Maria Nunes is a Trinidad and Tobago photographer, filmmaker and producer who documents aspects of Caribbean cultural heritage. She is acclaimed for her work covering national festivals, traditional Carnival, steelband, calypso, and the performing arts. She first came to the nation’s attention in a completely different field, in the late 1970s, as a talented young golfer. She represented Trinidad and Tobago in the sport many times and in 1979, she won the Junior Golf World Championship in the 11-12 age group in San Diego, California. She subsequently worked as a history teacher, and her love of history eventually propelled her into the world of the “living history” around her, through the lens of her camera.
Ms Nunes’ entrance into recording the culture of Trinidad and Tobago began with photography of traditional Carnival. Her documentation of the stories of the Trinidad and Tobago cultural world quickly grew beyond the world of Moko Jumbies, Blue Devils and Black Indians to Ifa/Orisha practices, Rada ceremonies, Divali and Hosay. She has also worked on cultural projects in Jacmel and Port-au-Prince, Haiti and she has begun to document Carnival traditions in Grenada.
Ms. Nunes’ work also includes documentation of the traditions of the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as parang culture. Her interest in the arts draws inspiration from her love of music which includes collecting early calypso, string band and big band recordings of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as traditional folk and kalinda (stick-fighting) songs.
A founding Director of Calabash Foundation for the Arts, Ms Nunes was the producer of Jab Molassie, an original music-theatre which premiered in 2014. Her 2018 coffee-table book, In a World of Their Own: Carnival Dreamers and Makers, Photographs by Maria Nunes, published in Trinidad and Tobago by Robert and Christopher Publishers, received an Honourable Mention at the International Photography Awards, USA, in the category Professional: Book, Documentary.
Ms Nunes was photographer-in-residence for New Waves! Dance and Performance Institute from 2011–2014 and has been the resident photographer for the Noble Douglas Dance Company and Lilliput Children’s Theatre since 2013. She was official photographer in 2013 for the Trinidad and Tobago delegation to Carifesta in Suriname and the 9th China International Folk Arts Festival in Yichang and Beijing.
Most recently she has been working closely with Trinidadian jazz trumpeter and bandleader, Etienne Charles, to document the creation of two of his compositional works, the San Jose Suite and Carnival: Sound of a People. She has also travelled with him to Ghana, Togo and Benin in Africa to document his most recent research and also to explore connections with masking traditions in Trinidad.
For the immediate future, her plan is to extend her Carnival project to several other Caribbean territories including Cuba, Haiti and Dominica, and she intends a trans-Atlantic masking traditions project as well. She will also be expanding her longstanding work in documenting steelpan culture in Trinidad and Tobago and is committed to realising a digital photographic archive dedicated to cultural heritage to be housed at UWI, St Augustine.