Tag Archives: mas

>>>Throwback Grace’s Merrymakers

I don’t think I ever shared this here. Go here to read about it.

Go here to read about the book.

That’s the mango tree faerie – the character inspiring our mas – in her hands.

I have other plans for this book – example the play I adapted from it and revised during the pandemic and would like to do something with, not sure what, maybe for next year’s Book and Copyright Day if I can get funding.

I had a cloth doll when I was a kid. I’ve been thinking it would be cool to see the main character, maybe even the faerie as a cloth doll – we need more merchandise from Black children’s books in the marketplace. I need to figure out how to make that happen.

Never say never. After all, we made the troupe happen.

And believe it or not, our mas troupe of three started with an idea for a Carnival float. And I kinda sorta would like to see our idea for the tree on stilts play out, some how, some way, some day.

Carnival has been gone for two years; never underestimate the power of the impossible.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Rick James obit. (Links)

‘Reflecting on his breakthroughs, James once told me in an interview, “I was able to demonstrate that someone from a small country could compete with the best.”’

This is an excerpt from my most recent CREATIVE SPACE entitled Theatre on the Road and on the Stage: Rick James which is also syndicated at Antiguanice.com – which allows the post to reach potentially tens and tens of thousands and more (Ad! alert! Ad! alert! so for businesses in Antigua and Barbuda this series is an opportunity to boost your brand while boosting local art and culture. Email me at jhohadli at gmail dot com to find out how).

The post speaks about his acting career and his career in mas – his efforts on both fronts to elevate and keep both arts alive here at home after conquering the stage and TV overseas. Here’s one of his old headshots.


You might also be interested in this piece and this one from the Daily Observer newspaper.

RIP to another of our artists.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.


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Carnival is Mas

Some of you who read this blog are not Antiguan or even Caribbean so when I talk about Carnival I’m not quite sure what you picture (some of you do have Caribbean Carnivals where you are as it’s become one of our more popular exports – wherever  Caribbean people reside – Miami, Toronto, Notting Hill, Boston, New York, Atlanta etc. – there is a Carnival). But beyond the wining and soca, the rum and debauchery, there is a history rooted in our liberation as former enslaved people brought to the Americas from our home continent of Africa centuries ago. In Antigua, Carnival (which celebrated its 60th anniversary as a summer festival – the Caribbean Greatest Summer Festival to hear us tell it, though Rihanna and Barbados’ Cropover might have something to say about that – this year but existed as a Christmas season mas before that) intersects with Emancipation Day, August Monday, and there is a small adjacent, but not integrated, Emancipation celebration that’s more about honouring the ancestors and seeking justice for the lives eaten up by hundreds of years of enslavement. And then there is Carnival proper which begins with pre-fetes, and includes pageants (Queens and Teens), music competitions (soca, calypso, pan), and, of course, mas…because Carnival is mas. And in Antigua that mas takes up two business days (three if you count Children’s Carnival though Children’s Carnival unlike the other two days is not a national holiday) known as Carnival Monday and Tuesday at the end of which prizes are dispensed. I wanted to share some of the mas in this space.

How it works is that you have different mas bands (or troupes) and they play different themes (a new one each year) – from mythology to lost civilizations to things in nature to things in the great beyond, and beyond; it’s about history and fantasy, creativity and expression. There are adult categories and junior categories. I’m going to share pictures from Junior (i.e. Children’s) Carnival first because those are the only mas photos I found on the Antigua Carnival facebook (and it works out fine since this is a youth-focused arts blog); but don’t ask me to say who is who nor what they’re playing.

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The source for the images in the slideshow is Antigua Carnival on facebook.

I wanted to show some of the adult themes as well.

Staci Mua RussellopeningInsane

In order, the top image is a modern take on the John Bull by Stacey Russel (Stacey and Dem) – the John Bull is a traditional mas character who used to scare the devil out of us when we were kids. It is based on the masked African witch doctor and back in the day there was a cattle tender with a whip, and the horned character would charge the crowd, and people would scatter; it was a whole thing. Read more on the John Bull here. The second image is a member of a mini-mas group called Just Friends, because that’s literally what they are. Me and my crew played behind  them this year (but more on that in a minute). The third image is Insane Mas. All three placed in the competition this year. Read the full results here. Sorry there aren’t more adult pictures but it’s hard to pull more without pushing beyond fair  use boundaries – as it is these three are public posts from the mas pages (Stacey’s and Insane‘s) and the Carnival page on facebook.

Finally, this year, as I blogged here, two friends and I (as one media person repeatedly intoned “all three” of us) decided to do our own thing this year. An ulterior motive was showcasing a character from my most recent children’s picture book With Grace – a mango tree fairy. So yes, this is a shameless plug for my Caribbean fairytale (please pick up a copy for the young one in your life) but it’s also mas which we all love and have played many times together and apart over the years. These costumes are made by my friends (with funding from Titi Rent-a-Car, Townhouse Megastore, and Pink Mongoose) and inspired by the art work in the book (illustrated by Cherise Harris). I think we did okay.



That’s it!

