Errol Tyrone “Bumpy” Nanton
Dreaming and Living in Dynamic colour – A story of Mas, never returning home, flying high at 30,000 feet and living a life of gratitude!
Antigua’s Carnival is dubbed the “Greatest Summer Festival”. It is a time when people come home to enjoy the season, the calypso, the soca, the fetes, the shows and to play Mas. This year Antigua will be celebrating its 60th Carnival Anniversary. One of the biggest features is the parade of the troupes on Carnival Monday and Tuesday when different troupes compete for prizes based on size, splendor, creativity and showcasing of their costumes. One of the most popular Mas Troupes to have been created was Dynamics Mas Troupe, whose main designer and costume builder was Tyrone Errol “Bumpy” Nanton. His story began as a youngster when he first entered the world of Playing Mas and then later on making Mas!
“My life is about Mas!” was the enthusiastic comment from Errol Tyrone “Bumpy” Nanton, best known to many of us as “Bumpy” as we chatted about his life. One of five start up members for Dynamics Mas Troupe, Bumpy can remember as far back as when he was five years old and first put on a costume to play Mas! His parents would dress him up to go out and play Mas. He recalls attending Ms. Stephen’s school on Newgate Street and playing in her troupe as a young child. His very first memory of playing Mas at Carnival was in the days when Children’s Carnival was usually held before the actual Carnival Celebrations began. He remembers being dressed up in a Chinese costume, with a big broad hat and a stick across his back with two buckets, he laughs saying that he thought he suited the costume well with his eyes and features.
Bumpy has been designing costumes for most of his life, he started doing so at a young age, his love for Carnival and Mas truly seems to be a part of his DNA. He comes from a family of Mas lovers and his siblings Margo, Babi, and Ricky were all members of the Mas troupe Parragon when he was a youngster. However, he learned about costume designing first while at Antigua Grammar School, where his Art teacher was Reginald Samuel, and as part of the school program they had to design Carnival costumes; this he says is where he first thought seriously about designing Carnival costumes. He never gave up doing Art and continued throughout the years, and became quite good at doing Art, he was inspired by his older brother Babi whom he sat and watched while he created paintings.
Throughout the next few years he continued to play Mas, one year he went with his brother Toey as Arabian Knights for Carnival and placed second, then at age eleven Bumpy won Prince of Carnival. In those days it was not just about wearing a costume and going across the stage, it was a bit more involved. There were usually ten Princes and ten Princesses. Therefore as the Prince, he had to dress up, wear a suit and escort a Princess across the stage, and they had to model their suits! After this he took a break and didn’t participate in Carnival again until he was fifteen when he played a Fancy Indian, and as he was growing up through those teenage years, he wasn’t as involved or into the Mas playing.
“PARRAGON MAS TROUPE”
“Carnival Queen Costume – Dragon Queen – 1976”
(First ever Carnival Queen costume Designed by Bumpy-built with Trevor Gonsalves)
Some years later Bumpy comes full circle and Parragon Mas Troupe enters his life. His brothers Ricky and Babi who were still big Mas players with this particular Mas troupe told the leader Eugene Gonsalves that their brother Bumpy was interested in designing costumes, at hearing this Eugene sent for him. Bumpy laughs out loud here at the memory and says “One Sunday I went, and never went back home!”. He doesn’t understand how he had ever missed doing this, he was in his element! This was back in 1970, it is here that he became deeply involved and started designing costumes with Delvin Selkridge who was designing for Parragon at the time, and this is when they started working together, even though it was late into the Carnival season. That first year he was helping them the band gained 2nd Place. He never forgot how disappointed some Peace Corp people were that they didn’t win after “putting in all that hard work”. In his eyes though he was so excited all he could think was that a door had been opened and he could see the future and so much to be excited about. The following year they played “Signs of the Zodiac” and won Band of the Year! In 1972 they played “Splendour of the Orient” and won Band of the Year again, his youngest brother Tish was Prince of the Band. Fortunately or unfortunately, Parragon broke up after that year and a new band would be born a few years later.
In 1975 some of the members from the old Parragon Troupe got together to create a new Mas Troupe which they called Dynamics; there were five men in total – Peter Skillin, Ickford Benjamin, Hyram Warner, Trevor Gonsalves and Bumpy. They began building costumes in the downstairs section of Bumpy’s parent’s house on Nevis Street and their first troupe was “Shell Kingdom” and they won 1st place that year. In 1976, they played “Fire on Ice” and won again. In 1977 Dynamics moved their Mas Camp to upstairs the old Post Office on Thames Street and it was during this year that year Revellers Mas Troupe won.
