JOAN RAMPERSAD, RACHAEL ESPINET, MARLENE AUGUSTINE
Authorities at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine are currently reviewing surveillance footage at the Alma Jordan Library to find out who slashed Donald “Jackie” Hinkson’s mural that was on display outside the library since the beginning of February.
“I was flabbergasted someone would do this. The police are looking into it. We have cameras around that can pick up movement. We want to find out who did this,” said campus principal Professor Brian Copeland.
Copeland said he blamed the vandalism on the lack of appreciation people had for the arts.
“I am really saddened. I hope this wasn’t done by a university student, but we are a microcosm of society. We have no appreciation for the arts – absolutely none. Advanced societies have respect for the arts.”
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Copeland said the campus had since apologised to Hinkson and offered to pay for the repairs of the mural.
Copeland said the matter was now in the hands of his deputy principal and the campus would continue to work very closely with Hinkson.
“We promised to work together to have it sorted out. The mural does not only reflect of TT’s society but it is an extra mark the society has left on us.
“All that is in discussion, but we will have it repaired. It is supposed to come down in about two weeks in any case, so we will do all the repairs that is necessary for it.”
He said although the police hds not been contacted, the campus normally handled all security issues first, which was standard procedure.
Copeland said, to date, he had not received any feedback from the campus security as to what they found on the security cameras.
In a release from the university on Saturday, Copeland said, “On February 26, we received reports that the mural had been vandalised. These reports have been confirmed. On behalf of the entire campus community I would like to state our genuine sorrow over this occurrence.
“The defacing of art is a truly senseless and ugly act. It hurts the creator. It hurts the audience.
“It hurts the society. It is especially troubling to see the work of an artist such as Jackie Hinkson, which reflects his deep love and compassion for his country and people, attacked.
Masquerade was a gift – not solely or even primarily to the University – but to our national community.”
Copeland said the university was grateful for the opportunity to host the powerful creative piece.
He said the university was taking the matter very seriously and had implemented dedicated overnight security for the mural until its removal on March 9.
“However, this incident will in no way deter the university from showcasing work of great creative and cultural merit.
The mural, called Masquerade, is a depiction of Carnival through the ages.
It has old time mas, panbands, social commentary, a critique on commercialisation of Carnival with images such as Mickey Mouse, Spiderman and KFC, as well as traditional characters such as fancy sailor.
Speaking to Newsday, the artist, Hinkson said he was not devastated by news that his mural had been slashed.
He was told by library staff a few days ago that there was what looked like a slash or tear in the mural about a foot long and another cut – clearly made with a knife – that is three and half feet long. After that, he said, the man who installed the mural confirmed the slashes were deliberate.
But Hinkson told Newsday on Thursday: “I told the librarians up there that I was a little bit surprised, but I’m not shocked.
That kind of incident doesn’t shock me, so I am not devastated.
“Disappointed, but not devastated.”
The mural was in the quadrangle under the covered walkway at the Alma Jordan Library. It is over 110 feet long.
“They asked me if I want to take it down and I said no, I’ve done the work, and one of the principal aims is to have it shown to people, so I don’t see the sense in taking it down. I knew that there will always be a risk and I was prepared to take the risk, and I will continue to take the risk.”
Hinkson is one of the country’s most highly regarded painters, best known for his watercolours.
He was dealing with the library on the handover over of his sketch books to the library’s West Indiana and Special Collection Division, which took place on February 6, when the idea came to him to have the mural installed at UWI.
“I happened to spot the corridor, the length, its size – and it suddenly hit me that this mural that I started in 2003, that I had no way of showing in its entirety – it is a wonderful opportunity, since the images are Carnival-related. Even if the subject matter in the work is not necessarily Carnival-related, the images are, and the season would be a wonderful time to show the work. And that is how it came about.”
The mural is in oils on canvas.