Welcome to the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago

Traditional Mas Characters - Negue Jadin

(photo courtesy Bernard De Peaza, Creatures of the Mas, Caribbean Beat Magazine http://caribbean-beat.com/issue-71/creatures-mas#axzz3h6SuvXZa)

Stickfighters in partial Negue Jadin costume

This now extinct character, owes its origins to pre-emancipation days; a time when Carnival was celebrated exclusively by the plantocracy. While the slaves and free coloureds were confined to their own segregated celebrations, the plantocracy, on the other hand, was free to imitate the dress and customs of their slaves. The Negue Jadin (or field slave) was one such beloved Carnival costume.

Upon the abolition of slavery, former slaves were free to celebrate and adopted the Negue Jadin character in their celebrations, albeit ironically.

This costume consists of a mask, tight-fitting satin or khaki breeches, a bright, plain coloured shirt with a decorated "fol" (heart-shaped panel of contrasting colour sewn on the chest and bordered with swans down). The 'fol' was sometimes decorated with tiny mirrors and rhinestones.

Currently, the Negue Jadin costume is incorporated in various other traditional carnival celebrations, including the Calinda (stickfighting).

Traditional Mas Characters - Dragon

(Photo courtesy Abigail Hadeed, Caribbean Beat Magazine, http://caribbean-beat.com/issue-107/past-masters-mas#axzz3h6SuvXZa)

Besides being the source of inspiration for the Lovelace well-known novel, the Dragon Mas draws its origins from traditional Jab Jab or Devil Mas. While sometimes referred to as King Beast, the Dragon is a metaphorical representation of the forces of nature; a fiery beast from hell, that comes to bring destruction to all. Sometimes, the Dragon is restrained by chains held by imps.

As the story goes, the Dragon cannot cross water (holy water) to continue his path of destruction. His frustrations come across as a dance while the Imps, led by the King Imp, continue to tease and restrain him. The dance is one of the most beloved masques in traditional carnival celebrations.

The costume is straightforward with scales, a dragon head with a movable tongue, large elaborate wire-framed wings and a long scaled tail.

Traditional Mas Characters - Midnight Robber

(Photo courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago – CITT)

One of the most beloved and well-known of the traditional carnival characters line-up, the Midnight Robber graces stages and audiences with his colourful exaggerated costumes, based on the American Wild West, inclusive of an oversize cowboy hat with fringed brim. The hat’s crown comes in different shapes and colours, such as a, coffin. The Robber usually has a flowing cape adorned with symbols of death, a black satin shirt, black pantaloons, and black shoes/boots. However, modern interpretations can see the Robber in a variety of colours outside of the traditional black.

His unique speeches, called “Robber Talk”, are haughty invocations with origins from a variety of sources, including the Bible and other pieces of classical literature, like Shakespeare. The Robber is also known for his trademark whistle that he blows before he addresses his audience. Often the Robber will have a prop gun, sword or dagger and a wooden money box in the shape of a coffin with which he will “threaten” his audience.

Traditional Mas Characters - Soumayree

(Photo courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago – CITT)

One of the lesser-known traditional characters, Soumayree typically consists of a woman on a horse, similar to the Burrokeet costume. It is based on the Hindu rite where the horse was used in worship to the goddess, Durga (Kali).

Traditional Mas Characters - Sebucan

(Photo courtesy Grace Hallworth), Storyteller  http://denaruttenhall.blogspot.com/2010/07/art-of-playing-mas-sebucan.html

A traditional masque (a form of 16th and 17th Century festive courtly entertainment) popular in the early 1900’s, the Venezuelan/Amerindian-based Sebucan was traditionally performed at Carnival time at Tamarind Square, next to the Catholic Cathedral.

The Sebucan, which resembles the English Maypole dance, is composed of striking patterns, complicated weaves and fascinating motifs. Participants typically wore costumes, paper crowns, such as masks and hats, and were musically accompanied by guitars, quatros and maracas.

While it is now no longer performed at Carnival time, the Sebucan is sometimes performed as part of traditional carnival celebrations, or by primary and secondary schools as a celebration of the blooming of the beautiful poui and the transition from the dry season to the rainy season.