past five years, young people in Hartford’s West Indian-American community have elevated West Indian Carnival masquerade (Mas) traditions and art with support from the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP).

Beginning August 27, the colorful and elaborate Trinidad-style costumes they’re creating for Hartford’s Taste of the Caribbean Festival and the West Indian Parade on August 8 will be displayed at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS), 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford.

Dancing Teens at the Carribean Festival

Teens from the “Exotic Ones” Mas band perform at the Taste of the Caribbean Festival.

Titled Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community, the exhibit is the first collaboration between the two organizations since CHAP’s move to the CHS in June. The exhibit’s August 27 opening, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Similar to those worn in West Indian celebrations around the world, the Mas costumes reflect Caribbean tradition and craftsmanship. The teen participants in CHAP’s Mas program have spent six weeks learning how to design and build a complete costume, including headpiece, arm and foot bands, girdles, collars, backpacks, and all frames and attachments needed for wearing the elaborate structures.

Master costume maker Keimani “Q” Delpeche stands next to his creation.

Master costume maker Keimani “Q” Delpeche poses with a Junior Queen costume.

The teens are guided by master costume maker Keimani “Q” Delpeche, his experienced assistants Larry Cooper and Tanya Bynoe and several volunteer parents. In addition to building a complete Mas costume, the teens are trained by artistic director Harold Springer, dance teacher Clerona Cain, and dance assistant Asher-Lee Plummer in how to “display” their costume in the parade.

Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community will be on display at the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, from August 27 to October 10. Hours are Tuesday – Thursday: noon – 5:00 p.m., and Friday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $8 adults, $6 seniors (65 and over), $4 for students (with valid college ID) and youth (6-17). Admission is free for CHS members and children 5 and under.

Junior Queen costumes at the Taste of the Caribbean Festival.

Junior Queen costumes at the Taste of the Caribbean Festival.

Mas: Costumes from Hartford’s West Indian Community is supported by the City of Hartford Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant for 2015, Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor. CHAP’s participation is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts, and the Connecticut Historical Society. The Mas Camp project was originally developed along with the Institute for Community Research. For more information visit http://www.chs.org/mas.

Junior Queen and band section members at the West Indian Independence Day Parade.

Junior Queen and band section members at the West Indian Independence Day Parade.

About the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP)

The Institute for Community Research established the Cultural Heritage Arts Program in 1991 to document the state’s rich and diverse cultural traditions and to share the excellent artistic work and community experiences of folk artists living here. Now housed at the Connecticut Historical Society, the program’s activities contribute to greater public understanding of Connecticut’s history, cultural character, and changing demographics. CHAP partners with artists and their communities to record their traditional art forms and cultural practices, provides technical assistance that strengthens their resources, and develops public presentations that bring traditional artists and the stories of their communities to new audiences. Part of a nationwide network of public folklore programs, CHAP serves as Connecticut’s official folk arts program with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts/Department of Economic and Community Development, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Connecticut Humanities Council, the City of Hartford and several local foundations.

About the Connecticut Historical Society

A private, nonprofit, educational organization established in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. Located at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford, the CHS houses a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center that are open to the public and funded by private contributions. The CHS’s collection includes more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials accessible at our campus and on loan at other organizations.

The CHS collection, programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities, and make informed decisions based on our past and present.

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