Ian Ali's work goes on view in online gallery

Long-time Christmas, churning icecream, by Ian Ali circa 1978 -
Long-time Christmas, churning icecream, by Ian Ali circa 1978 -

PATTI-ANNE ALI remembers one Christmas when she was about six and really wanted a doll’s house she had seen on TV. That year Santa could not bring her that particular doll’s house, because it had been a hard year at the "North Pole." Instead, what Patti-Anne got was a beautiful hand-made, unique doll’s house made by her father, with her name painted on the roof. It was better than what she had asked for because "it was made with love, imagination and ingenuity."

Patti-Anne – one of the daughters of the late media personality Ian Ali – said this love, ingenuity and imagination are all a part of his work. And Ali's art/work is now archived on a website built by his family. They launched Ian Ali – Online Art Gallery, on August 16, the 14th anniversary of his death. Ali was the host of the popular 80s children show Rikki Tikki – which is now a warm memory for many – and also a teacher and an artist.

Ian Ali was the host of the popular 80s children show Rikki Tikki, a teacher and artist. -

He grew up in Tunapuna and later moved to Mayaro, Patti-Anne said. At Naparima College, San Fernando, he excelled in art, literature and theatre. In 1962 he won a government scholarship to study art in the UK. He attended the Bath Academy of Art, where he studied painting and filmmaking. At the Sir John Cass College he also studied sculpture, jewellery, commercial art, magazine layout and television production. Ali also studied environmental sculpture, design and fabric work at Hammersmith College of Arts and Building, Patti-Anne said in a biography of him.

Christmas in Lopinot by Ian Ali, Udris Collection, Canada -

His family has done numerous things to archive his life and creations since he died at 70 on August 16, 2007.In e-mail responses to Newsday Patti-Anne said the idea of creating a "digital repository" of his work was the brainchild of his daughter Jo-Ann and son-in-law Hakeeb Nandalal. "Especially in the context of the covid19 pandemic, it became a way for the public to safely enjoy Ian Ali’s work, as they would have, if attending a live exhibition, but from the comfort and safety of their homes," Patti-Anne said. Since his death, the initiatives through which the family with other organisations and bodies have honoured his life and work include a 2010 art exhibition hosted by Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre called Renaissance Man; an illustrated biography called Ian Ali, Great Nationals of TT, launched in 2011 by the then Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism; his 2012 induction into the National Council of Indian Culture's (NCIC)’s Hall of Pioneers; the TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) 2015 posthumous award for Media Excellence; and the 2017 Iconic: the Ian Ali Memorial Exhibition hosted by the Art Society. The idea of the website was developed in March this year and work began almost immediately, with his widow, Carolyn, leading the project and daughters Patti-Anne, Jo-Ann, Tammy and Judi working on the content. It took the family about six months to get the site up and running.

Ananci and the bulldog, watercolour illustration by Ian Ali -

"In that period...Carolyn located various owners of the artist’s paintings locally, regionally and internationally, while Jo-Ann and Hakeeb worked on the technical aspect of presenting close to a hundred diverse visuals and Patti-Anne developed the content along with her sisters Tammy and Judi," Patti-Anne said in the e-mail. Visitors to the site can find content that reflects Ali's work over his four decades in the arts and broadcast media, she added. "In addition to working in various communications disciplines, he also worked in various artistic media. Paintings are categorised as brush and palette, mixed media and illustrations. "Anyone with a nostalgic connection to TT or the Caribbean will enjoy the artist’s loving and vibrant depictions of the diversity of cultural life and the beauty of land and sea. "For the art scholars and critics, there is ample to discuss, from the abstract work of Fireflowers over Baghdad (brush and palette) to the stunning emotions and mastery of craft of The Last Carib (collectors page). "Art students will find it useful to observe the manner in which the artist navigates the various media, for example comparing his work in watercolour with the illustrations, to his work in the acrylic pieces. Children may particularly enjoy the illustrations as these were all done for Carolyn Ali’s children’s publications, and they are charming and whimsical. This is particularly significant given the need for more local text and visual content in Caribbean children’s literature. There is also information on the artist’s remarkable life and accomplishments in milestones, a collectors page and comments."

Cool Pan by Ian Ali, private collection, UK -

The family hopes the website becomes a space that welcomes anyone who wishes to enjoy Ali's life and work. "Ultimately, the goal is to archive the work of this master artist and cultural icon, in the hopes that his own journey from poverty to success, will inspire anyone to follow their own dreams. It is also hoped that this site will be of artistic and educational benefit, promoting the culture of TT on the global stage," the Ali family said. They also have a number of other projects in mind to continue to offer Ali's work. For them, their father and husband was a "very unconventional, loving, creative and supportive" person. They said he believed his daughters were capable of following their dreams and fulfilling their greatest potential. "He refused to be defined by his own difficult and challenging childhood and he valued the power of imagination which every single being can access, no matter their circumstances. He encouraged us to think outside the box, to think for ourselves, to trust our own instincts, to create and imagine, and to welcome and celebrate diversity.

"He wanted to show that through his art and this was partly behind the decision to launch the website, so that the "energy of joy and creativity could be available to anyone, at anytime at the click of a button." The family says if any collectors of Ali's paintings wish to have their paintings featured on the site they can e-mail ianaligallery@yahoo.com or call 222-5450.


"Ian Ali’s work goes on view in online gallery"

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