Black Indian masman Narrie Approo dies at 94
Janelle De Souza
Black Indians mainstay Narrie Approo passed away, following the death of jazz kaiso pioneer Clive “Zanda” Alexander on Thursday.
Approo, 94, the founder of mas group Last of the Black Tribe, died around 11 p.m. in a retirement home.
He received the Hummingbird’s Silver Medal for Culture and Community Service in 2018.
He was born in Harmony Hall, San Fernando, but his family moved to John John, east of Port of Spain when he was five.
Anderson Patrick, leader of the Warriors of Huracan group, explained that the Black Indian is not just a group but a 175-year tradition based on family and community. With each new leader, the group is renamed, and so Last of the Black Tribe became Warriors of Huracan when Approo passed the title of Okenaga (King) to Patrick in 2011.
“Black Indians are First Peoples, so we have a whole tradition and a culture. So Narrie and my father, who was also a masman, were responsible for my involvement.
Patrick said that in addition to being the leader of the Black Indians, Approo worked with the Port Authority and was a barber and boxer by training. He also fashioned masks for others, built wings, and made complete costumes for the bat and devil characters.
He said that Approo loved Dobermans and German Shepherds and was a “birdman” who trained and cared for many types of birds.
He was patient, but also a perfectionist. If he made a costume and the measurements weren’t exact, if he couldn’t fix it, he would throw it away and start from scratch. He was also strict about punctuality. “
Curator, visual artist and former mask designer Kathryn Chan said her friend Approo was a committed masman who made and performed her own costumes and taught others to do the same. He has played many traditional farmhouse characters including a sailor, devils and imps, a midnight thief and a black Indian as well as movie characters.
“He was a masman who perfected his craft. He used materials from his surroundings and turned them into pearls and sequins and made the most incredible most detailed costumes. And he would write his own speeches. He also loved opera.
She said that in February 2021 there was a ceremony at UWI because she, librarian Lorraine Nero and others turned over the first part of the Approo archive to be part of the West Indiana collections and specials from Alma Jordan Library, UWI. She also compiles a bibliography of everything that has ever been written about him, of every song or recording ever made of him.
A statement from the National Carnival Commission described Approo as a talented masquerade, cultural representative and gifted pan player.
“For many decades, Mr. Approo, a true son of the land, has set one of the highest standards for consistency and commitment to mas. Beginning his trip to the farmhouse at the age of five, he would continue to preserve and promote the “Black Indian” farmhouse after being inducted into the warrior of Huaracan at the age of 11. It’s no secret that the Black Indian Farmhouse is where it is today for the most part, and thanks, Mr. Approo.
He sent condolences to his family and friends, adding that his death was a significant loss to the TT cultural community.
“The NCC will continue to celebrate and remember these titans for their invaluable contributions who have helped shape and define our culture and, in so doing, preserve their legacy for the future. “
Also offering his condolences in a press release, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell said: “Another icon has passed away, but his legacy will live on. Narrie Approo will be remembered for his skill in bending threads and beading and for his ability to make elaborate costumes that delighted spectators during the carnival. This type of art and flair will certainly be missed.