A Tobago artist is calling for a greater support for art and artists on the island.
Earl Manswell spoke with Newsday on Thursday during the formal commissioning of artwork along the North-East Tobago Art Trail.
Th project was lauched by the THA Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.
In October 2020, the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the oldest legally protected forest reserve in the Western Hemisphere, was awarded the prestigious UNESCO Man and the Biosphere designation. It's now the largest UNESCO-branded site in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The Man and the Biosphere programme is an intergovernmental, scientific initiative which seeks to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments. It promotes innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable.
The first initiative was installing the life-sized Ah we Own sculpture at the Bloody Bay recreation site in June. The second is the art trail, which features exhibits at sites in Tobago's northeast communities.
The sites are Roxborough, Betsey’s Hope, Delaford, Speyside, Charlotteville, L’Anse Fourmi, Bloody Bay and Parlatuvier.
They feature paintings by Coryse Wright, Israel Melville, Tomley Roberts, Chris Thomas, Quishang Jacob, Janina Ewals, Earl Manswell and Jason Nedd.
Manswell, who lives in L’Anse Fourmi, said he has been an artist for over 25 years.
“I believe a greater support for art on the island is needed. As time goes on, art never really gets that exposure as those within the creative sector – folk dance etc."
He said artists are not given the same exposure. He said although he is based in Tobago, most of his work is exhibited at the galleries in Trinidad.
He welcomed being a part of the art trail project, and was proud to have his work featured.
“I find this is a very, very good gesture,,,this kind of art trail on the island."He said it would inspire upcoming artists "to drive around the communities and see these paintings, giving them encouragement to pursue their dreams.”
His painting on display features the traditional way to squeeze sugar cane.
“This is with the batty mill – because you used your bottom to do the actual pressing on the cane. This is something that has been lost, because most of the people within the community don’t do this again. People then would have done this to get wet sugar.”
Manswell said the painting took him approximately three weeks.
He had this advice for young aspiring artists.
“Once you believe in yourself and you have that gift – I would encourage them to keep fighting and keep pursuing their dreams. It would not happen in one day or in one week, it would take some time to materialise. I just want to encourage them to be persistent, and they would be successful at the end of the day.”Commitment to art has paid off for him, he said.
“Coming out of school, you used to hear people saying art doesn’t make money, and a lot of people who had the gift put it aside. But for me, I could say art has money in it, You just have to be persistent, and you would reap the benefits at the end.”
Assistant Secretary of the division Nigel Taitt felt the work on display was excellent, and was pleased "to see such beautiful art pieces in Tobago, knowing that we people from Tobago actually did these pieces.”
The art trail, said director of the department Linford Beckles, is an initiative of the Environmental Research Institute of Charlotteville (ERIC) and the assembly, with support from the UNDP and and Woodside Energy.
“We wanted to give exposure to a lot of the younger and older artists that we have in Tobago, for them to depict things that are very important and fundamental to the cultural life in northeast Tobago."
It also aims "to help promote the concept of the biosphere reserve, get people talking about it, to buy in to the concept of the biosphere reserve and be able to participate.”
November 3 has been designated by the UN as the International Day for Biosphere Reserves, with a view to celebrating the contribution of such reserves to sustainable development.