Behind the Mas – Exousia’s Safari: A Modern Approach To African Mas

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By Essiba Small

Patrice Roberts’ “Anxiety”, blasting from a speaker near the door of the Exousia Mas Camp, served as the  perfect  welcome to the band’s Picton Street mas camp.

Led  by Colin Providence,  Exousia will present Safari for Carnival 2024.

We had to walk past mannequins in costumes from five of the band’s sections – Maasai Mara, Saharan Viper, Serengeti, Panthera, Zambezi – to get to the production room, where Carlene Walton, Marielle Gordon-Bishop, Avonelle Franklyn, and Melissa Patrick sat at two tables sipping on cool beverages.

It looks like a girls lime, but a working one; everyone was occupied with something or other.  

“We are 80% complete,” Providence said.

Walton, who was putting together the foot pieces for the section Panthera, has been a part of  Exousia for one year. A primary school teacher, she said she got involved with the band because she enjoys the creativity of mas. This year, she also got the opportunity to design the female Serengeti costumes to match the male costumes, designed by Ainsley Pierre.

The three-layer ultra backpack, hung in the  camp’s storeroom, its fabric feathers – done by Sally, a friend of the band – spread out against the wall.

As soon as her day job ends, Walton heads to the camp. Even though she leaves the camp in the wee hours of the next morning, she told us that she is  never late for work.

“I get my stamina from Jesus,” she said, half jokingly.

“I love the people I meet here, the atmosphere; the creativity; the idea of working with my hands and giving a part of myself back to my country and culture.

Marielle Gordon-Bishop is also a part of the mas-making experience at Exousia because of the culture.

“My father was a cultural aficionado and one of the founding members of the Malick Folk Performers,” she said, her eyes still on the project in front of her.

She has been with the band for the past three years and said the togetherness of the creatives draw her to this space.

“Our Exousia committee comprises over 40-  something individuals,” Providence said.

“Their role is multifaceted and includes sales, promotions and production.

“Some of them are currently out at the Hott 93.5 fm Burn doing promotions, we are also sponsors of the event. They will arrive shortly, before this interview is over, to join the others in the production.”

Sure enough, 30 minutes or so later, Azariah Waithe, Kevan David, and Nathaniel Cadiz walk in, ready to join the rest of the team in the production room.

Pumped from the Burn event, they were full of energy. Azariah, moved by the music of the season, took a wine at the door before she started on the costumes. Providence said he always wanted to explore the African continent through a mas portrayal.

“When people think of African mas, they think of the traditional – it must have a spear, elephant and a zebra.

“I wanted to take a different approach to African mas, a more modern approach.”

Providence said registration was slow in the beginning, but has picked up.

“This was our slowest start and we still can’t figure out why. We got a good reception at the launch; people were interested, but took long to pay down on their costumes. Things got better by October.”

Providence, who also serves as designer and production hand in Exousia said his band is looking forward to hitting all the judging points on the road.

“Exousia masqueraders love they party and thing, but they don’t like to stand in one place; they like to travel,” he said with a laugh.

“We are a competing band.”

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