We're well into the second week of the Cape Town New Year's Carnival. I spent last Saturday with the Fabulous Woodstock Starlites, one of the champions of 2009's carnival and a favorite to win, again, this year.
I've been photographing the Starlites for the last three carnival seasons, as part of the work that I was doing on my book, One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival. (Random House Struik and the University of Virginia Press will publish it in May.) I wanted to do something different from the photos in the book, so I decided to make like Richard Avedon for a day. All I needed was a large sheet of white paper, some gaffer's tape, a little bit of shade, and a camera. Here are some of the results.
The Starlites' senior drum major. (All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2010. Click directly on any of the images to see a much larger, highly detailed versions.)
Carnival troupes are very much family affairs.
Dorothy Williams sells medicinal herbs. When I was in South Africa, six months ago, she recommended buchu tea for my tendonitis in my right ankle, and it worked like a charm.
Carnival troupes are also about friendship.
Every troupe has a band. Members vary in age from 8 to 80.
These boys were a hoot to work with.
Carnival troupes are also about fun, of course.
Waheed Hartley sings in the Starlites' choir and handles the troupe's computer duties.
As I said, troupes are...
The Carnival is not simply a living tradition. It's one that's gettng stronger, in large part because of the growing involvement of children and youth.
I made many portraits of the Starlites last Saturday.
Really. A lot.
This is one of the few in which the subject isn't smiling. Like everyone else, however, he was having fun.
After gathering at the home of Jameldien "Boeta Dienie" Jumah, the Starlites' owner, the troupe marched through Woodstock, a neighborhood tucked underneath Table Mountain, very close to downtown Cape Town, to "give the folks a show."
And then it was off the Vygieskraal Stadium for a day of competition against dozens of other troupes.