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Friday 13 December 2019
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Jonathan Livingston Cat


My name is Compton Andre Welch Jnr and I firmly believe I have met the reincarnation of a cat I had as a pet when I was a teenager.

I’m 63 years (old) and was born in Guyana but came to Trinidad as a baby. I’m a Trini, natural.

Now I see we have Venezuelan Trinis crossing the road in a hustle. They don’t give a damn about traffic lights and cars.

I grew up in Barataria, Fourth Street, Tenth Avenue for, like 20 years, before we moved to Maloney. To the plannings, Building Five.

I never sired any children over the years because I was self-indulgent.

It’s unfortunate. But I have not been corrupted by the woman.

I went to Barataria Boys’ Primary and that was it. I didn’t have secondary education but I had good parents and good upbringing.

I think I was actually fortunate because the spirit guided me to art where I learned more by not going to secondary school.

My dad put me in an area to learn art and, from there, I began. My tutorship was at Angelo Signs and then I went through silkscreen printing.

I used to travel to Mucurapo. In those days, the bus was ten cents and I spray-painted a shoe green and I was wearing that. People used to laugh at me, with my green shoes and the hat like Jimi Hendrix I was wearing in those days.

I taught myself to read, write and spell while working at Key Caribbean Publications with Jean De Meillac, Roy Boyke, Jeffrey Mouttet, Erica Williams-Connell, I worked with those people.

I had, like, five books on my desk: Patterns of Progress, Homemaker, I had a dictionary.

I was teaching myself to proofread and everything.

Compton Welch "....this relationship with this cat is what I call love." PHOTO BY MARK LYNDERSAY

I was a Roman Catholic and I got baptised in the Spiritual Baptist faith.

I don’t follow their teachings. I believe in God. There is a spirit, there is something.

BC Pires told me that he wants to call the cat in the Savannah Jonathan Livingston Cat because of the story Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about reincarnation – but I am certain this cat is the reincarnation of a cat I had in Maloney.

I used to call him Muh-Knee-Wrow, like the sound of a cat’s miaow, and he would hear me and come and walk all around my feet.

Muh-Knee-Wrow had a white tip on his tail and I used to have him playing for hours with a tennis ball in building five, where my dad had an apartment. I used to bring him outside 4 o’clock in the morning to hunt a lizard or whatever.

He was my real pardner and I think it was very fortunate that this spirit found me again, after so many years.

I don’t know if he will be taken from me, or me from him, again. But this relationship with this cat is what I call love. I don’t know if I am his best friend but he is definitely my best friend.

"It’s a hard living for an artist. I try to hold back my tears but what I have found out here is very, very hurtful," says Compton Welch.

I stay in a backyard now. I have come down in the world. I brought myself to this level only because, maybe, I had to learn certain lessons.

Of course there was drugs involved: marijuana. For years this was me, giving trouble, smoking all the time.

The system puts teenagers under tremendous emotional and mental pressure to go to their friends, who lead them astray. They tell you that your friends lead you, but they don’t bring you back.

I found myself relapsing, using drugs over and over and-over.

But since last September, I’m clean again, not even Christmas cake, nothing, no alcohol, no cigarettes, nothing.

It’s hard, coming back. It’s hard. I don’t attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings any more because, from my learnings, I told them, at my time to share, “My name is Compton and I’m NOT an addict.”

In this realm, we will be addicted, some will tote Bibles – and they couldn’t stand the truth I brought them and they throw me out the meeting.

Since then, I never went back. I think misery needs company.

So far, nobody has offered me an (art) exhibition, so I could set myself up. It takes maybe $3-, $4-, $5,000 to set one up at the Art Society.

I lived in the toilets there for, like, two years, but then I was evicted, I don’t think through any fault of mine, but they told me for security reasons.

I don’t know for what reason why I paint so good. People have said my work would be world-famous, if I could get a break, if I could go outside (Trinidad).

Things happen in its time. I have been holding it back, keeping myself down, I believe that – but for what reason, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve found it (with this cat).

This cat looks after me. I think so. I want him for a companion back home in my backyard.

But then I think he’s better off where he is now and I don’t want to move him.

I visit him every day, sometimes three times, depends on when I get a chance to run away.

I help out at Mike’s Bikes and Rituals: mop, sweep, run errands.

I get a little stipend, not much. I get coffee and sandwiches at Rituals.

But for the artist, money is not important. The happiness I found, painting and creating, just like the Creator did with us, that’s the joy in it for me.

If money comes from the pleasure of what I do, well, thank you!

It’s a hard living for an artist. I try to hold back my tears, but what I have found out here is very, very hurtful.

A seer woman walked into a shop where I was and she told me, “You see you, people won’t be able to understand you, you have to talk to the birds!” And I realised that people laugh at me, at the things I say, I’m somewhat of a comedian.

I feed the cat every day. Sometimes I buy food for him before I buy food for myself.

There is that love connection between species. Imagine that this spirit in this cat found me again! The same character that cat had in Maloney is this same spirit that came back in the Savannah to meet me.

A Trini is gullible, lovable, lackadaisical, the majority of them, and somebody who has a lot of freedom.

But still, Trinis will help a vagrant or a homeless (person). Trinis are genuinely nice people.

TT means home to me. It’s the only place I’ve ever known since my dad brought me here as a baby on Carnival Tuesday.

Read the full version of this feature on Wednesday at www.BCPires.com

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