What is Ole Mas? Well for the novice, Ole Mas is, as the name suggests, old mas which consists of the traditional characters portrayed in Carnival long ago. Some of these characters are still present in J’ouvert such as jab jabs and jab molassies. While other characters are seen in Monday mas that occurs on Monday evening after all the J’ouvert celebrations. Thousands of people come out in sometimes part of their costumes to have some fun on the streets. Here is where one gets the opportunity to see some traditional mas.
Ole Mas is a satirical mas tradition out of the Trinidad and Tobago carnival. However, I have seen the same tradition played with the same degree of zest and hilarity in Grenada and St Kitts for their Jouvert.
The objective of this mas tradition is to poke fun at society whether local or international in a way to provoke both thought and laughter. This is done by a statement or a phrase written on a placard carried by an individual who plays or acts out the quip as displayed on the placard.
The ole mas tradition some may argue is purely a form of protest. However, in the scheme of the carnival which is to have fun, the ole mas function was to make a amusing commentary on society’s ills while laughing. It is a pseudo syncretism; protest yes but with tongue in cheek. The placard is never blatant as one would expect to see in an actual protest demonstration and can often point to an issue without explicitly decpicting it.
Ole Mas can also be rique too but tastefully so. The ultimate objective in playing ole mas is to have fun, a sense of humour, mime and great comic timing. Traditionally speaking, Your lines (If you have them) are what is written on your placard and during Carnival you have less than 1 minute to play the part and communicate the message depicted by the placard.
Be watchful for Ole Mas characters as they can be found in many Carnivals often drawing attention to a current Social or Political Issue with their presentation, and if your not sure about their message then don't be afraid to got up to them and ask them!