The carnival community in the United Kingdom – and more specifically, Notting Hill Carnival – has lost a great carnival son; Lincoln Rahamut. The passing of Lincoln Rahamut on Sunday 31st May has left a void in London’s Notting Hill Carnival community.
Lincoln was a pioneer in the development of costume designing at Notting Hill Carnival. In 1992 Lincoln launched Masquerade 2000 and changed the concept of carnival costumes at Notting Hill Carnival, a trend that transcended across Britain and Europe. Without a doubt, Lincoln was the King of carnival costume design at London’s Notting Hill Carnival. One carnival official described Lincoln as “one of the best carnival artistic directors in Europe”. Lincoln’s contribution to Notting Hill Carnival arrived at the right moment to catapult carnival into a new realm of colour, movement, and dance; incorporating the spirit of carnival directly into his creations.
Lincoln and Masquerade 2000 set a benchmark that all other UK carnival bands followed. He rivalled the Trinidadian designers who journeyed from the land of carnival to create costumes for other local bands at Notting Hill Carnival. Lincoln didn’t just set standards, he created opportunities for the younger generation of carnival costume designers in the UK. By doing so, many of the London carnival groups were no longer dependent on importing designers from Trinidad, and thus spawned a new generation.
For more than a decade, the Notting Hill Carnival stage belonged to Lincoln Rahamut and Masquerade 2000. He attracted European participation into Notting Hill Carnival, which continues to this day.
Arriving from Trinidad in 1970 Lincoln embraced his carnival roots from his country of birth and began weaving his brand of carnival costume designing culture into the fabric of British society, where carnival had already been established. In 1976 Lincoln started Perpetual Beauty Mas Band, which won him accolades across Britain and Europe. Lincoln’s vision was for something bigger, something outstanding, something that would change the face of costume designing and presentation thus, Masquerade 2000 was launched 1992. Lincoln was the quiet giant of carnival: he seldom hogged the limelight, often choosing to stay in the mas camp working on deadlines and tapping into his creativity while others partied.
Lincoln, like most Trinidadians coming to the UK, already had carnival in his blood. His father was an accomplished tailor and his mum a seamstress; both working in the carnival industry back in South Trinidad. He garnered print and sign-making skills at a family department store in South Trinidad. He honed these acquired skills and incorporated them into his ability to design and create stunning carnival costumes. Such was his creativity and vision, Lincoln created disability-inclusive designs that allowed even more people to engage with carnival. He created costumes so people in wheelchairs were able to be part of the masquerade parade at Notting Hill Carnival and wherever Masquerade 2000 participated in carnivals across Britain.
Having left Trinidad to build a new life in the United Kingdom, Lincoln never turned his back on Trinidad. He maintained close links with the carnival community in his home country and supported carnival groups there. Lincoln’s flair, creativity, and vision for costume designing came up against the big guns of carnival at the World King and Queen of Carnival competition held in Trinidad; where he helped to secure third place for the UK at the prestigious event. Lincoln’s work in the carnival industry opened avenues for others to tread. His designs appeared on the famed London Fashion Week, as well as having carnival costumes displayed in museums and exhibitions across Britain including the V&A in South Kensington and the British Council in Islington.
Having resigned from Masquerade 2000 Lincoln launched his own company Mas Art. He continued to serve the carnival community across the UK through consultancy and became involved with education of carnival designing through schools, university and television production. He worked alongside the Isle of Wight carnival and was a design consultant for many carnival bands at Notting Hill.
Lincoln had an open door to everyone who sought advice, help, and direction. His passing is a huge loss of talent in the corridors of Notting Hill Carnival. The legacy he created is unrivalled and his original influences into the carnival arts and development are without a doubt indelible in carnival history. Anyone who knew Lincoln would confirm he was one of the humblest of people ever. He never allowed things to faze him, and always saw solutions rather than problems. Dexter Khan, founder of Cocoyea Mas Band said, “Lincoln was a great friend and his talent, creativity and immense contribution to carnival will be sorely missed”. Pax Nindi, director at Global Carnival, who began writing a book to celebrate the legendary designer remembers Lincoln’s words to him, “You should celebrate death and not be afraid of it”.
Lincoln Rahamut, a great artisan, carnival designer extraordinaire – King of Notting Hill Carnival.
Lincoln Rahamut is survived by Carol Rahamut, his daughters Sally Ann Nurse, Sarah- Jane Rufus and grandchildren.
28 June 1946 – 31 May 2020