Trinis in Apollo: Tobago artist depicts 2062 space programme

Trinis in Apollo painting by Shonari Richardson.
Trinis in Apollo painting by Shonari Richardson.

IMAGINE a Trinidad and Tobago flag flying on the moon. Hard to envisage? Well, not according to Tobago artist Shonari Richardson, whose latest piece, Trinis in Apollo, depicts two astronauts – a Trinidadian and a Tobagonian – holding the national flag in space.

The piece is currently being featured at the Red House, Port of Spain, for International Day of Space Flight, as part of The Wonders of the Universe: Time and Astronomical art exhibition. The exhibition, which runs until April 29, is organised by the Rotunda Art Gallery and features over 50 pieces from 42 local artists.

Richardson, 26, told Newsday the piece was inspired by Trinidadian-born astronaut Dr Camille Alleyne's visit to Bishop's High School, which he attended, in 2011.

"She was talking about her experience with NASA."

Richardson said he was scrolling Facebook recently and saw a post from the Rotunda gallery about the exhibition "and the same time everything just came to me." Richardson's creative juices immediately went to work.

"I said I'm gonna do a piece that one day Trinis would make it to the moon. Knowing we are a third-world nation, I would give it like, 40 years or so. We don't have the resources, so it would be a public-private partnership.

"And that time the world would be experiencing a kind of over-populated world and they would be looking at the moon for colonies. So the government of TT purchased a spot on the moon and they sent two astronauts to check it out."

Shonari Richardson 

Richardson said the launch of TT's maiden space programme in 2062 would be an Independence gift to the nation.

In the painting Richardson places the flag pole on the wrong side, an error he realised after submitting the piece.

He said predictions have always fascinated him.

"The kind of movies I watch, I watch doomsday movies. Things like 2012 and Moonfall, these sort of movies."

Proudly patriotic, Richardson has painted several pictures of past and present national leaders including the Prime Minister, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and ex-chief secretary Orville London.

The Scarborough resident told Newsday he recently graduated with a bachelor's in visual arts from UWI and works as a full-time artist. He previously worked in the Tobago House of Assembly.

He opened his business, Shonari Richardson Art, in 2016.

Trinis in Apollo painting on exhibition at the Red House, Port of Spain. 

How did he get involved in art?

"I always had a keen interest in art from the tender age of two. My mom is a seamstress and I used to pick up scraps and make things."

He said as his skill progressed he began entering competitions. Although he did art as a CSEC subject, Richardson still did not see the field as a career. He said it was only in Lower Six when he did art and design as a subject that he began taking it seriously.

"I said I could actually make a business. I did it before just because of a love for it. One day in 2014 someone came to me and asked, 'Do you do commissions?' From then on I started to learn the art market and in 2016 I registered the business and started it."

Richardson uses social media to display his work on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. He has produced almost 500 pieces to date.

"I focus on realism and surrealism– what's going on in society right now."

He believes the government should invest more into the arts.

"To be honest, it's a multi-million industry.Government should put more emphasis on it instead of oil and gas. It can put in a lot of revenue...

"When you look in Chicago at Cloud Gate (public sculpture), that brings in a lot of revenue for the city, and that is just one piece. We should be focusing on public sculptures."

He said the Ring Bang 60-foot dancing figure in Signal Hill, a relic from the financially-disastrous concert in Tobago to celebrate the year 2000, should be used as a tourist attraction.

"Yes, it was a big controversy with politics, but it was something to bring tourists to ring in the new millennium."

He said the popularity of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, is another example of how art can be a tremendous revenue-earner.

Richardson's work can be viewed @Shonari Richardson Art on Facebook and @shonari_richardson_art on Instagram.


"Trinis in Apollo: Tobago artist depicts 2062 space programme"

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