Thursday 31st January, 2008

 

Dalton Narine, moved by Minshall and his work, prepares to present him to the world

Unmasking the Man

 
 
 
VOX POP
Law made simple
 
Sports Arena
Womanwise
Business Guardian
 
Letters
Online Community
Death Notices
 
Advertising
Classified Ads
Jobs in T&T
Contact Us
 
Archives
Privacy Policy
 
 
 

 

Peter Minshall

“Peter Minshall arrived on the scene at the right time, with the right mas, in the right year and as he said to me when talks of the documentary arose, ‘De universe patient eh?’… this is why Minshall, in my opinion, is truly a genius of sorts.”

BY ABA LUKE

There’s a buzz around town, a buzz of speculation that something remarkable is being documented for the masses of the world to see, comprehend and emulate.

Peter Minshall, the man behind some of the most inspirationally imaginative art crafted into costume, is being filmed for showcase to the world, and none other than the truly gifted Dalton Narine is at the helm.

Speaking with Narine, the Guardian was able to capture, not only the essence of the project but also the essence of the character that leads this massive undertaking that has peaked the interest of the highly-acclaimed Daniel Dieffenthaller, and cinematographer Benedict Joseph, pulling them both into the production of it all.

For a man like Minshall, whose life is often difficult to gain entry into, one is left in awe of Narine and his team who’ve managed to pull the curtains aside on the legendary Peter Minshall.

At first glance, it is almost hard to fathom the fact that such a petite figure holds within such a tremendous magnitude of talent and knowledge as would soon be revealed.

At 11 o’clock on a Wednesday morning, Narine and his team have already sat at an executive meeting with members of the Callaloo Company, a meeting as he tells, was aimed at obtaining additional international contacts in London, Tokyo, Barcelona, France and Washington DC, where the team hopes to travel for additional footage. It is after this very important meeting that the Guardian sits one-on-one with Narine, who opens up to who he is, the objective behind the film and many other questions derived from this massive project.

A bit on Narine

Born into a Laventille-based, Christian family, Narine explains that he’s always been inclined to write, but as a child, those around him believed that he’d grow up to be a priest because he was an altar boy throughout his youth. For a while, he knew that his life would go in either direction but it was the love of words and the expression it could afford, that saw him venture to the United States after completing his A-Level education here in Trinidad. As he figuratively states, “it was all the same ‘word’.”

The journey began at Howard University in Washington DC but was quickly diverted to NYU in New York City. At Howard, Narine says he was certain that his Caribbean ancestry and black ethnicity would tag him as merely a black writer and not a prolific writer as he’d certainly like to be recognised. At NYU, at the age of 19, even as he delved into the subject matter that he hoped would eventually lead to his degree, a shadow that he believes had the ability to turn him into a schizophrenic, emerged.

Narine was asked to undertake the much-welcomed task of writing for a college magazine but first, he’d have to join the US army. Through the college’s RTC programme, narine says he signed away his life, taking an oath to the US that would bring him tremendous anguish and eventually lead to a life-long journey of self-recovery.

To hell and back

For two years, the sound of guns, bombs, the sight of bloody bodies, dead comrades and the feeling of reclusive fear, took over Narine’s life, for, in Vietnam at the age of 19, the man who was once being steered toward the priesthood, had been exposed to a life that is not remotely understandable to the common man.

As Narine explained to the Guardian, six days prior to his scheduled departure from Vietnam, the incident that has come to mar his life occurred. Fifty-three soldiers from his company perished as a result of a deadly time conflict. Friendly fire as it is referred to in the service, was sprayed upon the troops by the US air force.

Now, even as he’s mastered so much in the media and film, Narine says: “Still, I see it all like jumbled pieces of a Picasso painting, bloody

Dalton Narine

Photo: Aba Luke

 

Narine and his team, whom he holds in very high esteem, have for the past four years, been arduously creating

an historic and purposeful documentary on the Callaloo Company’s Peter Minshall.

Understanding the man

limbs and dying men who just couldn’t be saved.”

Still, with so much within him to express and the talent of the written word on his side, there remained opportunities ahead.

