Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mas camp journal, part 2

sacred heart cones

Metal cones waiting to become Sacred Heart helmets

It's maybe twenty to eight by the time we park outside the Callaloo Company mas camp in Chaguaramas. We pick our way to the gate round a vast puddle, and into the bright, warm hanger, full of people and noise, conversation and the whines and roars of power-tools. The key people look like they haven't slept in days, and you can almost smell the adrenaline (or are those glue fumes?).

At the far end of the space, two heads are being sculpted out of fibreglass. Closer to hand, a team of four people is arduously threading an eight- or nine-foot spiral of wire into a cloth accordion--a giant puppet's limb. It's the night before the Carnival king and queen preliminaries, and Son of Saga Boy and Miss Universe--the king and queen of The Sacred Heart--are still being assembled, major structural decisions thrashed out on the spot.

I report for volunteer duty, and am assigned to what turns out to be a hairdressing class. Each helmet for the Bruised Heart section requires a sort of wig made from a raffia-like material. A determined young woman tries to show me how to bundle the raffia into clumps, sew it, braid and wrap and trim and weave it. I know already I'll never be able to do this. Wig-making is not a skill I've managed to acquire. I ask meekly if there's anything else I can do, some menial, repetitive task.

Yes: someone has to cut three hundred three-quarter-inch strips of black foam "rubber", somehow crucial to the internal architecture of the wigs. I find a corner of a worktable, a steel ruler, an ice-pick to score the sheets of foam, a scissors. I put my head down and get to work.

My little corner is a shoal of calm in a sea of energy. I half overhear many discussions. Someone asks K--- the artist whether the helmets will heat up in the sun and melt the wigs. "Don't worry about that, it's gonna rain." C--- the production manager escorts a young man to the neighbouring table. "This is the king. He wants to help. I don't want him working with metal in case he damages his hands." Other people come over to scrutinise the detailed drawings pinned up on a board, figuring out where to put a stitch, insert a rivet. Metal cones which will soon be "samurai" helmets pile up in a corner.

Then: the Voice. He must have come in the back entrance. Genius is entitled to be agitated the night before his work makes its public debut. The lieutenants scurry back and forth carrying fragments and samples for his inspection. "Somebody get Minshall a glass of water!" Out of the corner of my eye I see him smiling at the metalworkers.

It's nearly midnight by the time I've finished my three hundred foam strips. They're neatly bundled and bagged and labelled and stowed on a shelf. I take a walk down to the other end of the hanger to see what's going on. The air is thick with fibreglass dust.

The regular costume builders are starting to go home. The king and queen teams will be here all night. Tomorrow Son of Saga Boy and Miss Universe must dance at the Savannah.

(See Georgia's Callaloo Company mas camp photos here.)

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