“DYNAMICS MAS TROUPE”
Caribbean Harvest – Sugar Cane Caribbean Harvest – Tropical Fruit Punch-Queen of the Band
Desert Storm – The Imperialist Caribbean Harvest – Princess of the Band
Caribbean Harvest – Corn Bob Marley – Music Sweet Music
Fire on Ice Splish Splash
Bumpy reminisced on the great camaraderie that was built during these times, similarly as they were building costumes – the two went hand in hand. Long nights of sleeping under the big working tables on a piece of cardboard or someone cooking meals for everyone right there at camp! He mused that it would have been nice to have cell phones back then to capture these moments.
There were many changes that took place over the years that contributed to the improvement and construction of costumes. There was a shift from using cardboard initially for making back pieces, to using wire, then fiberglass rods and then onto aluminum rods, and even though there was rivalry between the troupes there was also exchanging of ideas and techniques in the construction of pieces, and there was also collaboration. He recalls himself and Connie Doram doing this throughout the years. Bumpy moved to Trinidad in the 70’s and being there made him very much aware of the different techniques and materials being used and he was able to incorporate this knowledge when building costumes. It became standard knowledge that when Antigua Carnival was coming he became more and more visible, and he used his off days and vacation days to come home to prep for the greatest summer festival in his island home.
Historically, there was a huge shift in costume making taking place which started in Trinidad, and it certainly impacted the rest of the islands, this shift would affect Mas building forever in Antigua. People no longer wanted to wear big costumes in Trinidad and as more and more Antiguans travelled to Trinidad to play Mas, where the trend of wearing smaller costumes had taken off, that thinking was brought back home with them to Antigua; it impacted the way Mas moved forward. It shaped the way Mas evolved in Antigua to what it is today.
In the meantime, this change and shift in mentality amongst the island revellers from the wearing lovely big costumes to smaller ones and the eventual reluctance by Mas players not wanting to carry even a standard became frustrating for this Mas Designer who felt that he was no longer able to do justice to his designs. He decided around the late nineties and into two thousand to turn his attention more to building elaborate Carnival Queen costumes, which he did with Rita Claire Raeburn and her ex-husband John.
“CARNIVAL QUEEN COSTUMES”
Carnival Queen Costume – CHANDALIER Carnival Queen Costume – WATER WORLD
Upon reflection he gives kudos to Wanga of Revellers for keeping his people on track even with the major change he was able to keep his Mas players in place and they continued carrying their standards when other troupes did not. He says he always admired Wanga and would call to congratulate him when Reveller’s won, even when he was not in Antigua. Bumpy’s costume building did not just remain within the island of Antigua, he took his craft to the USA prior to migrating in 1998, and he designed and made costumes in Atlanta for the Atlanta Caribbean Association for two years in 1993 and 1994.
“ATLANTA CARIBBEAN ASSOCIATION”
“Two Lives Running Parallel”
Bumpy’s life was always seemingly divided between two personal passions – Creativity and Flying, and his life would take an unexpected turn down a path that would test his inner strength and beliefs in more ways than one, while threatening to end his love for these two major elements in his life.
This is the only way I can think to coin Bumpy’s life into a short phrase. You see he uses both sides of his brain. All of our brains are divided into two cerebral hemispheres – the left side of the brain and the right side of the brain. In general the right side of the brain is associated with creativity, intuition, rhythm, Art, imagination and subjectivity. The left side of the brain is associated with logic, analytics, Mathematics, facts and rationale. Bumpy uses both sides of his brain to do what he loves the most.
To have the ability to be both right and left brain dominant is pretty amazing. Bumpy expresses it as being able to “keep both sides happy”. He describes it as “total joy, and creating balance in my life using both sides, while enjoying working. Some people only use one. Not taking anything away from them but working with both makes me feel fortunate”. He could get totally immersed in Carnival, the designing, the creation and building of costumes and then get back into the Pilot seat equally happy. Yes while keeping busy with Carnival when he was off-duty or on vacation, he was also a full time Pilot by profession who flew first with LIAT, BWIA and then Southwest Airlines in the USA.
