Mas in Nunavut

By Stephen Weir

Thea Jackson returns to make mas on the tundra

It only gets better, and maybe a little warmer too! Two weeks ago, the Caribbean Camera told readers about costume maker and carnival leader Thea Jackson’s trip to the far north, where she, along with Calypso singer Edwin Yearwood and DJ DOC (Doc Wright), presented the first-ever Nunavut Carnival Launch Party in Iqaluit, the capital city.

Nuavut Kiddie Mas

The coverage of that event almost broke the counter on this reporter’s social media pages, so when Thea Jackson told us she was going back one more time, we conscripted her photography services for round two of the far north costume party.

She and DJ DOC (Doc Wright) returned to Iqaluit during the Easter break. Edwin Yearwood didn’t make the trip this time. The city sits on the vast frozen Baffin Island in Frobisher Bay. Over 8,000 people live there, many of whom are of Caribbean and African descent.

“Travel there was great this time; no flights were cancelled,” explained Thea Jackson. “I flew into Ottawa and then hopped onto Canadian North Airline to go the rest of the way up. It was last Thursday morning. The weather was not nearly as bad as before, although it was still cold.

Nunavut masqueraders

“I was brought up by the Nunavut Black History Society to teach community members how to build mas costumes,” explained Jackson. “The community welcomed me, and the learning experience with open arms!”

“I also met with children and adults who came to get sized for their costumes,” she continued. “The kids and adults who participated consisted of Inuit, African, Caucasian, and Caribbean people.”

Thea set up Canada’s most northern Mas camp in the Legion Cadet Hall. She had pre-sewn many of the mas costumes back in Toronto, along with costume pieces and materials and instructions on how to decorate all of the costumes along with backpacks.

Thea Jackson with the mas players

It must have caused a few head scratches from the airport crew when they unloaded two big costume pieces from the airplane’s hold. These large costumes were taken to the camp and decorated by people from the city.

Stephanie Bernard, the head of the Nunavut Black History Society, rallied a small army of helpers to make it all happen. “She was the one who got everything going. We worked hand-in-hand to bring the event to fruition,” said Jackson. “I worked with her and the volunteers from about 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. each day, Thursday to Saturday, and the show with DJ Doc and Nunavut’s DJ Pressure getting everyone jumping up was on Sunday.

When the costumes were completed and the music began to play, children and adults alike took to the road, indoors, of course (it is still an ice and snow world in April up there). “Pictured is an Inuit girl actually portraying one of the large pieces. We had a mixture of children and adults in the regular costumes, making for a great show!”

And how did it go over? The Caribbean Camera hears through the frozen grapevine that the city wants Jackson and DJ Doc back again next year.