Caribbean Beat Magazine

Rosemarie Kuru Jaggessar: queen for a day

Rosemarie Kuru Jaggessar was crowned Trinidad & Tobago's Queen of Carnival 2010. She talked to Cedriann J Martin

  • Photograph by Shirley Bahadur

I am an Indian, although my hair is very curly. Sometimes people tell me,”Rose, I think you mixed.” If so, it’s okay too: I’m Trini. Kuru is a tribe from India. When I was small I used to say “Where they get that name from?” Then I realised it was in the Bhagvad Gita. That is why I left my name right where it was, and Rose remain a Hindu.

Jaggessar and her husband Lionel have brought out a Carnival band in San Fernando for 30 years.

Lionel is from a mas family. They made their own costumes. He started at nine years old. My brothers and uncles used to play … not the women. In 1971, when I had my first child, I saw a lady on Cipero Street playing queen. At that moment the thought came into my mind. I always thought queens were fair-skin and high-colour; in that time black people didn’t play queen. You fantasise about it. When Lionel started the band in 1980, that came back to me. I didn’t try at first but then people said: “Rose, is your band. You should play queen.”

My first year being queen, I was 95 pounds. Everybody was scared, wondering if I could carry the costume. I just wanted to feel how it would be to be a queen for the day.

In 1985 we were way behind time. I took the feathers and just started to do it for myself. You have to snap the feathers for them to stay down flat. Nobody teach me. I am a florist and decorator. With my talent and my children, I am a millionaire. We do headpieces for Harts and Tribe [Port of Spain-based Carnival bands]. Sando is slow, so we do their costumes during July and August.

We brought the mas to what it is today. People used to play red and black Indian with corbeau feathers and dog bone. Lionel liked to stay authentic, he never wanted to use glitter. Then I told him at night the costume wasn’t showing the way we wanted: we have to put some kind of glitter on it.

I always build a costume that does not pass first-prize money. I always get back something so that I could start again.

They could build a museum for us, please, so we could save the costumes? Children don’t know anything about Carnival. How you expect anybody to remember anything? I thought winning queen with the first Indian costume, somebody would ask to put it somewhere. Nobody even call. I felt very hurt about that.

I never thought I would be playing mas 28 years later. A few years in between I thought I should have won.

When Lionel was building this costume I put on the frame, and how I was feeling … I knew I was going to win. I never practise with a costume. Strange, eh? We ent have no time and space to do that. If the show is Tuesday, Monday night we still have thing to put on. It takes two weeks and five people. January good to start.

I win Masquerader of the Year on 12 occasions. It is a more prestigious thing than Queen of the Band because you competing with the whole of South Carnival.

Young people don’t have stamina like us. I don’t have somebody play my costume on the road.

Jaggessar finally won Queen of Carnival with her 2010 costume, “Wakanisha: the Sacred Water Bearer” – a towering, winged ode to life and prosperity, in her favourite colour, blue.

My personal goal was to win national once in my life. Some years you know you not going to come first. Plenty negative people say Indian mas can’t win. They thought it was old-time mas. You say destiny, we call it karma. Nothing happens before its time.

I wanted to win for Indian mas and for people who love Indian mas.

I want to thank Lionel for making all the beautiful costumes.