Title and statement of responsibility area
Kenneth Shah fonds
General material designation
- Graphic material
- Moving images
- Textual record
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Dates of creation area
- Shah, Kenneth
Physical description area
3.86 m of textual records
ca. 4000 photographs
14 film reels
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Kenneth Faiz Neamath Shah (ca. 1939-2002) was born in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago as one of eight children. He spent his childhood in Trinidad, and at the age of 15, represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 1957 World Scout Jamboree held in England.
In 1965, he immigrated to Canada to pursue a degree in Petroleum Engineering at Carleton University. Upon his graduation, he was employed with Texaco Canada before leaving to follow his passion in carnival arts and costume design full time. In Canada, he married and began his family and had four sons.
Shah was one of the founding members of Caribana, and the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC). Formed in 1966, the CCC—originally named the Caribbean Centennial Committee—put on Carnival to represent the West Indian community and participate in the celebrations for Canada’s Centennial in 1967. After the success of the first Caribana Festival, the event became an annual occurrence, with the CCC operating year-round. Caribana remains the largest Carnival Festival in North America. Caribana was held over a weekend in August and culminated in the Caribana mas (masquerade) parade, where bands (groups of people), their band leader, and the King and Queen of the band, would “play mas” (walk the parade) often accompanied by music such as calypso or steel drums. There were also a series of prizes and competitions in order to determine the King and Queen of the Carnival, and the Band of the Year.
Over a period of thirty years, Shah was a carnival leader, assisting with the development of the vision and programming of Caribana; mas-producer and bandleader, project managing the design and manufacture of a mas band and its costumes each year; co-founder of Caribana’s Kiddies Carnival; and founder of the first J’Ouvert in 1995, a pre-dawn parade modeled after the traditional celebration in Trinidad. Additionally, Shah developed his own costume manufacturing business in Toronto under the name “Creative Costumes.” It became Canada’s second largest enterprise in dealings with parades, shows, operas, and other costume-based performance art.
Shah’s other roles and achievements include: President of Multi-Fest Canada, Inc.; editor of Canadian Caribbean Carnival Magazine; and contributing editor and circulating manager for the magazine So Yu Going to Carnival.
In May 2002, Shah died after complications from a surgery.
Records were donated to the Harriet Tubman Institute in 2002 and transferred to the archives in November 2019.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of the administrative records of the Caribbean Cultural Committee created and accumulated by Kenneth Shah in his role as a founding member, including material such as correspondence; band registration forms and regulations for band competitions; constitution drafts; financial documents; meeting minutes; Shah’s sketches for parade costume designs; and program proposals. Other materials include issues of newspapers and magazines that provided media coverage of the Caribana Festival each year; Shah’s personal photo and film collection documenting Caribana and other Carnival festivals in Trinidad and Tobago, Toronto, Montreal, and New York; Shah’s mas bands throughout the years; and promotional material for Caribana such as brochures, pamphlets, festival guides, event programmes, and flyers.
Immediate source of acquisition
Donated by Kamal Shah in November 2019.
Arranged by the Harriet Tubman Institute in 2017.
Language of material
Script of material
Location of originals
Availability of other formats
Some material digitized and available at https://digital.library.yorku.ca/yul-shah/kenneth-shah-fonds.
Restrictions on access
No restrictions on access.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Generated finding aid
No further accruals are expected.
Upon Shah’s death in 2002, his records were spread across family and friends. As a result, some material was accumulated and added to his fonds after his death.
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Dates of creation, revision and deletion
2022/12/21 E. Thomas. Creation.
2023/02/01 E. Thomas. Finding aid generated.
2023/02/27 J. Grant. Metadata corrections.
Language of description