My involvement with Elimu stated when I was born, because my mother was a founder member of the band. So it’s been an aspect of my life from the day I was born. (I am 32 now).
Last year was the first time I designed my own costume, and I also helped with its construction. There was a certain anxiety as to whether it would hold up all right, as we wanted it to represent well for the band and to embody the Elimu spirit. But by the end of the day it was a great, great experience. To be honest I still have a mark on my left shoulder from all the jumping, but that was a side effect. The day started with anxiety but ending with a feeling of emancipation and euphoria, and the positive ideals of carnival which are peace, love and unity, joy and triumph.
When I was young, the costumes seemed larger than life and almost real, like cartoon character come to life. Last year, having designed my own costume and performed on the road, I got some really good comments.
The only downside, is sometimes when you work with a group, sometimes people see things differently, everyone has their own opinion.
This year I designed and helped construct my own costume, with help from Tony Mason. The skeleton is fibre glass rods covered in gold fabric, which is quite shimmery. The lion mask is made from latex, and will be painted gold and have jewels for eyes.
My costume is the lion of life. On one level it represents the British lion which is one of the most iconic symbols of the UK; on another level it represents an African lion. You can see it as positive or negative, because the British lion represents colonialism and the British Empire, but it is also the glue that has brought together people from different West Indian islands to share a common language and heritage.
On another level my costume seeks to evoke the lion god of ancient Egypt representing life, light and creation in a positive and constructive way.
The band has people of many different backgrounds, from all over the Caribbean and all over the world. I’ve written a song that for me represents the Elimu family and the spirit of Carnival.
We’re seeking unity, welcoming everyone
No matter your age, whether you’re old or young
Come together in the name of love and peace
To meet up on Bank Holiday and party through the streets
We’re calling all - no matter your occupation
We’re calling all - no matter your race or nation
To come and take part in this special occasion
To come and participate in emancipation
We’re like an army going down the road
Vibes in and dancing, and costumes round the Grove
Being part of one, the band as a whole
Is empowering and emancipating to my soul
It’s not about acting mad to the melody
Carnival’s about Caribbean cultural legacy
Making beautiful creations of the highest artistry
‘Playing mas’ is a celebration of our history