Okay, fine, here are some more of the kids (love how much fun they’re having):

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-by Joanne C. Hillhouse, resident blogger and author

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A Message from Jouvay Ayiti

I’ve blogged on my author blog about the situation concerning the expulsion of Haitian residents in the Dominican Republic. I decided to post this email from Jouvay Ayiti here on the Wadadli Pen Blog where in addition to spotlighting the Wadadli Pen programme and the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, I’ve made a habit of sharing artistic activities and action, particularly where young people are involved. This particular action concerns the use of the arts by young Caribbeans in response to/protest against the treatment of the Haitians by the Dominican government. Here’s the message in full:

On Emancipation Day, August 1st 2015, Jouvay Ayiti took to the streets of Port of Spain in Mas Action (the conscious use of traditional mas/querade in social action and consciousness-raising) to dance our disapproval at the Dominican Republic’s ongoing mistreatment of Dominicans of Haitian heritage. This action continues our previous Mas Action stagings on July 3rd 2015, and November 6th 2013 when this current crisis first reared its ugly head.

These images serve as an introduction to the ways in which our collective continues to utilise the mas outside of carnival to:

•give voice to issues that affect regional freedom, and development;


•pay especial attention to Haiti who we recognise as central to Caribbean selfhood; and

•in light of the above, amplify the current goings on in the DR – by situating in the streets, the public domain – this outrage, which as a region we not have adequately ventilated.

Moreover, through a collaboration with our sister collective in Canada, we have also successfully supported a Toronto Mas Action on the same day (August 1st 2015), which was presented at the opening of CARIBANA festival’s street procession. As a complementary action we have commenced a ‘people’s embargo’ (at both sites) in which we have invited all our participants and the wider public to boycott all products and services from the Dominican Republic. Participants in our mas, like our audiences, have been encouraged to identify DR products, and have been working assiduously at compiling a more comprehensive list, which we will publish soon.


… is REAL Jouvay!

F: http://www.facebook.com/jouvayayiti

T: http://www.twitter.com/jouvayayiti (@jouvayayiti)

I: http://www.instagram.com/jouvayayiti


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The Carnival Zone

Ok, so this post has nothing to do with Wadadli Pen or writing, but I couldn’t let Carnival in Antigua pass without doing a Carnival post (this piece was written pre-Carnival, right on the eve of Carnival); here’s hoping we all had a good time but didn’t forget ourselves in the Carnival Zone.

Is there such as thing as the Carnival Zone? A Zone where we find ourselves saying to business associates, I’ll call you after the season? As if the season (not Summer, mind, but the Carnival season) represents one huge time out. Actually, it’d be interesting to find out how much actual work actually gets done during the Carnival season between recovering from the night before and anticipating the night ahead. Not a lot probably, though we are hard working folk and it’s not like time stops just because the Carnival spirit has seduced us into thinking we’re on a mini-break. We know on which side our bread is buttered, right?

Though who can blame us for feeling, as Carnival finally says luk mi yah, like we want nothing more than to dance away with it, fuelled by a beer or two and more music than we know how to say no to. The back log of work and the drudgery of it all is weak competition for this strange euphoria settling over us. We have entered the Carnival Zone.

Yes it does exist.

And as the days roll on and it continues to suck us in, will we be able to resist the temptation to spend money earmarked for mortgage and food, maybe to get a jump on school fees, instead on “ostrich plumes and feathers” knowing full well that we’re not really buying these flimsy items but the experience that comes with them.

After all as Red Hott reminded us a Carnival or two ago, “we love to play mas”. In fact, it sometimes feels like the rest of the year is a dream and we live to play mas. And as we continue to be sucked into the Zone, it’s hard to remember why it’s a bad idea to spend somewhere between $500 and $1200 on a two day street party. Or if the haze lifts and we do remember, in the Zone, it’s easy to find justifications for this bit of frivolity: … it only happens once a year…we’ve earned it…all work and no play…

We know if we don’t the sight of revelers dancing past will taunt us as it does every time we let the voice of reason penetrate the Zone, like an annoying ringing (time to get up!) intruding on a beautiful dream, a dream in which our past mas memories represent the absolute best times of our life. Better than our graduation, our marriage, the birth of our child, the publication of our book. Oh Gad! Who can resist such a temptation?

And have you noticed how in the Zone we seem to forget ourselves, baring, tearing, leering, all the while sneering at the unlucky lot who have to watch from the sidelines, who know all too well what they’re missing and how good it feels. And is that our boss over there watching us with his jaw on the ground?  Pick it up, Mister, don’t you know that like Vegas, what happens in the Zone stays in the Zone. Unless of course it ends up on YouTube – or given some of our antics, YouP*rn – but that’s a worry for Wednesday, after the Carnival. There are no frown lines in the Zone. Only big smiles and win’ing hips and unbridled bliss.

I’m being facetious, of course. But if my exaggerations have a point – and that’s questionable – Carnival is undoubtedly a time to release the pressure of jobs and bills and deadlines and relationship troubles…or it feels like it. Nothing wrong in embracing the positive vibes in the Zone (we sure need some good vibrations during this long drought)…as long as we don’t forget ourselves too much in the process; because what happens in the Carnival doesn’t necessarily stay in the Carnival, does it?

If only.

 As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, DancingNude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about
Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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