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REMEMBERING SITTING BULL LIONEL JAGESSAR SENIOR

REMEMBERING SITTING BULL LIONEL JAGESSAR SENIOR

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Mas icon, Fancy Indian Expert, 1999 Humming Bird Silver Medal Awardee and Senior Consultant of Jagessar Costumes, are a few of the many accolades attached to Veteran Masman, Lionel Jagessar Snr. Lionel Jagessar Snr. was born on the 12th of March 1950 in the bustling community of Gransaul Street, San Fernando.  The youngest of seven (7) boys, Jagessar Snr. also had six (6) sisters.  Known by many pseudonyms, he was referred to within the Mas fraternity as Sitting Bull, a revered Native American leader.

HIS FORMATIVE YEARS

His creativity was nurtured while growing up in the artistic community of San Fernando, surrounded by many of the Carnival and sporting pioneers of his era.  As he would jovially say, “that was a time when children use to play in the streets”.  Back then, San Fernando was bursting with creative expression and culture; in his neighbourhood, one could find persons skilled in painting, wire bending, moulding, papier-mâché, pan tuning, wood carving, and even producing Mas Bands.

His fascination with Fancy Indian Mas was moulded from an early age by his older brothers, who made costumes and played mas.  He was exposed to this beauty before he decided Carnival and the art involved would become his mainstay.  As a child, he would draw Indians and other types of mas at any moment, even on the sidewalk.

At the ripe old age of eleven (11), Jagessar Snr. took his first job working alongside a Mas band in the area.  His role was to make axes and swords for a Viking presentation which would be on showcase during Carnival of that year.  Also, around this time, he would save every cent he could acquire to put towards a mas costume, and like other children at the time, he would follow masqueraders around on Carnival day to retrieve any fallen costume pieces.  There were times when the raw materials for his Carnival presentation consisted of redesigned pieces from his older brothers’ past costumes and also feathers from livestock, such as chicken and turkey.  Jagessar Snr. came from an era where Fancy Indian Mas presentation was very theatrical, and borrowing a feather to play Mas was one of his treasured stories. 

As a teenager, the entrepreneur Jagessar Snr. was approached to construct three (3) Mas costumes. This was the genesis of a section in a band, which grew to one hundred (100) masqueraders thus qualifying as a large band in the 1970s.  In 1979, Jagessar Snr. became the Bandleader and Designer of Lionel Jagessar and Associates.  His designs transformed into costumes to compete in a plethora of areas.

HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Plagued with the many challenges and demands of today’s masqueraders, Jagessar Snr. and Jagessar Costumes remained faithful to Fancy Indian Mas.  It was Jagessar Snr.’s passion and drive to continuously prove that Indian Mas could win titles and be sustained within the Carnival Industry, which motivates the love and support of family, friends and masqueraders alike.  In 2010, he designed and constructed the winning costume for the National Carnival Queen competition, entitled “Wa­ka-Nisha–the Sa­cred Wa­ter Bear­er”, from the band D Sioux Na­tion, which was portrayed by his wife and business partner, Rose Marie Kuru-Jagessar.  Throughout his forty-one (41) year career as a bandleader and fifty (50) odd years within the Carnival Industry, Lionel Jagessar Snr. amassed a legacy, and the company he started continues to flourish.

 

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Over the years, he captured several titles within his homeland of South Trinidad, proving that he surpassed what he had set out to accomplish.  On numerous occasions, his designs and creations have acquired many notable awards, which include:

  • Band of the Day
  • Fancy Indian band category 
  • Individual of the Year 
  • South King and Queen of the Bands
  • Fancy Indian Individual of the Day 
  • Three-time San Fernando Band of the Year (Large Band) winner; always placing in the top three (3) positions
  • 1st and 2nd place in the same skills competition for wire bending
  • Prizes in cane skills, carving and moulding, 2D and 3D wire bending and fibre glass skills

Lionel Jagessar Snr. is also a self-taught sign painter and screen printer, which gained him local and international recognition. In addition to his band and some large bands in Port of Spain, he designed and produced hundreds of King and Queen Carnival Costumes internationally. His work graced the stages of Notting Hill, Miami, Brooklyn, British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Barbados, Cuba, Germany and Zimbabwe carnival. 

HIS CONTRIBUTIONS

Considered a mentor by many, his love for the art form and his constant desire to ensure its longevity saw Jagessar Snr. committing to the 2017, “Mentoring by the Masters” programme, an initiative of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts.

Every year after the dust of Trinidad Carnival has long settled and the merriment among masquerades have left the streets of San Fernando, Jagessar could have been found excitedly working within his Mas Camp, energetically conceptualising and anticipating his band’s next presentation.

 

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NALIS’ Heritage Library Division (HLD) had the opportunity to work with Mr Jagessar Snr. to preserve his legacy for current and future researchers. In so doing, we have been working with the Jagessar family to build the Lionel Jagessar Snr. collection. We look to the future with great hope and continue to strive to safeguard his legacy for years to come. 

The Heritage Library Division and public libraries have a vast array of resources. For more information on Emancipation Day and its celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago, see NALIS’s subject guide.

To discover more on Trinidad and Tobago’s rich history:

  • Follow the Heritage Library Division on Facebook @NALISHLDTT
  • Follow the NALIS blog @ https://www.nalis.gov.tt/NALIS-Blog
  • Email:  asknalis@nalis.gov.tt for information queries or
  • Email heritage.library@nalis.gov.tt to make appointments to view any resource

 

Authored by: Jancie Regis, Librarian I and Leigh Shand Librarian I, Heritage Library Division

Sources:

“Lionel Jagessar Snr.” Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, www.culture.gov.tt/our-mentors/lionel-jagessar-snr/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.

Lionel Jagessar Sr. Collection of Jagessar Costumes, San Fernando, Trinidad.

Webb, Yvonne. “Jagessar breaks 19-year drought to win Sando Band of the Year, 16 Feb. 2018, newsday.co.tt/2018/02/16/jagessar-breaks-19-year-drought-to-win-sando-band-of-the-year/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.

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