In Brief: The Baby Doll character is a satirical portrayal of a mother with an illegitimate baby. Often the masquerader portrays a gaily dressed younger woman, with a frilled dress, gloves, and a bonnet. In all instances she carries a doll representing the illegitimate child. The masquerader usually stops male passers-by and various audience members, accusing them of fathering the child. She then asks or demands money from the new-found “father” to pay for milk, clothing, other needs, and/or to simply cease her accusations.
Video Gallery: n/a
Mas Origins and History:
According to Errol Hill, this mas was
“first noted in the late-nineteenth-century carnival and was regularly played until the 1930’s”. This mas is played by both men and women. There is no known reference to this mas being played before the 1900, but Hill indicates that the Mas has its origins in the late 19th century. There was a ban on transvestite bands in 1895 that may have impacted this character’s portrayal. Hill states, “She may have been imported from the northern West Indies where she appears in fold dramas or from the New Orleans mardi Gras. A similar character, known as the Babo, or old woman, was part of a traditional play acted during the carnival in Thrace. She carried an object representing her seven-month-old child born out of wedlock of a father whose name she did not know.”
“her costume was that of a gaily dressed doll: bonnet tied under the chin, a frilled dress reaching to her knees, colored cotton stockings, and strap shoes. Her face was hidden under a wire mask, her hands gloved, and the back of her head and neck covered by a hood, so that it was impossible to identify the masker. She carried a small doll that stood for her illegitimate child…”
Sounds and Speech: Hill indicates that Baby Doll’s are both loud and generally in “falsetto”- indicating both the high, affected voice.
Movement: Hill states,
“The movements, gestures, and speech of the Baby Doll were loose and loud, aimed at attracting a great deal of attention, which would naturally embarrass the person accosted and prompt him to pay quickly.”
Other Behavior: n/a
Variations and Developments of Note: n/a
References in Arts and Popular Culture:
Hill states, “The Baby Doll masquerade was well suited to the character of foster mother in the independence carnival play. Because her behavior was so well known to the audience, it was possible to develop dramatic situations around her discovery of the child.
Related Characters: n/a
Bands and Individual Performers: n/a
Other Information: n/a
Interviews and Scholarship: n/a
Hill, Errol. “Carnival Stage Spectacles.” The Trinidad Carnival; Mandate for a National Theatre. Austin: U of Texas, 1972. 108-110. Print.
“Carnival.” Carnival. Trinidad and Tobago National Library and Information System Authority. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nalis.gov.tt/Research/SubjectGuide/Carnival/tabid/105/Default.aspx?PageContentID=81>.