Castle shows its Carnival spirit

The Bassman from Hell was one of the nicknames of the late calypsonian  Shadow. His family loaned his famous skeleton suit to display at the exhibition.
The Bassman from Hell was one of the nicknames of the late calypsonian Shadow. His family loaned his famous skeleton suit to display at the exhibition.

THERE are dragons and imps tied to the veranda of the newly-restored Stollmeyer’s Castle, now rechristened Castle Killarney. The traditional Carnival figures overlook the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain –authentic costumes on mannequins that gesture threateningly as part of an exhibition running until March 30.

Carnival at the Castle is a project of Castle Killarney and the Napa Management Committee in collaboration with the Carnival Institute, the National Archives, and the National Carnival Commission (NCC).

The exhibition spans the roots of Carnival in mas, pan and calypso through paintings, sculpture, photos, film, costume and artefact exhibits, printed memorabilia, and a musical soundtrack. Curation was a team effort, agreed Claire Woods of the Carnival Institute and Dominique Innis of Castle Killarney, on February 26 when the Newsday visited the exhibition.

The mask of one of Peter Minshall’s 1987 pierrots, on display at Carnival at the Castle, an exhibition at Castle Killarney, Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain.

“The real heroes of this exhibition are the groups of men, women and families of traditional Carnival who have loaned and donated exhibits and whose dedication to their craft enables the sustaining and nurturing of this critical element of the history of our country,” wrote Gillian Bishop, chair of the Napa Management Committee, in the exhibition’s brochure. Visitors can examine the details of Peter Minshall’s pierrots from the 1987 band Carnival is Colour, on loan to the exhibition from Minshall. The ornately decorated white costumes guard the doorway to the exhibition, the swansdown around their faces trembling every time the front doors open.

In another room, they can see a Carlisle Harris wild Indian costume, on loan from the Carnival Institute. Royal blue with fine beading, its headpiece explodes with feathers dyed blue and green.

One of Samuel Waldron’s Old Time Carnival sculptures, circa 1990s, on exhibit.

They can linger over the individual figures in the exhibit of Samuel Waldron’s concrete and steel sculptures, a merry band led by a clown wielding a colourful wire umbrella.

Shadow’s famous black suit with white skeleton is there, on loan from the late calypsonian’s family. Costumes from other calypsonians are displayed, too: an aubergine suit came from Kitch’s family, and Lord Superior’s family lent an immaculate charcoal wool suit with white and teal pinstripes, complete with black and white Oxfords.

Exhibits are accompanied by researched text written by the Carnival Institute.

In each room are programmes, flyers and correspondence compiled by the National Archives. “Last lap but no bassa bassa,” promises a flyer in a folder by the guest book, advertising a 1932 White Star Syndicate Tent show. Among the headline acts were Attilla and Executor, competing to win best calypso of the night; the prize was an $18.00 serge suit made to order.

A Carlisle Harris traditional Indian mas, on loan from the Carnival Institute.

In a display case, there’s a 1940 report from the Colonial Secretary ruling on a calypso that “the whole composition is vulgar and suggestive and I recommend that permission be refused.” The calypso in question, Lord Caresser’s Maracas Water Fall, is displayed next to that memo, giving viewers the chance to judge the lyrics themselves.

Housed in the ground floor of the castle, the exhibition is compact, easy to navigate and designed for self-guided tours. In one section, Carnival Institute short films and archival parade footage play on loop, and elsewhere another screen loops information on traditional characters. A soundtrack of vintage calypso adds a further layer to the experience.

The exhibition is open at Castle Killarney, corner Serpentine and Maraval Roads, Port of Spain, Monday-Friday, 10 am-6 pm, and Sat 10 am-2 pm.

For more info:

Castle Killarney at 358-5755 or e-mail:, Instagram page @castlekillarneytt_stollmeyer or the Castle Killarney TT Facebook page.


"Castle shows its Carnival spirit"

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