It’s a warm Sunday night at the Paddington Art Centre, and the atmosphere is that of a family reunion.

Outside, jerk chicken is grilling and Moko Jumbies are dancing, wearing their cool attire. Inside, a packed room is waiting for the performances to start.

Tonight, masquerade band, Elimu Mas Academy, is presenting its costumes for Notting Hill Carnival 2017, honouring the tradition of Carnival through dance, music and art.
This year, the band has taken under its wing the new children’s band, Gemz, as well as Dragon Cultural Art. The three bands will parade together on the road this year.

The stage has been transformed into an intriguing and lush forest with bright shades of green. It’s a beautiful and a refreshing change to the usual masquerade band launch settings.
Ansel Wong, the Artistic Director of Elimu and our host for the night, points out that this is not, in fact, a band launch, but a costume presentation. As such, the event focuses much more on presenting the work of various up-and-coming artists than having a party. Providing such opportunities to young designers has been an objective of Elimu this year.

The evening begins with traditional Afro-Caribbean dancing by the Muraldo Dance Company. Their Caribbean quadrille, with its bright, flowing flounce dresses is something to remember and a perfect preamble.

Next, renowned musician Alexander D Great sings a collection of his anthems with fellow Calypsonian, D’Alberto. Always engaging and meaningful, Calypso is the only music genre played across all the Caribbean islands. It has been rejuvenated by a small group of bands throughout the years, and remains an essential pillar of the Caribbean musical scene.
Next, we are treated to a dance performance by the Wuk up Academy, before Mangrove Steel Band, first runner-up in 2016 at the steel pan competition, Panorama, takes the stage to perform a few pieces.

Mangrove Steel Band performing at Elimu costume reveal 2017

After a short break and with great anticipation, the costume reveal commences with the Gemz Mas band.
The band is solely dedicated to children and celebrates its second year on the road.
This year, the band obtained an art grant to create Notting Hill Carnival costumes, a significant achievement!
Creative Director, Giselle Sandy, presents the five themes of the section: Princess, Fairy, Pirate, Captain and Simba.

The second section, Wings and Tings presented by Elimu Mas Band has been designed byDesigners were Rhian Charles, Emily Wood and Georgina Barnard.
It is an enchanting collection, of phosphorescent butterflies dedicated to children.

The third section is a presentation by Dragon Cultural Art.
The band has been on the road since 1986. We first met them two years ago, in 2015, at their band launch in South Hampstead.

Last but not least, the final section, designed by Melissa Simon-Hartman, features a section from her 2017 collection, Much Ado About Something. The designer formed a new band this year called Legion Mas. Her collection, a Shakespearean cosplay concept, breaks the boundaries of carnival design.

The evening concludes with a word from Carnival pioneer and former director, Leslie Palmer MBE. He recalls the first days of Carnival, when he took to the streets with Vernon Fellows Williams.
Leslie Palmer was instrumental in converting the carnival into a successful street parade by opening the festival to various Caribbean islands.

The future of the Notting Hill Carnival may be in peril, but Elimu has shown tonight that its weakened foundations can be rescued with the help of Art and Culture.
What makes the crowd linger long after the event has ended is the unity inspired by a common history, which embodies the spirit of Carnival!

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