Festivals Mask

Wire Bender – One of a dying breed

 The following article was written by Zahra Gordon and published in the Trinidad Guardian, Jan. 15, 2013.

Quammie’s skills are in demand in New York, where he makes costumes for the annual Labour Day Carnival.

Arnim Quammie learned most of his wire bending skills on his own. According to the 66-year-old craftsman who began his mas making career at the tender age of nine, “If you wanted to play mas in those days you had to make your own costume. The bands would have samples but if you wanted to play you had to make your own mas.”

Quammie “born and grow” in St James where he was also involved in the steelband movement. “Older fellas would guide you along the way in some aspects, but most of what I know come from lots of trial and error. It had plenty times when people laugh at my headpiece because it was so ugly but I didn’t care.

“I wanted to play my mas,” he said in an interview yesterday.

By the time Quammie was 17, he designed and constructed a section in a band. Since then, Quammie has worked with numerous bands. Currently based with the band Belmont Original Style Sailors (aka De Boss), Quammie also works on king and queen costumes for both adults and children. In the late 1990s and early 2000s Quammie would also travel to the US annually for the New York Labour Day parade to work with the mas band Burrokeets.

He notes that the wire bending is a dying trade, however, and lamented that the young people whom he once taught were no longer interested in the craft.

“Most people are doing plastic moulding nowadays because they can’t do wire work anymore. Some of the wire benders are dead or aged and the government has no programmes at YTEPP or anywhere to teach young people these things.”

Quammie feels that the loss of interest in wire bending will result in further loss of this culture. “In time to come what you would be seeing for Carnival is more of what we seeing now which is bra and panties because people in T&T don’t appreciate the art of wire bending.”

For the original article: One of a dying breed | The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper.

By Ken Archer

I am an ethnomusicologist, who obtained my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. My areas of interests include the musical, ritual, and celebratory traditions of the circum-Caribbean and the African Diaspora.

I worked as a lecturer at the Columbus and Marion Campuses of the Ohio State University, where I taught classes in World Music, Rock and Roll/American Popular Music, Western Art Music, and directed the OSU Steel Pan ensemble.