FASCINATED by a San Fernando street procession in honour of late masman Lionel Jagessar Snr, Gianna Graham decided she wanted to give fancy Indian mas a try. And now she loves it.
The ten-year-old had never seen this type of traditional Carnival character before, so when she returned home from St Gabriel's Girls' RC School, she began telling her mother about the "really beautiful" costumes she saw.
Jagessar, a veteran masman, died in 2022 after ailing for some time. He was known, especially in south Trinidad, for reviving traditional Indian mas, and had a band called Jagessar Costumes.
"Our teachers let us go outside and I saw all the costumes and loved the feathers, colours and the patterns. They were really, really beautiful," Graham told Newsday Kids.
"They told us this was part of the funeral for a gentleman named Lionel Jagessar who was really great at this type of mas."
The National Carnival Commission's website says this is the most popular of all Indian mas. It features colourful costumes with large, decorated headpieces.
"Indians are one of the most colourful and interesting of the traditional mas characters...It may incorporate any number of effects including papier-mache masks, canoes, ostrich plumes, mirrors, beads, feather work, totem poles, and ribbons," the website adds.
The standard-four student said she was never afraid of performing in front of a crowd, so the first time she did, "It was nice and exciting."
Her costume is red, white and black.
"Our national colours!" she said excitedly.
"When I'm on stage, I dance, shake up my legs and do the pow-wow dance."
This is a very fast-paced and high-energy dance. She said it was easy to learn and she has a lot of fun doing it.
Graham is now part of the mas band We From Sando and will be on the road for Carnival, which she is excited about. She is in section three – Indian Mas – which is a tribute to Jagessar. The band is the reigning junior band of the year in San Fernando, Marabella, Chaguanas and Couva.
Currently, Graham said, her favourite song to perform to is Carnival Contract by Ian "Bunji Garlin" Alvarez. She took care to add that Bunji is one of her favourite soca artistes.
She also likes other traditional characters like the moko jumbie, pierrot grenade and dame Lorraine.
When she is not doing the pow-wow, she enjoys drawing patterns and people.
Asked what she wants to be when she gets older, she said an artist, designer or an architect.
She said she is thankful for the friends she's made through playing traditional mas and hopes to continue in her adult life.
And although her classmates have never seen her in character, she hopes they are able to very soon.
Types of Indian mas
Guarahoon/Wild Indians/Red Indians