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Jouvay Ayiti and blink | bmobile Preserve Ole’ Mas Tradition

Staring into the eyes of death - The head of the Grim Reaper, created by Lee Lutchman and Lisa Ali to represent their IMPsPERSONsNATION of the justices at the Dominican Constitutional Court who passed a ruling that effectively denationalized hundreds of thousands of citizens, most of whom had Haitian parentage.
Jouvay Ayiti and blink | bmobile Preserve Ole’ Mas Tradition Port of Spain, Trinidad, February 28th, 2014 
 
Created originally as a response to the devastation that occurred after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Jouvay Ayiti started off as an attempt to support Haiti and Haitian students at the University of the West Indies. It was the combined effort of a number of groups including the Lloyd Best Institute, Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA), Studio 66 and the Curepe Scherzando Pan yard. 
 
The concept was that more could be done for Haiti than just sending over food items. But rather, an effort could be made to educate the population on a greatly misunderstood Caribbean culture. 
 
The name ‘Jouvert Ayiti’ is a reflection of the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago’s J’ouvert and Haiti’s Carnival and Rara traditions. ‘Jouvay’ is deliberately used as opposed to ‘J’ouvert’ as a reminder of the aspect of the festival that has been created and meant to depict images of mud and earth. ‘Ayiti’ is the original Taino name for Haiti and translates directly into ‘land of green mountains/hills’. 
 
Traditional Mas has largely become a thing of the past. In a sense, that is what defines it as traditional. Nowadays, the trend of beads and bikinis has eclipsed the historical concepts that fostered creativity and originality in Mas making. Jouvay Ayiti however, is attempting to turn back the hands of time and provide some much needed contrast amidst the normal frolicking of Monday Mas. 
 
What is left after the devastation of a rich culture? - More Culture! And, in Jouvay Ayiti, that is where the Mas begins. 
 
You will find no beads, bikinis or … chocolate in the Jouvay Ayiti Mas camp. Just a pure old fashion play on what Carnival was once really about. 
 
You will find the students and lecturers at the UWI Creative Arts Centre, St Augustine working studiously on their 2014 costumes. Some are just there to learn and for the fun of it. It is clearly a learning experience for everyone involved and if you are to dig just a little deeper, you will find that there is more to be learnt than just about Mas. 
 
Since 2011, Jouvay Ayiti has presented a J’ouvert band and this year is no different. This year, the 2-time Downtown Port of Spain Small Band Champion, makes a play on the word ‘impersonation’ with IMPsPERSONsNATION’. 
 
“It’s an old Mas title. It’s a devil Mas and people are free to interpret it however they feel,” shared Larri Richardson, one of the lecturers in the pre-Carnival workshop the band puts on. He went on, “I think that generally it is kind of trying to reflect the mood of what is going on in T&T at the moment and giving people the opportunity to express some of the ideas that are commonly maybe not good, the ones you would not necessarily hear from main stream media, but from individuals.” It is the essence of Ole’ Mas in a nutshell. 
 
Richardson was on hand for the second week of the workshop, sharing his knowledge on papier-mache particularly in the mas making process. In the first week, students were 
exposed to wire bending master, Kendell De Peaza. 
 
Some of the participants will display their creations from the workshops on J’ouvert morning. The idea behind the workshop is to fuse education and Mas-making so that students, which include persons of all ages and levels of education, can form a greater appreciation for Traditional Mas. Over the years, a number of well-known artists, including Ken Chrichlow, Kenwyn Murray, Anthea Octave and Peter Craig have shared their knowledge with students in the workshop. 
 
“Our commitment to culture extends to all ends of the cultural spectrum and support of projects like this should come as no surprise as our history as a Company and as a sponsor will show that we support the modern as well as the traditional. They both have their place in the Carnival and we are glad to have had the opportunity to support this venture through providing the raw materials for this workshop,” said Gervon Abraham, blink | bmobile’s, Manager External Relations and Government Affairs. 
 
All for the sake of keeping the flame of Traditional Mas alive, Jouvay Ayiti has successfully turned the seeds of a good deed into an edifying undertaking which has taken on a life of its own. True to its origins, on J’ouvert morning, in keeping with the idea behind the band, it will favour the live steel pan music of the Curepe Scherzando Steelband over a DJ on the road as it seeks its third straight downtown Port of Spain Small Band title. 
 
Captions: 
 
Larri Richardson demonstrates papier mache techniques with chicken wire to one of the participants of the recent Jouvay Ayiti workshop. 
 
Lee Lutchman is seen working on the head of her Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper conceptualized by Lutchman and Lisa Ali is their IMPsPERSONsNATION creation used to represent the Justices at the Dominican Constitutional Court who passed a ruling last year that effectively denationalized hundreds of thousands of citizens, most of whom had Haitian parentage.