New Carnival Mas Designers: Kezra Tafari

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New Carnival Mas Designers: Kezra Tafari

Kezra-Tafari-3001- Tell us a little bit about yourself

There is not too much to tell. I live in South London with my mum and 3 sisters. I am half Bajan and started playing mas at the age of 16.
I would describe myself as a creative person. I enjoy dance and arts and crafty things. If I envision something interesting I believe I can construct it with my hands and will work on it until I do, or get pretty close, or failing that, get bored. So I guess participating in carnival was a natural step for me as I wanted to honor my Caribbean side as well as combine the things I love doing which are: making, creating, dance and performance.

2- Why did you the Making Carnival design competition?

I like to challenge myself when I can. I’m a quiet person so it’s easy for me to take a back seat and not push myself to some extent, but I had seen the competition advertised the previous year and thought about entering. I got as far as emailing to register my interest but didn’t have the time to design anything and submit it.

This year came around and I felt I was in a good place to enter the competition, I had more time and no carnival band to play with as there was too much drama related to the old one I was a member of; so what better idea than to create and wear your own costume on the road!

I entered the competition to push myself as it is a good platform to showcase my creative skills and thought that this is the year to take all my mas making skills and see what I could create and show others that I am not just the girl that sits in the back room at camp on the sewing machine making the costumes.

3- Tell us more about the competition and what the process was?

The competition was open for anyone to submit their designs. We were not given the theme but given words such as Bold, Confident, in your face and Flamboyant to base our costume on and then come up with a section name and short description. Once designs were submitted, 5 finalists were chosen at a ceremony that took place at the Grenada High Commission in London, of which I was one and we were asked to make prototypes of our designs.
After weeks of gluing, sewing, wire bending and countless changes, the finals were held in April at the MaKING Carnival® launch where 3 winners were chosen by a panel of judges that would go on to form the three sections for the band at Notting Hill. Thankfully my costume was chosen and here I am.
The whole process from start to finish was filmed for a TV show due to air on Sky TV in the coming months, so tune in if you want to see my emotional journey!

Kezra-Tafari-costume-3004- What inspired the your section ‘Enchanted Provocateur’?

I am extremely pleased with my section, there were not any major obstacles when making it and it came out how I envisioned. Finding inspiration for my costume was probably the most difficult part of the process for me. I was convinced I wouldn’t finish my designs on time as I couldn’t think of a name or find something to base my section around. I wasn’t happy with a mediocre idea, I was determined to come up with a concept which would inspire me and others.

I thought about what I enjoy, what carnival in general means to me with regards to culture, costumes, dance and performance and chose to base it on the history of black dancers and performers such as Florence Mills, Josephine Baker, Buddy Bradley, Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and Jean Idelle to name a few. I was inspired by their costumes, racial struggles and dedication to their craft. I have included a quick description of my costume section below:

Provocateur pays homage to black entertainers, shake dancers and burlesque performers of the 19th and 20th centuries whose performances would enchant and entice their audiences. This section incorporates the magical, sexy, provocative but classy aspects of costume design, performance and showmanship of that era.

This section also honours the issues of black performers as part of the civil rights movement, performers like Josephine Baker refused to perform for segregated crowds and others like Jean Idelle were of the first to perform on stage with their white counterparts.

Provocateur embodies the celebration, strength and spirit of these bold and beautiful women and performers and carries off aspects of their striking costume designs with the added colour and flair of today’s carnival designs”

5- What does your section represent?

Provocateur represents: History, culture, power, elegance, struggle, sexiness and the multidimensional aspects of performance

6- What are the pros and cons of being a mas designer?

This is a hard one. As a designer I have not been in the game that long to completely weigh up the pros and cons, but Ill give it a go.

Pros:

  • Having freedom to draw on my own inspiration to create something
  • People showing interest, complimenting and wanting to wear my designs.

Cons:

  • Not being able to access the best materials for a decent price in the UK
  • Finding people with the skill set to help construct my vision
  • It is very time consuming, especially when you have to juggle it with other commitments.

7- What has been the highlight of this entire process?

The highlight of the entire process for me had to be the final/launch night.

I loved having the freedom to put together my own presentation. I felt like this was where I could get really creative and portray the concept of my costume section to the audience. A costume really comes alive when you have good models and a good presentation so this was really important to me to do it well.

It was also really exciting for me to be able to showcase my designs in front of friends and family who have supported me through the competition process. I even got two of my sisters to model.

8- What did you learn from the design mentors?

The mentors from Making Carnival were supportive, the biggest thing I probably took away from them was to be mindful that your costume will have to be mass produced so would have to be fairly quick and simple to make. I love intricate detailing, so I definitely had to rein it in when making the prototypes.

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9- Finally as a new designer what would you say to someone who wants to make mas?

I would say go for it, seize every opportunity that is put in front of you because it may never come around again. Soak up all the information you can about mas, learning from everyone experienced in the art. Look at everything as potential inspiration and try to learn as many different skills as you can as you never know when they may come in handy.

Also don’t be afraid to experiment or teach yourself new skills if you have to, I didn’t study fashion or costume design, so never thought I would be here in this moment designing and making a costume section for Notting Hill Carnival, so it goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to as long as you are willing

/ She Soca

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