Skullduggery....the dance of deceit!
Skullduggery...the dance of deceit.
Costumes designed for Carnival in Trinidad 
Concept and design by Sonya Sanchez Arias
Illustrated by Jolene Mattison Cody
Photography: Mark Lyndersay
 © 2010 Sonya Sanchez Arias

ABOUT SKULLDUGGERY...........

SKULLDUGGERY is not about evoking the SKULLS of the “Dead”,
this collection of costume designs is all about depicting the SKULLZ of the “Living”

I have researched all types of human rituals and celebrations associated with death , and the symbolism of skulls since I began my initial concepts for this Collection of costumes for Trinidad Carnival.

The Day of the Dead (or Dia De Los Muertos) as it is called in Mexico) is a grand celebration of life itself! The essence of this beautiful ritual is to lovingly and happily remember the dead relatives, their life, and in this way, give meaning and continuity to human existence. Mexicans do not view death as an end but as a beginning, instead of fearing death, they embraced it and consider it a “moving-on” to a higher level of consciousness. The Day of the Dead celebrates the intimate connections between the living and the dead.

Unlike Day Of The Dead, however (that celebrates loved ones who have passed), my collection of SKULLDUGGERY costume designs is all about “The Devious and Mischievous Activity” that LIVES and THRIVES in our midst everyday. SKULLDUGGERY is all about the “living” not the dead. It is about the “Skeletons in our closets” about the vices, corruption and lack of morality that we too often witness in our communities and neighborhoods and societies.

Outside the Caribbean, our carnival and calypso music is regarded as carefree, light-hearted, even frivolous. Yet calypso is among the most political of all musical traditions – a form that combines joyful cadences with serious and often subtle social commentary. Originating in the struggle for emancipation, the genre is characterized by its witty and imaginative treatment of themes as diverse as racism, social and economic injustices, local and foreign politics and corruption.

Trinidad’s carnival and calypso music is rooted in traditions developed by West African slaves brought to the Caribbean. Many words in our local dialect, urban slang, patois are used in our calypsos and where created to mock and provide innuendos, or social commentary through praise, satire or lament. Traditional costumes and calypso lyrics often mocked slave masters and would be recited at the harvest festival of Canboulay, a parallel with the pre-Lent Carnival, from which even freed slaves were barred.

The form became a means of communicating and interpreting political events, and a primary news source for many islanders. The content of each song would be debated by citizens and politicians, with topics that included colonial mismanagement, abuses of civil liberties, and government and corporate corruption. Many argue that today’s modern Carnival in its diaspora has lost it social consciousness. 

Yet in Trinidad, the political tradition continues today through out our society in the way we choose to communicated both orally and in our Carnival culture – a rare example of a truly democratic art form. And the “Cote ci Cote la” (loosely translated as “This or that, pros and cons”) language and innuendos is still embodied today in our patois and urban slang.


In this collection of costume designs for SKULLDUGGERY I used traditional Trinidadian slang (a mixture of shortened words and phrases commonly used in daily communication) as the inspiration for costumes to illustrate the various forms of mischievous and devious activity that many of us (not just Trinidadians) encounter in our communities and societies. The designs are infused with sarcasm and mockery that is routed in my island’s carnival and calypso culture.

© Sonya Sanchez Arias -Soucouyant Prototype
© Sonya Sanchez Arias -Jagabat Prototype
© Sonya Sanchez Arias -Skullzman Prototype
© Sonya Sanchez Arias -Sketelle-ton Prototype
© Sonya Sanchez Arias - Ratchifee Prototype
Skullduggery....the dance of deceit!
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148
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Skullduggery....the dance of deceit!

Skullduggery - concept and costume design by Sonya Sanchez Arias
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148
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Published: