Celebrating the legacy of Jason Griffith’s sailor mas
The legacy of Jason Griffith’s sailor mas was the focus of a panel discussion and exhibition held on 19 March 2015 at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago. The panel discussion and exhibition came on the heels of the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra securing the 2015 Carnival Band of the Year title for their portrayal of sailor mas entitled “Ships Ahoy At A French Festival.”
A distinguished panel of speakers which included Rawle Gibbons of the UWI Department of Creative and Festival Arts, Ralph Dyette, King Sailor, Robert Miller, designer, and Keith Simpson, Chair and Member, Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors (D’BESS), recounted the evolution of traditional sailor mas to fancy and king sailor mas, the role of Belmont in the metamorphosis of mas, and the influence of Jason Griffith’s sailor mas in the Golden era of the 1980s and 1990s. Archival video footage of Griffith’s sailor mas and interviews with the pioneer of sailor mas, Jim Harding, and Jason Griffith, provided by the Carnival Institute, enlivened the evening’s proceedings. The session culminated with a demonstration of the sailor dance by champion King Sailor, Ralph Dyette, much to the delight of an engaging audience.
The exhibition featured the drawings of Robert Miller and other designers of Jason Griffith’s band portrayals in the Golden era, showcasing his elaborate head pieces and colourful sailor costumes. Archival records on the man, his art and his work, from the National Archives collection, as well as two King Sailor costumes were also on display.
Avril Belfon, Government Archivist (right) and Avalon Dougan, Archives Assistant, National Archives,with panellists,(l-r) Keith Simpson, Ralph Dyette, Robert Miller and Rawle Gibbons after the panel discussion.