Anacostia arts revival: Caribbean community rallies around Baltimore carnival
Models dressed in “mas” costumes wait on the stairs to dance in their carnival garb. / Photo by Leigh Giangreco
| By Leigh Giangreco |
The beat of the Caribbean is back in D.C., though this time it’s not on Georgia Avenue. At a small house party in historic Anacostia, neighbors, friends, local politicians and even Caribbean diplomats gathered for a fundraiser to benefit local artist, Earl Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, a Trinidadian native, is designing the costumes for the Baltimore Caribbean Carnival this July. His house on Pleasant Street is part of a small block near Martin Luther King Boulevard attracting artists to the area. He has already brought life to this corner of Anacostia. At the 2012 Lumen8 festival local, a summer arts festival now held in Anacostia, Rodriguez repurposed a dilapidated billboard over a local restaurant into a colorful ode to the Anacostia river for the 2012. What was once a crumbling metal sign is now a work of art: three giant rainbow fish swim below a grassy stream.
The neighborhood is getting a jolt of creativity after what many saw as blight on the District.
Violence and a $210,000 debt from last year’s D.C. Caribbean Carnival prompted a merge with Baltimore’s this summer. Despite the location change, area artists such as Rodriguez are bringing communities within D.C. together to rally around the Caribbean community. Local students at the SEED school will work with Smith, creating the elaborate costumes.
Rodriquez’s cousin, Nadine, has been in the states for 11 years and moved to D.C. two years ago. Nadine Rodriquez is also lending her Trinidadian flair, making the towering wire headpieces for the “mas” characters.
In Nadine’s hands, the wire becomes pliable, changing into towering white headpieces decked with feathers and jewels. Typically, she can make a feathered mas headpiece in 45 minutes, though others take longer.
“I did a headpiece for ‘Heavenly Rain,’ that one was more like wire bending and took patience to do it,” Nadine said.
With a little more of that patience, the whole party might come back to Anacostia.