Carnival on canvas

Michelle Loubon reports for Trinidad’s Guardian . . .

Beyond an arch of red bougainvillea, an exhibition at the National Museum, Keate Street, Port-of-Spain, has effectively captured the essence of Carnival. A riot of colours, happy expressions and people in bacchanalist mode reflect the festival’s energy and exuberance. The canvases are alive with the sound of indigenous music and the sights of T&T. An art connoisseur might think it was done by a local artist. But they’d be dead wrong. The collection was done by Hungarian artist Istvan Steve Ducsai (pronounced du-chay). Though a Budapest resident, David Rudder would have aptly described him as “Trini to the bone.” Having immersed himself in Trini Carnival, he produced the exhibition in Hungary. In 2011, during his maiden visit, he was thoroughly smitten by Carnival—often dubbed the “greatest show on earth.” The 2012 edition showcased the talents of mas men like Brian Mac Farlane, Calypso Monarch  Duanne O’Connor, soca titan Machel Montano and budding star Aaron Duncan.  Accompanied by his manager Atilla Abuczki, Ducsai depended on him to interpret his comments. A prolific painter for the past 30 years, he was commissioned to work on restoring old buildings in Hungary.

Abuczki said: “Steve is a European. But he has merged his mind with the local people. His pieces like La Fiesta del La Musica is not to separate the nations, but to bring them together. The violin is next to the steelpan, although we are separated by about 12,000 miles. It is an idea of how far the mind can fly. He sees life and the Christian connotations in the festival.” During his pit stop to Tobago, Duscai found Tobago was beautiful. He said: “We brought back paintings of the Rastaman. We have another painting of clothing flapping in the breeze. We find it has a lot of natural scenery. Sometimes we felt like we had the beach to ourselves.” Unapologetically, he was not afraid to place masqueraders gyrating at the  shoreline. Coconut palms fringed exotic locales. Another reason for the master artist’s hunger was the amalgam. While Hungary has Carnivals, the focus was on the children. In T&T, veteran kaisonian Shadow had summed it up nicely. “Everybody could Dingolay.”

Fetching pieces

At first glance, the mood is jovial. Reds, yellows, blues and green are dominant. Headpieces look as though they were plucked from downtown Carnival celebrations. The natural beauty and pride of West Indians is celebrated in the broad smiles and pieces like Lady Carnival. Upon closer introspection, there is the melding of the European and Caribbean. For example, a pregnant chocolate-coated beauty rises from a scallop in the piece Reborn of Venus.  Venus, the goddess of love, had this amazing birth in Greek lore. Full-bodied women in skeletal costumes  embrace on the streets. In Centaur and the Fishing Lady, the Greek creation of the centaur (half-man-half horse) is depicted. From Italy, explorer Christopher Columbus sailed across the Blue Caribbean seas in the Santa Maria. The Clown left the “Big Top” to find a spot in the masquerade. Familiar symbols like the Cross, a universal symbol of Jesus Christ’s resurrection are visible. There’s the touch of Dante’s inferno in The Judge—condemning  people to Heaven or Hell.

Co-ordinator comments: While he thanked the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Peters for allowing them use the space. Kapok Hotel also came in for kudos for helping them with reduced rates. He said: “There are plans to take it wherever there is Carnival. It will be moving to Napa, Tobago and then  to Barbados and Miami. It is about marketing T&T. We want to broaden the scope for T&T. T&T is about the people, how we we party.” There are even plans to display it at the Olympics. To date, monies are generated via the catalogue and prints. Describing it as “honourable,” co-ordinator Andy Hypolite said their refusal to accept $4 million (TT) for 18 pieces from the 60-piece collection in Hungary was a testament of his love to the people of T&T and Carnival. Instead, after eight months of labour, the collection was shipped to T&T at a cost of about $50,000.

Although the exhibition held enormous potential, Hypolite appealed for help and funding.

More Info: It ends of March 9 at National Museum, Keate Street, Port-of-Spain; call 795-1753 or Andy Hypolite on Facebook.

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