Paradise regained

Peter Minshall, a man whom he’d neither known nor understood, became a figure that Dalton just couldn’t seem to shake from thought. It was in 1976 that he’d heard of Minshall’s plan to reproduce through the art of mas, Milton’s Paradise Lost. It had been a novel studied by Dalton during the GCE Advanced-level studies here in Trinidad and hearing of Minshall’s plan while in New York, he immediately questioned how this could possibly be done. That very year, Narine visited Trinidad in search of the man whose desire to design costumes for a Stephen Lee Heung presentation, seemed utterly far-fetched.

At the mas camp that year, narine says he met Minshall with a measuring tape strung across his shoulders and the distinctive eyeglasses clasped to his face. Walking up to him for the very first time, he remembers questioning the legend, asking, “Are you the Peter Minshall that’s going to reproduce Milton’s Paradise Lost in mas?”

It was from that moment, when Narine told Minshall that it just couldn’t be done, that the two began a life-long relationship that would see great moments unveiled and masterpieces cross stages throughout Port-of-Spain.

That year, Narine remembers going back to the Stephen Lee Heung mas camp, night after night, anxious to see whether Minshall could pull off the unthinkable. On Carnival Monday, the unthinkable became a reality as, sitting along a wall on Wrightson Road, Dalton Narine, a teenager in awe of a masman’s portrayal, shot roll after roll of film that epitomised the Paradise Lost that he’d only read of, in a school days tale.

Forged in a love of friendship

For 32 years, Dalton Narine has been a friend of Peter Minshall. He’s produced The Minshall Trilogy for which he’s obtained an award from the Columbus International Film Festival in Chicago and he’s been privy to see firsthand, the talent that others are only fortunate to glimpse. When asked for that specific reason that tells of his admiration for Minshall, Narine utters, “Peter Minshall arrived on the scene at the right time, with the right mas, in the right year and as he said to me when talks of the documentary arose, ‘De universe patient eh?’… this is why Minshall, in my opinion, is truly a genius of sorts.”

In Peter Minshall, narine had found a man who was able to put a new spin to mas that would portray the country in a dignified way and expose the art of mas to the world at large; this all, even before the tribulations that Narine himself would come to bear at the hands of Vietnam.

Following his experience in the war, Narine was advised to return to Trinidad, something that proved to be a blessing in disguise, for it was here that he’d managed to put things into greater perspective, essentially determining his future as a writer, editor and eventually, a film-maker. He’d been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder but coming back to his roots took him away from the country that had placed him at the heart of the war.

Here in Trinidad, he was able to grow with the local culture, be among the industry’s greats like Peter Minshall, the man whose charisma he’d grown fascinated by, the man who wore the glasses and calmly, rationally orchestrated magnificence. Among the local media Narine strived for success, filming, writing and unveiling through words, the things that everyone wanted to know.

Making of the Man

For years, Dalton Narine has been moved by the work of Peter Minshall. Even when he moved back to the US, where he took on the role of editor at various magazines, including Esquire, his undying love and appreciation for the work of the man who has taken mas to the world, has lingered.

With 12 documentaries compiled, based on cultural elements of this twin-island nation, Narine, whose trait circumvents crowds and leans more toward a loner lifestyle, is working on a 13th. From coverage of international displays to captured moments of his lifestyle—past and present, Narine and his team, whom he holds in very high esteem, have for the past four years, been arduously creating an historic and purposeful documentary on the Callaloo Company’s Peter Minshall.

Now based in Florida, Narine is considered a medical retiree. Nonetheless, because of his fervent writing and editing skills he remains a part of the Miami Herald family, based on a mutual understanding that his input has been substantial throughout the years. After a number of years, through therapy and the aid of his work, Narine is much better mentally than he was when he came back from the war.

In 2008, the man who compiles words, based on passion, is in the process of writing his novel. It is based on the metaphorical similarities between the steelpan and the war in Vietnam. This in addition to documentary number 13—The Man, The Life and Art of Minshall, certainly has Narine quite occupied these days.

With no assistance from sponsors local or otherwise, Narine frankly states: “No matter the cost, it will be done, it will be accomplished and my crowning moment will be that day when this documentary is featured in Trinidad and Tobago, that day when the film receives a standing ovation for three minutes; that’s when I’ll know my moment has been defined.”

 

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

Designed by: Randall Rajkumar-Maharaj · Updated daily by: Nicholas Attai