Parliament showcases Carnival art at Red House

(centre) Ansel Wong, Advisory Council chairman of Notting Hill carnival alongside, Francis Williams-Smith, left, and Keith Simpson, members of Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors at the launch of a Carnival exhibition in the Rotunda at the Red House. - ROGER JACOB
(centre) Ansel Wong, Advisory Council chairman of Notting Hill carnival alongside, Francis Williams-Smith, left, and Keith Simpson, members of Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors at the launch of a Carnival exhibition in the Rotunda at the Red House. - ROGER JACOB

The first collection of paintings to be displayed at the Red House Rotunda features Carnival-themed works by established and up-and-coming artists.

Curator Keiba Jacob-Mottley, a procedural clerk at Parliament, said the pieces in the exhibition, which opened last Friday, were first sourced from the Parliament's collection.

"We then searched social media for artists working on Carnival pieces and asked if their pieces were available for display. In other cases, private collectors lent us pieces from their collections. In addition, you can't have Carnival without costumes, so we reached out to fancy sailor band Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors and 2019 Band of the Year K2K Alliance and Partners to lend us costumes to put on display."

Featured artists include Peter Minshall, Carlisle Chang, Jackie Hinkson, Sundiata, Peter Sheppard, Joy Luk Pat, Shalini Seereeram, Fitzroy Hoyte, Karlene Francois, Abigail Hadeed, Leo Glasgow, Noel Vaucrossen, Kenderson Noray, Rebecca Foster, Monica Rudder, Martin Superville, Glen Roopchand, Tessa Alexander, Gina Montrichard, Jeannine Francis and Ancil Mc Lean.

Makeda Sambury, Shanice Satnarine, Anthea Grant, Tianna Stafford, Afeisha Lesmore and Pertrine Griffith, parliament staff members from the Hansard Records Department, stand alongside a wood sculpture by Jackie Hinkson, entitled Fancy Sailor in the Rotunda at the Red House. - ROGER JACOB

Three artists present at the launch agreed that having their art on display in the space was an honour. Foster said the initiative was a great one which gave the public the chance to see what was possible creatively. She said her art usually featured Carnival characters, old buildings and architecture, and she felt it was important to showcase these subjects to educate younger generations. Alexander said her work focused on highlighting women in different ways, and she hoped the public would come and see the exhibition. Hoyte said he thought all public spaces should have art, to allow the public to see the type and level of creativity that TT has to offer and to build the appreciation for our culture and our art outside of Carnival. He advocated for the display of local art at the airport, especially in the arrivals corridor. He noted, however, referring to the slashing of Hinkson's mural in March 2019, that art on public display should be monitored or secured, so that people who "are evil" or ignorant, would not have the chance to steal, damage or destroy them.

Senate President Christine Kangaloo said she was excited about the exhibition and the rotunda being open, as she felt this was another way to make the Red House accessible to the public.

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and curator Keiba Jacob-Mottley, at the launch of the Carnival Exhibition in the Rotunda at the Red House. - ROGER JACOB

"We love the idea of having the work of our local artists shown here. I think any sort of artistic impressions and skills should be encouraged, so hopefully by making this accessible to students, to everyone, they will be able to understand and want to develop these skills as well."

Advisory council chair for Notting Hill carnival Ansel Wong said attending the exhibition was an inspiration for him both as a native son, to remind him of his heritage and the history of Carnival, and also to see the links between Notting Hill in London and the creativity and the artistry of Carnival and Carnival arts in the things exhibited here. "It's really a good showcase that I think anybody really needs to have access to."

Senate vice president Nigel De Freitas said the location made it possible for the public to see the immense talent present in TT. He said he would love to see more art in public spaces to show young people,

Left to right, Rebecca Foster, Fitzroy Hoyte and Tessa Alexander, three artists who contributed their works to the Carnival exhibition in the Rotunda at the Red House. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB. - ROGER JACOB

especially that a career in art is possible. He said he did not understand people who discouraged their children from pursuing art, as it is a way of chronicling history.

"Once you create pieces like this and it's passed from family member to family member, it's part of us. If we focus on developing this type of artwork and culture, we would see that people are starting to create their own style of painting based on what we have in TT and what we experience in our history, and it's a way of preserving our history, so I'd love to see more of this taking place."

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George said it was wonderful to have art displayed somewhere that people would be able to appreciate it without necessarily spending money.

A policeman walks past Tempting Town by artist Jackie Hinkson,
at the launch of the Carnival Exhibition in the Rotunda at the Red House. - ROGER JACOB

"I feel beauty must always be around people, there's plenty ugliness around and there must be opportunities for people to be surrounded by beauty. I think they (the paintings) are we, and I think they are as beautiful as we are as a people. All the expressions are from Trinidadians and Tobagonians just like each of us, and I hope it shows our people how extremely skilled we are, our artistic ability, and I think we forget how much talent we have."

Director of corporate communications and productions Colleen Holder said the Rotunda would be a permanent gallery space with a constant rotation of artwork. Anyone interesting in purchasing any of the art on display could email rotundagallery@ttparliament.org and indicate the piece they were interested in. The exhibition closes on March 6.

The Rotunda Gallery Committee has also issued a call for submissions for its International Women's Day Exhibition scheduled to run from March 8 to 27. For more information, email rotundagallery@ttparliament.org, call 624-7275 ext 2373 or 701-6133, find TT Parliament on social media and visit the Parliament's website.

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