St. John’s Antigua- Silkdus Mas Troupe skillfully merges craft and culture with a hint of local artistry.
Exposed to mas’ at a young age, the lover of art and drama who stands as designer and bandleader, Barry ‘Zawardie’ Thomas, became interested in costume building at the ripe age of 15. He was particularly inspired by the costumes of Rainbow Fantasy, a troupe he describes as one of the island’s greatest.
To enhance his skills, Thomas worked alongside Harold ‘Jesus’ Barreto, a very talented costume builder and wire bender at the time, who came to Antigua as a welder and worked at West Indies Oil. Barreto was also instrumental in the creative development of the head designer for Ali & Associates.
In the early 1980’s, Thomas designed and built the costumes for his first mas’ troupe called ‘pandemonium.’ The success that followed gave birth to the mas’ troupe we know today as ‘Silkdus.’
Since 1991, Thomas and his partners Sinclair ‘Kumar’ Jarvis, Denroy Farrell, and Phyllis ‘Fluffy’ Proctor have remained dedicated to producing costumes locally instead of submitting to the popular act of purchasing costumes from abroad.
“We are an indigenous mas’ troupe; we love our culture, our country, our Carnival, and our people and we will continue to maintain that,” Thomas said. “Not building your own costumes shows laziness in thinking and acting.”
Through the years, Silkdus has encountered many challenges, including acquiring sponsorship from the corporate community, however the troupe continues to stand strong as one of few mas’ bands that continues to utilise local talent.
Their creations have attracted prizes for the prince and princess categories, as well as king and queen and medium band of the year. As Silkdus moves into its twenty-first year of operation, the troupe will be honouring legendary soca artist Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell, who passed away in 2010, with its theme Feeling Hot Hot Hot, inspired by the artist’s most beloved soca hit.
Other popular themes of the past include Memories and Tribute to Short Shirt.
So as the days draw closer to street fêting and bacchanal let us remember the words of Barry ‘Zawardie’ Thomas, “mas’ is an expression of one’s self, society, and cultural background. It is an art form that brings people together.”