Ace of Spades: The Father of Modern Day Junkanoo


Ace of Spades: The Father of Modern Day Junkanoo

Sunday, April 6, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014

“He was a fella. He was a lifelong friend. He is a Valley Boy. He is a real Valley Boy.”

– Mr. Doyle Burrows

On January 4th, 2014, At the age of 72, Mr. Winston “Gus” Cooper, one of the founders of The Valley Boys Junkanoo group, passed away at Princess Margaret Hospital. On April 15th, 2014, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas opens a tribute show entitled, “The Ace of Spades – The Father of Modern Day Junkanoo,” curated by the well-known Bahamian artist, Mr. John Beadle

The exhibition has several aims. One is to answer the seemingly simple question: What is Junkanoo? While every Bahamian can answer that question, responses will nonetheless vary from person to person, from shack rat to spectator, from judge to participant, from practicing artist to historian. To the visitors to our shores, Junkanoo is a spectacular parade, an all-night music and dancing festival, a uniquely Bahamian-style carnival event. Yet, while every Bahamian and some tourists might know what Junkanoo is today, having participated in the raucous revelry, its roots and origins are still not completely clear. The show will open with a colourful timeline, incorporating snippets of texts, newspaper clippings, photos and quotes that track the early days of Junkanoo and the formation of The Valley Boys, in 1958. A recreation of his office and workspace will be installed to record Mr. Cooper’s significant contribution to this uniquely Bahamian art form, investigating some of the seminal changes and inventions that The Valley Boys brought to the construction of Junkanoo costumes, as well as looking at these spectacular, intricate pieces as a fine art objects, recognizing the people who labour so diligently for their group for almost the entire year leading up to the parade. Mr. Beadle will recreate the interior of a Junkanoo shack within the galleries of the NAGB, to give the flavour of how the costumes are conceived, embellished and constructed and to allow the audience to feel the excitement and drive of being part of this unique creative process. On view there will be some full-scale off-the-shoulder costumes from various parades, as well as costumes for dancers, bellers and drummers. Some of Mr. Cooper’s personal costumes have also been lent by his family for the occasion and all will be set off by a spectacular backdrop—created with the assistance of Valley artists – of a large scale pasted mural on the gallery walls themselves. This year, shortly before Mr. Cooper’s passing, The Valley Boys won “Two Straight” … that is, winning both the Boxing Day and the New Year’s Day Parade, one right after the other. As his old friend and colleague Mr. Doyle Burrows stated, “For years he was saying when he ‘get’ two he wanted to go out in style. He wasn’t here in body but I hope he realized that he got his wish before he departed this earth.”