Bobie-lee Dixon reports for Trinidad’s Guardian.
A few years ago, if you had visited 49 Grafton Beach Road in Black Rock, Tobago, you would have met an empty plot of 10,000 square foot of land. The plot, once part of an old cocoa plantation, became known to the local community as “the gully” (waste land) because hundreds of crabs made it their home. Today, if you visit that same spot, you will find a beautiful heritage park called the Nen Dinah Heritage Park. The man responsible for the transformation, Bandele Iyapo, shared his story with the T&T Guardian. “I acquired that land from my aunt Dinah Charles,” Iyapo disclosed, adding that when he returned to Tobago from the UK in 2000, he began working on it. “I always knew what I wanted to do with the land but at the time it was a bit deterring because the land was not levelled and needed a lot of work if I was going to put it to use. “There was not a single bit of level land in the 10,000 square feet to place my six foot tent—the place I intended to make my home while working on land,” noted Iyapo. But with sheer determination he was able to level the whole property by hand, using a tiny makeshift tool.
According to Iyapo the park comprises of a mini amphitheater with a 90-seat capacity. But within a few months another 300-seat amphitheater will be constructed. Four art galleries were also installed for artists to showcase their work, Iyapo told the T&T Guardian. He said to the site visitors also get the opportunity to see the Nen Dinah original wooden parlour, which was built in the late 50’s. This parlour survived hurricane Flora in the 1960’s and was renamed—The People’s Cafe, by his aunt. It is now a museum of the community and officially part of the island’s history, Iyapo said. The museum also boasts a small camping area, a well-being and yoga platform and an art and barbecue garden. Iyapo said the property retained its agricultural roots, since there were still cocoa trees, breadfruit trees, avocado, immortelle, guava and many banana trees. The Nen Dinah Heritage Park opened over the Easter weekend, with a showing of some of his paintings, photography and batik. He also gave demonstrations on textile art, sculpture and photography, using his collection of 120-year-old mahogany and brass cameras.
Bandele Iyapo is from Barataria and has been a professional artist for 40 years, 23 of which he spent in the UK. Beginning as a drummer in the 70’s as a founding member of the NACC, he did sculpting during the 70s. In the 80’s he became one of the major textile artists in Trinidad and started the first school of textile design in the country on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain. He migrated to the UK in 1988 to join the South Africa anti-apartheid struggle after he was commissioned by Amnesty International to do a batik exhibition on human rights abuses. Later he began working as a photographer, before moving onto film-making and produced an award winning film for the BBC on the black community in Bristol. On his visit to Trinidad in 2003, under the watchful eye of Makemba Kunle at Studio 66, he started painting in oils.
For the original report go to http://guardian.co.tt/lifestyle/2012-04-14/tobago-gets-heritage-park