All that was about to change drastically as Bumpy went through several years battling with serious illnesses that had a profound impact on his life. His professional career was the first to be affected as the first illness impacted his ability to fly. However his inability to fly along with many tasks, including not being able to draw, design costumes and do his Art, due to another illness is what drove him to Mayo Clinic in desperation. When they told him they had a procedure that would help he said his face lit up, but then he realized it was brain surgery, THEN they told him that it was FAA approved and had a 98% recovery rate, he told them they should have said so to begin with!! , One surgery on each side of the brain. They were both a huge success.
He reflects back on the time when Paragon came 2nd place and compared his attitude to those of who were crestfallen because they had not won. His attitude was one of being positive and not giving up and seeing possibilities in the future for success. Bumpy says “I look at the doors that the Lord opens for me, and I am eternally grateful”, he lets negativity slide off of his back – “I trust the Lord to see me through”.
Bumpy is the father of three sons, one of whom is a Pilot and it is with this son he did his training when he started over his career as a Pilot after he had recovered from those two surgeries and cleared to return to flying. Bumpy says he doesn’t believe in giving up and he definitely doesn’t have a defeatist attitude in life. While Bumpy did not return to designing costumes for Dynamics, in 2014 his niece Thea Nanton-Persaud who lives in Atlanta and plays a big role in Carnival there asked him to design a Dragon costume for her. He told her he’d not only design it but he’d build it and bring it to her. He designed and built what I consider to be one of his most beautiful individual pieces which she wore and played Mas in that year. It was a spectacular costume with incredible attention to details on the Dragon’s body, and its mobility.
“Atlanta Carnival 2014” – Individual Costume made and built for his niece Thea Nanton-Persaud.
Last costume designed and created by Bumpy
“What would you say to your younger self?”
I asked Bumpy if he could go back in time and have a chat with his younger self what would he say. He paused for a second and explained that, “as I looked at aspects of my character then which were very positive – pursuing an aviation career and got through, came back to Antigua and expected my flying career would be to fly with LIAT, never envisioning flying for BWIA but I did”, an opportunity he says that he “got and accepted because I had been born in Trinidad, and then going to the US flying with Southwest Airlines, I would say, to just remain focused on what goals you have, never give up, never take on negative speech, never say die and you can accomplish anything!”
He believes that in life if you ask the Lord for a second chance you should approach it with gratitude. He remembers being back in his pilot’s seat and at 39,000 feet and it struck him – “I’m back”. He continues “Living a Life of Gratitude” and thanks the Lord every day, for how he’s taken care of him and given him the inner strength he didn’t know he had.
“Bumpy says Thank you”
In true “Bumpy” style, he gives thanks for everything and everyone in his life, and this time is no different. He certainly did not forget those who journeyed with him along the way and contributed to the success of Dynamics. He remembers those whom he refers to as the “core members” of Dynamics “without whom, none of my accomplishments would be possible”. Bumpy thanks and acknowledges “The Dynamic seven, Erna-Mae Braithwaite and her crew, Nena Nanton and the Divas and the many others who gave of their time and talent over the years”.
Bumpy continues to quietly paint and recently presented a special piece of Art to the Mayo Clinic in appreciation for their role in getting him back into the skies and back to creating beautiful pieces of Art!
“Accolades and National Awards”
Receiving the Grand Cross of the most Precious Order of Princely Heritage (GCH) Culture particularly Carnival.
Bumpy has been recognized and awarded officially in Antigua for his contribution to the Art of Mas making and designing. In 2005 he received a plaque which reads:
“Errol “Bumpy” Nanton – In Recognition of your hard work and dedication to the development of carnival and “MAS” in Antigua & Barbuda on your admission into the “Carnival Hall of Fame”.”
He also received the National Award for Contribution to Culture as one of the Antigua’s 31st Anniversary of Independence Awardees on November 6th 2012. Tyrone “Bumpy” Nanton received the Grand Cross of the most Precious Order of Princely Heritage (GCH) Culture particularly Carnival.
Bumpy was also featured in Antigua’s Commemorative Magazine in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Carnival in 2007.
Thank you Bumpy for sharing this “Butterfly Chronicle and Golden Thread” with us and for showing us what living a life of gratitude truly means while living a life that stays true to your dreams and creative path. We wish you continued success and good health as you continue to fly the skies and paint!
“Links to Features Mentioned in this story”
To read about Errol Tyrone “Bumpy” Nanton’s medical experience with the amazing Mayo Clinic please click on the link provided below.
To see Antigua’s Commemorative Magazine and access the information highlighting Carnival historically in Antigua for the 50th Anniversary celebration which includes the article on Errol Tyrone Bumpy Nanton click the links below:-