The passing of Jaqueline Irving Forde – a great loss to Toronto Mas community

By Stephen Weir

Jaqueline Irving Forde

Toronto’s Mas community is in utter shock after learning of the passing of Jaqueline (Jackie) Forde, a long-time designer, writer, mas camp leader and cultural champion.  She passed away on Sunday.

She was born in Nova Scotia, went to high school in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and attended the Ontario College of Art and Design. Mrs. Forde was an extremely talented artist and communicator. Among her many other talents she was a writer, a stained glass artist, a designer and most importantly committed to all aspects of the Carnival Arts and to preserving the traditional Mas origins, characters and folklore.

She and her husband Clarence Forde have been active in the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival for many years. The couple, both well-known costume designers, have been recently staging free shows in city parks and at summer events that tell the story of the roots of carnival back in 19th century Trinidad. 

Irving Ford and husband were not generally known for showing their Mas at the parade, preferring to show their costumes in parks. She had become disenchanted with the general trend of beads, feathers and exposed flesh.

She once ranted in blob: “There is nothing to see. Why would anyone spend the money to come and see nakedness, and experience huge gaps in the parade and see the same frigging crap every year? 

“Other than fetes and the occasional community event, what is there? Carnival is a celebration of freedom…of emancipation and triumph over great adversity. So why are we honouring the slavemasters in our celebrations with the European styled Mas?

“On a side note…why are children being dressed in adult styled, almost naked costumes?

“Carnival Arts should tell a story. I may be thinking old-school, but when I see a band, I should be able to see what the hell they are playing! Now it is all about foil, feathers, butt floss and sex on the road. The art is lost to profits and ‘pink’, ‘blue’ and ‘colourful sections.”

Just a week before her death Jackie Ford posted on Social Media that she was looking forward to working “on the ‘Ole’ Time Carnival: the Path to Emancipation’ project for 2023. We will Dingolay!!

At the Caribbean Camera’s publishing deadline there was no information available regarding her obituary and any possible memorial events.