Both Brian MacFarlane, creator of Trinidad's masquerade designs, and the musical band 3canal appeared to be in sync with their performances for this year's carnival, offering the best and most socially conscious productions for the season. Neither could ignore a concern for their island nation that in the recent past has experienced corruption scandals, a partial State of Emergency, curfews, high profile sexual mishaps and an increased violent crime rate that could have even marred carnival. Distinctive for their patriotic use of Trinidad's flag colours red, black and white, both Sanctification: In Search of designed by MacFarlane and 3canal's The Pappy Show - a critique of Trinidad's contemporary life and politics - expressed their pain for Trinidad's current state of affairs and a call for national reflection. Unsurprisingly, Sanctification's costumes with section titles such as Luxuria, Annihilation, and Patrioteer (shown here) were again outstanding for their innovation and mobility, securing MacFarlane's sixth successive win for the Mas road march parade. Meanwhile, 3canal's theatrical show although less well co-ordinated was risk-taking and ambitious. They used their musical presentation The Reckoning and J'ouvert mas entitled Occupy to powerfully communicate their concern for national renewal and healing. At a time when most masquerade bands have devolved into tourist entertainment and bacchanal, it is good to see these creators crossing artistic disciplines to raise consciousness and use the expressions of carnival as a vehicle for social change. See more images from carnival 2012, click here.
Since Peter Minshall's departure from Trinidad's annual masquerade competition, Brian MacFarlane has led the way in innovative costume design by improving and refining his mas every year. View the Gallery for MacFarlane's Mas. Humanity: The Circle of Life is MacFarlane's production for Carnival 2011, and many, including the artist himself, believe that it is his best ever. The concept of life with all its joys and tribulations has inspired MacFarlane to execute multiple designs using a diverse range of materials on portable wired frames that exude an Alice in Wonderland type fantasy. His overarching design principle is the use of black and white, consistently employed with shades of silver to unite the eleven band sections that include themes such as Birth, Baptism, Prayer, Male & Female, Love, Workers, Knowledge and Time. One might have expected this duo-chrome approach to become monotonous, especially with such a large band. But MacFarlane's lucid interpretations, ingenious use of shape and form, and imaginative accessories, keep the band's sense of movement and vibrancy alive from section to section. Perhaps his most elaborate accessory is hats inspired by such forms as clocks, workman's helmets, papal crowns and ethnic wraps, that lavishly distinguish one group from another. Winning for the fifth time in a row this week, MacFarlane admitted that the beads and tinsel of most of the other bands presented little competition. Those who enjoy carnival as art, however, appreciated the dignity with which masqueraders of all ages and races wore Humanity's universal theme. Crossing the Queen's Park Savannah stage late at night, the band was a mass of shimmering forms that inspired revelers and spectators alike and sealed MacFarlane's claim to the Minshall legacy. View the Gallery