Gloria Toolsie

Trinidadian Carnival costumes and Caribbean foodways

Trinidad's Carnival began almost two centuries ago, as emancipated slaves donned costumes and took to the streets in song and dance to mimic and mock their former masters.  Carnival traditions have evolved over time, but characters rooted in these satrical beginnings can still be found at today's celebrations.

Growing up in Trinidad, Gloria Toolsie learned the art of costume making as a child as her family participated in Carnival celebrations and parades each year.  Her family's home served as a "Carnival work camp," where family and friends would gather all year to plan and construct upcoming Carnival costumes.  In 1978, Gloria coproduced San Francisco’s first Carnaval celebration -- an annual event which now draws hundreds of thousands of participants -- and has remained deeply involved ever since.

As a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2013, Gloria shared with her granddaughter and apprentice Amanda Yochum the traditional delicacies of Caribbean foodways.

As a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2011, Gloria worked with apprentice Jasmine McClain.  The apprenticeship resulted in three Carnival characters, "Bele," "La Dia Belsse," and "The Carnaval Fantasy."


Click on any image to view slideshow.

Dahl (split pea soup) (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Dried hibiscus--for beverage called "sorrell" (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Gloria Toolsie (right) and her 2011 apprentice Jasmine McClain (Photo courtesy of Jasmine McClain)
Gloria Toolsie (right) and her 2011 apprentice Jasmine McClain (Photo courtesy of Jasmine McClain)
Gloria Toolsie giving a lecture of Caribbean food and culture (Photo courtesy of Gloria Jackson)
Master Carnival costume maker Gloria Toolsie (Photo courtesy of Jasmine McClain)
Preparing plantains--fried, smashed, and fried again to create Tostones (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Rumba dress by Gloria Toolsie (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Seasoned Chicken for curry (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Stewed chicken--cooking in the pot (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Tao leaf--cut with stems for Calalou (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)
Taro leaf--cleaned for crab and calalou (Photo courtesy of Gloria Toolsie)

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