With the tearing down and/or erection of statues being a trending topic these days, I asked several people at random: “What animal would you like to see as the subject for a new national statue?”
“A dog,” one businessman said. “Just about everyone on the island has a dog in one way or another. The nature of the animal and what it represents is love, loyalty and caring. I think it’s the most popular animal. At some point most people have had an experience with one.”
His chosen location would be a public park or any place visited by children – to remind them of "what a dog represents.”
A woman on the street responded: “A dog. It’s a no-brainer. They give us so much service and abiding love. They are an example for us all. If we could learn to be like dogs in love and service, we would be well on our way to solving the problems of the world.”
“A turtle statue,” a fruit vendor said. “That is a very special animal. We have turtles that lay eggs on this land. They go far and come back here. So what better than a turtle? Doh mind we does eat the meat! Then again we does eat horse and crocodile too. I going on 60 and I does eat everything...except crab and shrimp, because they is the scavenger of the land.”
Asked if he thought that humans would complain less (if at all) about a statue of an animal, he laughed. “Eh heh? Eh heh? They go say: ‘What dey doing wasting all dat land and all dat money to build dat big turtle?’ Whatever statue dey put, people go complain. De only time people here go be satisfy is when they dead.”
A businesswoman chose a lamb. “It reminds me of Christ and how He shed His blood for us on Calvary. People will see the statue and recognise there is a God who is here for us and willing to help.”
A young lady awaiting a taxi thought long and hard before saying: “A dog.”
She further envisioned the statue standing on its hind legs at the Auchenskeoch roundabout.
A farmer, taking a break near his mango tree, said: “It’s a toss-up between a leatherback and iguana. The turtle represents longevity and shows us how quickly we can impact upon a species...how cruel we can be to such an ancient animal that travels the seas more than we do. We callously chop it to death for one fin.
"Same goes for iguanas. Soon we will only see iguanas in the zoo. Our children will only find them on the internet.”
“An iguana or turtle statue,” a young fisherman contributed. “They are often butchered and not given full respect. They’re beautiful creatures, to be treasured.”
A red-masked gentleman at the grocery added to the majority choice: “Obviously a dog. I love dogs since I small. They represent faithfulness and unconditional love – two traits the world could do with.”
The late German, Tobago-based sculptor Luise Kimme was an avid lover of Tobagonians and dogs, both of whom she honoured in her majestic carvings.
Earlier this year I went to her "castle" (Kimme Museum) in Mt Irvine to chat with a dear old European friend of hers.
As we stood in the front garden, her friend pointed out the statues of birds sitting around the top of the museum’s roof.
“They are chacalacas,” she said, using the other name for cocricos, Tobago’s "national" bird.
In April 2013, when Kimme passed away at home, this friend was at her side, along with another dear friend and Kimme’s gardener, Andy. Sugar, Kimme’s favourite dog (one of many she had rescued) was, as usual, under her bed.
“Minutes after Luise died, a large number of chacalaca flew out of nowhere to sit with the chacalaca statues atop the house,” her friend said. “They made a magical concert for ten minutes.”
My pores had raised hearing the story.
“She put her life into her work,” I had told her friend. “It’s as if, in death, that creative energy brought the cocrico statues to life, to honour her in song.”
There is timeless beauty and power in statues of animals, most of whom (unless their species is overhunted or slaughtered to extinction) will always be with us, deserving of our respect.