"I don’t make costumes, I create ways
to express human energy."
Minshall twice collaborated on city-wide concert-spectacles
with French composer/producer Jean-Michel Jarre, including
the 1991 Bastille Day "Paris in Concert" and UNESCO's 1995
"Concert For Tolerance" at the Eiffel Tower.
Minshall was born in
Georgetown, Guyana, but moved
to Trinidad as a small 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.
"Our kind of carnival represents theatre in its most original
form. In Europe people pay to watch, here they pay to join in."
NATIVE TRINIDADIAN, CARNIVAL SPOKESMAN AND 21st CENTURY ARTS PIONEER
Peter Minshall brought Trinidad Carnival designs to the opening ceremonies of the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games. Minshall, known for provocative themes that poke fun at local society and the decay of world civilization, has been critical of the modern trend toward colorful but meaningless costumes.
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 art
Peter Minshall has been the foremost artist working in the field of ''dancing mobiles'', a form of performance art that combines the three-dimensional quality of large-scale sculpture with the dramatic and choreographic expressiveness of a live human performer. The ''dancing mobile'' is one of many forms to grow out of the mas' -- the masquerade tradition of the Trinidad Carnival -- and was the subject of a fellowship awarded to Minshall by the Guggenheim Foundation in 1982.
Minshall has long argued that mas is more than fancy costumes -- it has
the ability to make powerful social and spiritual statements. He rues
the "abandoning of the Carnival to the market."
" The world is about change and
nothing will ever move if it stands still....You want to be
able to see the music dancing."
The 1st video was produced by Timothy Speaks [ linkinternationalproductions.com]
The Minshall Trilogy - A collection of 6
click the lower right button &
then the one above to access player menu
"my whole aim of putting up these videos is to
preserve and promote Trinidad & Tobago culture. I am a
person who loves all aspects of T&T culture and I find
that alot of gems are forgotten along the road to
progress. I am a person who believes that in order to
move forward is to learn & appreciate our past."
Thank you for posting a large archival
collection of important and pricless historical video at
A native Trinidadian, he designed his
first 'costume' made when he was 13 and living in Cascade: an African
witch doctor. Cardboard box, dry grass, bush, Christmas ornaments, some
silver paint and 'two ounces of artist's charcoal for 43 cents' won
Minshall first prize for originality in Auntie Kay's Red Cross Kiddies
His father believed a career in theatre design would offer a more secure
career. Minshall trained at the Central School of Art and Design in London,
and went on to receive unanimous critical praise for his professional
theatre design work both in England and the United States.
He studied at London's Central School of Art and Design and became deeply
involved in West Indian theatre in England. It developed his sense of what
made "good theatre, or good art and what didn't," he said. But his roots
"I began to ask myself why this Carnival thing was more rewarding than what
I was doing in London. Eventually I realised it was because Carnival
authentically achieved what such groups as the French National Theatre had
been trying to achieve for years: audience participation."
Minshall was one of the first to design mas' for the Notting Hill Carnival in London in the early 1970's. In 1974 he created his seminal individual work From the Land of the Hummingbird for the Trinidad Carnival.
He returned in 1976 to a job as a radio announcer, hosting a morning show
called Around the Town, and began gathering material for a Carnival band.
In 1976 Minshall designed "Paradise Lost" for Stephen Lee Heung and it won
the Band of the Year title. On his own, he started with a band called Zodiac
and it achieved broad critical acclaim in 1979 when its "Carnival of the
Sea", won in all the categories. It was mas which captured the
imagination and kept you wondering long after you experienced it. The art of
mas had its high priest.
Returning once again to Trinidad following a 1982 Guggenheim Memorial
Foundation fellowship Minshall plunged into his designs with renewed fervour
and a confidence, which would be tested by those who prefer the status quo.
He has presented a mas'
at each Carnival from 1978 through 1990, and again in 1993, '94, and
'95, costuming some two thousand people in anywhere from thirty to one
hundred different designs, complemented by monumental individual dancing
Minshall has twice collaborated with Jean-Michel Jarre on the French composer-producer's city-wide concert-spectacles, by contributing large-scale individual dancing mobiles and other theatrical characters to Paris in Concert at La Defense, Bastille Day 1991 before an audience of 2 million, and the 1995 Concert For Tolerance under the auspices of UNESCO for 1.5 million spectators at the Eiffel Tower.
