Rights Of Passage: A Contemporary Dragon Mas





The traditional Bookman is a devil (or The Devil) who carries an open tome on which he inscribes the misdeeds of mankind (specifically of those he encounters en route). In the Dragon Band, he has the quality of a silent narrator, pointing his bony fingers toward the drama about to unfold. In the gentile passivity with which he keeps his record, he implies that to bring evil into the world, the Devil need do no more than sit back and take notes, as mankind proves time and again that he will do the rest.

With his ginger steps, delicate gestures and his, well. . . bookish expression, the Bookman has the demeanor of a fastidious scholar. His enthusiastic jottings recall the meticulousness with which evil has historically sought to document its actions – in the mugshots of Khmer Rouge victims, the rolls of Auschwitz deportees, or the ships' manifests that recorded the human cargo of the Middle Passage. One can easily imagine the Bookman as a Colonial official (or modern-day bureaucrat), reducing tides of human misery to an indifferent mass of paperwork.

Instead of carrying his open ledger, our Bookman has actually become the book, as if a mass of discarded paper had suddenly come to life. The pile of newspapers that form his torso reveal a relentless accumulation of sensationalist headlines, sowing the seeds of fear, division, and immobility in Trinidad. His head and arms are made from a dismembered TT phonebook, whose neutral accounting of names implies a non-hierarchical (i.e. Carnivalesque) space where divisions disappear. Our Bookman, played with aplomb by a Trinidadian named Ravin, opened his cloak repeatedly to passers-by, like a stolen watch salesman surreptitiously displaying his wares. Then, extending the puppet's outstretched index finger towards a single name, he admonished them, "Look here! Yuh in de book, too! "

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NOTE: Except where otherwise credited, all above photographs © 2006 Stefan Falke. Usable only with permission of the artist. www.stefanfalke.com

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