Native American with a twist as YUMA launches 2017 designs

By Natasha Ofosu
Photographer Christian Hume

Trinidad & Tobago | Tuesday 13 September 2016: 10:10 BST

YUMA, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s large costume bands, is going Native American with a touch of Europe, Africa and India for Carnival 2017. The band launched its latest theme, ‘The Origins, From Whence We Came’ on 6 August at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, to a hugely receptive audience.

Fourteen sections, which will cater for up to 3000 masqueraders, were unveiled, portraying interpretations of the essence of indigenous American tribes such as Cheyenne, Cherokee and Navajo; the Tuareg and Zulu from Africa; and, in a nod to India, Gole, presumably inspired by the famous market in New Delhi.

The presentation began shortly before 1am with the appearance of Boudica, a striking all-female section whose models wore brown leatherette bondage-style cut-out bathing suits with gold detailing. Oozing sexiness and capturing the warrior spirit of the British Celtic queen after whom the section was named, the costumes were completed by a hooded brown leopard-print cape and feathered neck piece in a choice of bright orange, yellow and cobalt blue.

Boudica was one of four sections created by flamboyant designer David Dewer. The others were Maquarri whose signature colours were teal, maroon and yellow; Cai in teal, ochre, brown and cream; and Columbiana, a section which stood out not only for the vibrant red and turquoise plumes of its backpacks and headpieces, but also the embellished geometric-print bathing suits and beading on the female headbands and necklaces.

Dewer jointly produced one further section, Tuareg, with Marie Collette (the brand name of swimwear designer Keisha Thomas). Stretching the bounds of artistic licence, the costumes bore no resemblance to the dress of the nomadic Saharan tribe who are known for their distinctive male and female headwraps. Instead, the main points of interest were tassels at the temples, shoulders and hips of the masqueraders - which were more congruent with the overall theme of the band. Marie Collette achieved greater authenticity with her other two sections, Zulu and Anhinga.

‘The Origins, From Whence We Came’ heralds the debut of duo Alejandro Gomez and Tracey Julien, who created the section Navajo, and marks the return of Monday Wear designer Keisha Als to Carnival Tuesday costuming with Inti, a section dominated by fiery orange feathers with injections of teal for contrast.

Crystal Aming, who has been with Yuma since its inception, infused the collection with a high degree of originality in her section Kente. Her designs featured clear plastic bathing suits with strips of African dashiki-print cloth placed strategically to spare the masqueraders’ blushes. The section had a couple of individual costumes which in shape and texture were reminiscent of traditional African masquerade, particularly in the fabric-and-feather rara skirts which swirled dynamically as the models danced. Another of Crystal’s three sections, Gole, was a delectable, cool mint confection with an eye-catching chandelier neckpiece made of ivory cowrie shells.

Although Origins is the work of an ensemble cast of designers (rounded off by Adrian Wilson, who created Iktomi, and Rawle Permanand with Cheyenne), none of them has really challenged the aesthetic status quo in Trinidad and Tobago’s mas.

High-cut thong whole bathing suits with intricate ties about the torso and legs were favoured for the frontline costumes as were geometric prints and matte beading generally. The designers showed a strong penchant for pheasant tail feathers (identified by distinctive black horizontal stripes running the length of the plume), which appeared in almost every section and is a recurring feature in Yuma’s costumes. The palette could be called ‘a study in blue’, since again almost all the designs featured shades of the colour - from cobalt and royal to turquoise and teal.

Yuma’s prices, now available on their website, of course include more than just the costume; would-be masqueraders can expect an all-inclusive experience for their money, with tight security, food, premium drinks and an assortment of goodies on the road.

It is likely the band will stick to the controversial trend they started in 2014, with Harts and a few other large bands, of parading through the Jean Pierre Sports Complex on the far-west fringe of Port of Spain. Dubbed the ‘Socadrome’ (think Sambadrome in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro), the venue offers patrons a chance to view masqueraders from a comfortable vantage point. The bands have preferred it to the traditional Carnival route, which passes through the Queen’s Park Savannah further east, in order to avoid congestion.

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Soca News
June 2017

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