Minshall shared an award for “Outstanding Costumes for a Variety or Music Program” for the broadcast of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony. Story here
In recognition of his accomplishments, locally and abroad, Minshall was
awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters by the University of the West
Indies in 1991. He was also awarded the Trinity Cross.
The Great Mas Trilogy of 1995, 96 & '97 This large web site contains one of the great stories in the history of Trinidad Carnival. Peter Minshall is a native son of Trinidad, whose faithful dedication to expanding the circle of his medium ever outward has brought much honor and wisdom to the people of Trinidad & Tobago.
His standout presentation at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta featured many elements of the beautiful triumphal mas which had been the subject of heated debate earlier in his country.
2006 Atlanta Olypmpics had this climax:
In the wake of the Storm, the Southern Spirit trembles on the brink
between hope and despair. Her hope and faith prove stronger, and the
Southern landscape explodes in a gospel chorus of joy and beauty, a
celebration of life and the triumph of the human spirit:
The virtue lies
in the struggle, and when Minshall chose to merge art and spirit by using the ancient old testament word Hallelujah, which means "Glory to God," a great controversy erupted. The Pentecostal pastor Winston Cuffie's position that Carnival is "easily one of the worst devil-glorifying festivals in the universe" was tacitly endorsed by a broad cross section of organized religious leadership.
Hallelujah, Part I of the Trilogy - 1995
Carnival loves controversy, and in 1995 Minshall and his Callaloo company took center stage as local church authorities raised their objections to his "blasphemous" use of "Hallelujah" in the title of a Carnival production. The last word belonged to Minshall. On the Savannah stage before a TV audience, the company portrayed a tale of a angel losing his way and being reborn whole with his ability to fly restored through dance, celebration and the power of Carnival dreams. Song of the Earth, Part II - 1996
Is a tribal mas of everyone, the tribe of mankind, the tribe of ourselves. Tapestry- Threads of Life,-1997 Part III
The culmination of the trilogy of praise to a new vision. A mass celebration of the interconnectedness of all things. A mas in celebration of humanity in all its diversity. Based firmly in the understanding that All Ah (We Is One).
Peter Minshall is Carnival's most articulate spokesperson and the art form's greatest practitioner ,guiding the collective soul of the people into the brave new millennium
2001 costume- Ashes to Ashes This is Hell
The Callaloo Company
Both a production company and a performance
company, Callaloo is an inherently collaborative family of
artists, performers, and craftspeople who share Minshall's
conviction in the mas as a medium in which to do exciting and
relevant creative work. The Callaloo Company, using the
Trinidad food "callaloo" in its metaphorical sense as a combination
of many different ingredients that mix together to make a rich and
Contact - The Callaloo Company Phone: 1-868-634-4491 Fax: 1-868-634-4492 www.callaloo.co.tt
design costumes. I provide the means for the human body to express
Minshall in Brazil
"His band, Callaloo, went to the Biennial Art Exposition in Brazil,
and art critic, Professor Nicolau Sevcenko, wrote, "This is an
historic moment. It is the first time that the popular expression of
the people has invaded the art gallery."
"The Brazilian newspapers described his works as sculptures, which
had acquired life. Minshall had incorporated into his costumes much
more than a concept of fabric, colour and texture. Using his
engineering skills, he had found ways to make his costumes kinetic
creatures, utilizing and magnifying the natural movements of the
body to make his costumes live on stage."
band is the closest thing to the abstractness of symphonic music. A
progressive experience for the viewer, with a beginning, a middle and an
end. There's that total whole, the many parts, and more parts within these
parts. There are characters that lead sections, section leaders, and floor
members. There's balance, color, shade, tone and form among all these
arrangements. It's a cinematic experience, and its great beauty is that it
is live." -- Peter Minshall in Everybody's Magazine
Carnival as “theatre of the streets”,
"The bands (become) commercial juggernauts. The bar truck,
the toilet truck, the this truck, the that truck, the wet-me-down
truck. The costume, if you want to call it that, has been reduced to
a minimal formula."
-- Peter Minshall in
TnT Express 31DEC06
Minshall creations have appeared in the streets of Washington,
D.C., New York, Miami, Toronto, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Nimes.
“A little grain of sand from the
Caribbean, washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean, a mere
speck in time.”
