Caribbean Kings and Queens in Dorchester

Shirley Shillingford wearing Fruit Cocktail, 2007. Photo by Maggie Holtzberg.

This Thursday, August 21, marks the opening of Boston’s Caribbean Carnival – a Trinidadian style extravaganza now in its 35th year. I attended this annual festival for the first time in 2003. Four years later I was offered a prime seat in the judges’ viewing station, where I shot this photo of Shirley Shillingford. She is a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Social Club, which is one of 9 area mas (masquerading) bands that compete each year.

A succession of bands march their way down a 21-block parade route, ending up at Franklin Park. The King and Queen costumes are spectacular and they are followed by sections of exuberant dancing masqueraders. Be prepared for loud calypso music, the smell of jerk chicken, and vendors selling trinkets from Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, and a number of other West Indies islands. Many in the Caribbean cultural community live for carnival. More than 600,00 people attend carnival, though most Bostonians have no idea this event takes place each year. Art critic Greg Cook previewed the event in the Boston Phoenix last week. It would be nice to have additional press coverage for a change.

Soca and Associates band members, 2007. Photo by Maggie Holtzberg.

Keepers of Tradition up and running . . .

Deborah Joseph, Trinidad & Tobago Social Club, Boston Caribbean Carnival 2003Detail of Hardanger cutwork table runnerAfter almost four years of work, Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage has opened at the National Heritage Museumin Lexington. The response has been heartening – especially from artists, who feel honored, as they should. Their work is often seen only by family members — like the cutwork embroidery of Aline Drivdahl or by the specific community in which it is displayed — like the costumes of local mas bands at Boston’s Caribbean Carnival.

The media coverage and reviews are starting to come in. WBUR’s Here and Now host Robin Young spoke with me recently about some of the artists featured in the exhibition. WGBH’s Greater Boston producer Jared Bowen paid a visit to the show.

Below are links to a sampling of reviews:

“. . . this exhibition is more than just an exhibition. It’s one part of a much bigger project, which includes Holtzberg’s excellent catalog essay (it explains the stories behind the various objects in some depth) and, beyond both the show an dthe catalog, a great deal of valuable documnetation which can only help in the attempt to keep these traditions alive . . .” Sebastian Smee, Boston Globe

Keepers of Tradition reflects the diversity of the state better than any art show you’re likely to see for a long time.” -Greg Cook, The Boston Phoenix

“An engaging, informative exhibit . . .Think of this fascinating show as a tour through the markets and bazaars of the world with no haggling.” – Chris Bergeron, Metrowest Daily News

“. . . head to the National Heritage Museum in Lexington for the enthralling exhibit “Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts.” This is not your mom’s folk art show: check out the stone fence, the sheet-metal “tin men,” and the boat making, as well as the scrimshaw, quilts, and redware pottery. – Stephanie Schorow, Sidekick, Boston Globe

Visit www.massfolkarts.org for more on the exhibition.