Visual Poetry at Chaguanas Indian Heritage exhibit

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A report by Shane Superville for Trinidad’s Newsday.

“An explosion of colour and culture”, was how one patron described this year’s annual Indian Art and Heritage exhibition at the Divali Nagar, Endeavour Road, Chaguanas this past week. The exhibition which was organised by the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), featured the works of over 30 local artists, was held to commemorate the 172nd anniversary arrival of the first East Indian laborers.

The theme of this year’s exhibition, Historical Links to Contemporary Convergences, featured a wide variety of media from paintings, giving patrons a full experience into early East Indian life and customs in Indentureship- era Trinidad.

Curator for the exhibition and artist, Richard Rampersad said that while he was pleased with the overwhelming response of both artists and patrons to the event, there is still room for improvement as fine art exhibitions remain a relatively new phenomenon in Central Trinidad. Despite this, however, Rampersad praised both artists and patrons for their support, adding that, “Approximately 200 guests turned out to the exhibition on the first week alone so that’s definitely something to be proud of. It’s really heart-warming to see so many people take an interest in not just Indian culture but Trinidadian culture.

The fact that we have drawn such a crowd shows that art has and continues to illustrate the concerns and interests of a society.” Rampersad also noted that many of the contributors for this year’s exhibition were young artists and came from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, adding that the diversity of the artists are yet another testament to art as a universal language which transcends cultural boundaries “The majority of the pieces we received were from younger, lesser-known artists which goes to show how art is still alive and well in Trinidad. It was truly refreshing to see the diversity of the different artists There was a plethora of different ethnicities and cultures and while some might look at this event as an exclusively Indo-Trinidadian affair, the intention was to also celebrate Trinidad’s cultural diversity and the power of art as a symbol of oneness.” Rampersad explained that the pieces on display were for sale and following the exhibition, will be sold.

Whether first-time visitors or seasoned art enthusiasts, patrons were treated to a variety of styles and media ranging from bright, upbeat paintings featuring snapshots of life in rural Trinidad to darker, charcoal sketches depicting important social issues including spousal abuse and alcoholism.

Sunday Newsday spoke to veteran artist, Nalini Roshell Singh, whose piece, Prayers at the Sea blended bright colours with hazy silhouettes to give a haunting rendition of tradition and gender in colonial-era Trinidad.

Singh said that she was thoroughly impressed by the works of her fellow artist, adding that the event has motivated her to focus on her craft “Having so many different gifted artists here to showcase their work was truly a spectacle of its own. The depth, meaning and detail that was taken up by watching these pieces was nothing short of incredible. The entire event has motivated me to raise my standards as an artist.” Sunday Newsday also caught up with impressionist artist, Jadon Matthews who was also on hand to display some of his pieces, which included an eye-catching 12 x 14 inch charcoal drawing of an Indentureship era, East Indian midwife, entitled Big Broom. Matthews’ hyper-realistic style and broad but detailed shading caught several eyes and made him a crowd favourite. Speaking with Sunday Newsday, Matthews said that he was overwhelmed by the response his pieces have garnered and was motivated to pursue his passion with renewed vigour “It was truly an unforgettable experience and to see that something I created cause such a response in persons really does wonders for the soul, it makes me feel that even though I still have a lot of work ahead of me, that I’m at least on the right track.” Matthews added that he was honoured to be a part of the exhibition which celebrates the creativity and innovation of Trinidad’s next generation of creatives, “A lot of the entrants are younger folks and it’s important we get this opportunity to network and get some feedback for out pieces.” Local art enthusiast, Glenroy Cummings attended the exhibition on Thursday and referred to the pieces ‘visual poetry’, adding that he was proud to see the variety of themes and styles captured by the artists and was surprised to see the crowd that the exhibition had drawn. “It’s not often you get to see this level of care and dedication from such young artists, you go from happy and upbeat paintings to more dismal, serious works in an instant.

The use of the colours to convey a message meshes well with the overall atmosphere of the works.” The exhibition is available for public viewing during the week from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 7 pm until June 3.

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