-- Minshall on his role in the opening ceremony of the
1992 Olympics. --From
Following the success of his Barcelona designs, Peter Minshall was called upon to design for the opening ceremony at Atlanta in 1996. Story and pictures here.
He has designed for Opening Ceremonies of the 1987 Pan Am
Games in Indianapolis, the
Olympics in Barcelona, the 1994 World Cup in Chicago, and is
currently working as an Artistic Director of the
in Atlanta. He has collaborated with composer/producer
Jean-Michel Jarre on two immense Concert-Spectacles in Paris,
the 1990 event at La Defense, and the 1995 UNESCO
for Tolerance" at the Eiffel Tower.
Band of the Year titles
Paradise Lost (1976)
Carnival of the Sea (1979)
Jungle Fever (1981)
Carnival Is Colour (1987)
Song of the Earth (1996)
The Sacred Heart (2006; medium-size bands category)
People's Choice Award: Minshall in his time would
regularly win the people’s choice award for Band of the Year,
till the authorities ended the popular vote, embarrassed that
it differed so often from the judges’ decision.
In 1987 Peter Minshall presented work at the 19th International
Biennial exposition of contemporary art in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where
his multi-media exhibition of mas' earned special critical mention
from among 400 contemporary artists representing fifty-three
In 1991 the Leicestershire (England) Museum and Art Gallery
presented his work in a solo exhibition, The Dancing Mobile,
and in 1993 Minshall's work made up a major segment of The Power
of the Mask, an exhibition mounted by the National Museums of
Scotland to run concurrently with the Edinburgh Festival. Other
exhibitions based on his work in the mas have been mounted in
London, Caracas, and the mas at Dartmouth College, at the national
conference of the US Institute of Theatre Technology and for the
Costume Society of America.
"And, as citizens of the world, in our time, our "military" mas will
engage those international enemies to peace, with battle tactics of
rhythm and dance and sweetness and joy, to make our statement for
peace and play, not war."
"Who or what, I ask you, is going to make our spirits soar to the point where we would really feel inclined to take up our beds and walk rather than, as is the present inclination, to dive into it, pull tight the pillows and wait for thundering rains to shut the outside out?
Sure they tell us there is now more corn to feed more fowl,
but where is she or he who would make the picoplat sing?"
-- Keith Smith, May 22, 2001
HALLELUJAH(with Joy to the World,
Spirit of Light, and the Band of Angels)
THE ODYSSEY (with Circe: The Sorceress, and Calypso: The Golden Goddess)
DONKEY DERBY (featuring the ensemble performance piece, The Trojan Donkey)
TANTANA (with Tan Tan and Saga Boy)
a breakthrough development in the monumental
dancing mobile: reversing the traditional relationship between puppet
and puppeteer, and achieve such animation and mobility that they are able to
waltz, tango, boogie, and dance to Calypso with each other.
1989:SANTIMANITAY (with The Lord of the Flies and The Kiss of the Spider Woman)
JUMBIE (with Moko Jumbie: The Mantis and Maco Jumbie)
CARNIVAL IS COLOUR (with The Merry Monarch and Colour is Irie)
RATRACE (with Manrat and Hope: One Race, the Human Race)
THE GOLDEN CALABASH: Princes of Darkness and Lords of Light
with Callaloo Dancing Tic Tac Toe and The Bird of Paradise
RIVER (with Mancrab and Washerwoman)
PAPILLON (with The Sacred and the Profane and Fly, Fly, Sweet Life)
1981:JUNGLE FEVER (with Tiger, Tiger, Burning Br
DANSE MACABRE (with The Midnight Robber and La Reine Diablesse)
CARNIVAL OF THE SEA (with The Devil Ray and Splash)
PARADISE LOST (with The Serpent) A symphony in
four parts for a cast of 1500. Hummingbird’s winged form
evolved into a host of fallen angels while imps imagined by Minshall
were based on the
traditional jab jab character.
When he was 21, Minshall left Trinidad to study at the
Central School of Art and Design in London. After graduation, in
1969, Minshall found himself designing the set and costumes for a
ballet production at Sadler’s Wells.
Minshall was one of the first to design mas' for
the Notting Hill
Carnival in London in the early 1970's. In 1974 he created his
seminal individual work From the Land of the Hummingbird for
the Trinidad Carnival, and two years later designed his first
full-scale mas' band in Trinidad, Paradise Lost.