If Machel is the foremost innovator of soca, Minshall is the foremost innovator of mas. Eccentric and chameleon-like, his designs have captured Trinidadian’s imaginations for several decades. Born in Guyana, his family moved to Trinidad when he was 4 and we consider him a ‘true son of the soil’.
From his official website:
Minshall was born in Georgetown, Guyana, but moved to Trinidad as a child after his father took a job as a cartoonist. Growing up in the capital, Port of Spain, he was exposed to Carnival from a young age. He made his first costume at the age of thirteen, entering the children’s Carnival competition as an African witch doctor, and winning a prize for originality. He attended Queen’s Royal College, then went on to study Theatre Design at the Central School of Art and Design in London.
Minshall’s costumes have sometimes been called “dancing mobiles.” “Mas” as he conceives it is performance art that combines the qualities of sculpture with those of movement. Each costume is designed with the motion of the performer in mind, so that performer and costume are one. “I provide the means for the human body to express its energy,” he says. His bands are never merely costumed parades, but exercises in total theatre, using music, drama, dance, and visual spectacle to communicate a metaphor-rich narrative.
Minshall claims that mas–“living art that we make fresh every year”–is the truest artistic expression of Trinidad. “Our aesthetic is performance, the living now.” A major aim of his life’s work has been to prove that mas can be “high” art, as capable of the sublime or the universal as any other artform.
Costume Design by Peter Minshall
Callaloo, is the name of Peter Minshall’s design company. It is also the name of a well-known local dish, one that is considered by some to be our national one.