A recent emblematic Stabroek News photograph of two floats, captioned “Old habits die hard” caught my attention. The vexing visage of what was hours before the centre of gravity now seared the esthetics of the national capital city; retired on a reserve, Homestretch Avenue. Our national pastime had come and gone; and with it the fanfare, revelry, jubilation and excitement – the melee of Mash.
Yet events like Mash are important in the life of a nation, in the psyche of a people, and should be supported and preserved. When I was a child living on the Shopping Plaza in South Ruimveldt Gardens, back then, the name of the place resembled its use. On the ‘Plaza’ was a Mash camp and Peter Tang was its master designer.
The Mash camp was a place of tremendous wonder; the sights, sounds and smells. I remember one year Mr Tang produced a fire breathing dragon. I can’t remember if I’ve seen such an animated production before or since. The sketched designs were art in and of themselves. Talent, style and beauty par excellence on full display. When a man transitions this life, only the quality of his work remains as a measure. And sometimes even that is lost irretrievably in a nation like ours.
In the years that Mr Tang reigned our parents would release us into the care of the band members on Mash Day and the big truck or ‘low bed’ was our perch to view the day’s festivities. As a result of Peter Tang and so many other such figures who passed through his camp, Mash dwelled with us before the designated day and long after.
I wish more children would be exposed to our culture in this way. It was an education for me and in many ways shaped my thinking as a young man growing up. In a Mash camp you are exposed to art and history, Maths, science, geography, and economics, nay the curriculum and what was more it was an open expanse for the imagination. When I went off to high school this Mash experience gave me a special appreciation for books like King of the Masquerade by Michael Anthony, and what was to become a favorite,The Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace.
Seeing those floats reposed on Homestretch reminded me of how much work and sheer talent goes into producing them, sculptures of beauty for a moment of glory. But why should that be? Could we have a ‘Mash museum’ where all our floats and costumes, or the best thereof, go to be enjoyed by our children, tourists and others all year round so that the beauty of Mash might linger longer? And in this era of ‘Going Green’, of recycle, reuse, reduce’, couldn’t some of the materials for this year’s Mash find their way into next year’s production? I am certain that with the cost of production, something can be salvaged.
Sherod Avery Duncan,