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Traditional Mas Characters - Calinda or Kalenda (Stick Fighting)

Calinda or Kalenda (Stick Fighting)

Photos courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT)

The Kalenda (Calinda), a stick dance, owed its origins to pre-colonial times, as early as the late 1700's.  The term Kalenda emerged as a general term for the stick-fight, the dance, the songs and other performances that accompany it. Contrary to some mythology, Kalenda is not a hybrid of African stick fighting and European fencing, but is more closely related to the African-descended martial arts.

Traditional Mas Characters - Gatka


Photos courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT)

With origins dating back to Northern India (currently Pakistan), Gatka is a highly ritualised fighting dance form that is attributed to the god Shiva and his devotees. While it has passed through generations as a regional system of fighting, in actuality, the art is not unique to any particular ethno-cultural group or religion, but has been the traditional form of combat throughout north India and Pakistan for centuries.

Traditional Mas Characters - Dame Lorraine

Dame Lorraine

Photos courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT)

Today, the Dame Lorraine traditional character appears as a female dressed in the style of a rich planter’s wife. However, in the beginning, the Dame Lorraine was not a single character. In fact, the Dame Lorraine was a collective of characters who took part in an elaborate skit or parody of these early French Planters. Long ago, this theatrical performance would take place on Dimanche Gras.

The Dame Lorraine poked fun not only at the elaborate festivities of the rich planters but also their physical infirmities. The name of each character was in French Creole. These names were very descriptive and pinpointed certain bodily defects. At one time, the big bottom and the big breasts were worn by separate characters. Today, both are combined into one outfit, worn by one character. In the past, mostly men portrayed Dame Lorraines. As of late, mostly women portray the character.

Traditional Mas Characters - Bat


Photos courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT)

Bats sometimes play with clown bands, sometimes as bat bands, and sometimes as individuals.

The typical bat costume is normally black or brown, (although white bats are not uncommon) made of swans down with papier-mâché face, teeth, nose and eyes, and fitted tightly over the masquerader's body. While claws are sometimes attached to the shoes, the headpiece always covers the masquerade's head completely.

The masquerader sees through an opening in the headpiece where the mouth is located. The wings, which may be as large as 12 to 15 feet, are made from wire and cane, and may be covered with nylon or cotton fabric or the same material as the skin-fitted costume.

Traditional Mas Characters - African Mas

African Mas

Photos courtesy the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT)

A staple from the Golden Age of Carnival of the middle 20th Century, African Mas, like its forbears, drew its inspiration from actual history for its presentation. While traditional African masquerade used rags and spears to illustrate and perpetuate the notion of an uncivilised Africa, George Bailey revolutionised the presentation with his groundbreaking “Back to Africa,” and later with his “Bright Africa,” both of which challenged prevailing stereotypes about African nations. In many respects, the presentations showed the world that elaborate, well-designed displays of African beauty and creativity could easily match those of traditional Roman and Greek-themed presentations.