The perspectives varied, including one looking up at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, but all views were a celebration of the magnificence of one of Port of Spain’s oldest buildings.
Sixteen pieces of art, including three by Jackie Hinkson and two by late artist and cultural icon Pat Bishop, formed Mama: An Exhibition of Art of the Cathedral.
While this is a part of the church’s wider commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral, it is also part of its fundraising drive to raise approximately $58 million for repairs after 2018’s 6.9 earthquake. The quake caused structural damage to the historic building, including cracked buttresses, damaged finials and a twisted orb and cross on the bell tower.
The other artists whose works form the current exhibition are Ankia Plowden-Corentin, Gerald Hinds, Debra Bartholomew, Keron Soomarie, Shirvaughn Tedica Simmons, KW, Rachel Rochford, Stephanie Preudhomme, Nelia Manmohan, Karl Doyle, Sonia Alexis and curator and art teacher Patrick Roberts.
Roberts said he was asked to include a number of artists of different ages and stages for Mama.
The two Pat Bishop paintings come from 14 done of the Stations of the Cross that were formerly in the church, but had to be removed, as it is closed. Those are not for sale, but are a part of the history of the church, Roberts said.
The 16 paintings are of the cathedral, church and spirituality and were done in a variety of media such as acrylics, oils and mixed media.
The cathedral forms part of Roberts’ family history, like many others in the country.
He recalled that it was his mother Hilda Mitchell, nee Roberts, who advocated for toilets at the cathedral.
“Trinity Cathedral did not have toilets for years and that was a sore point for my mom. She is now deceased.
"Knolly Clarke was a friend…he was a visitor of our home. When he became dean, I guess, that gave her licence to pester him…The toilets were built during his tenure. Whether it was because of her bothering him or not is not important to me.
"So my painting is from the view from the back of the toilet looking towards the church.
“It gave me an opportunity to reward my mother for her persistence and faith,” he said.
The exhibition was initially planned for October last year, and the process of curation began in March 2022.
It ran from November 5-10 at the Old Fire Station Conference Centre, Port of Spain, and moves to Tobago at the Tobago Library Services, 11-13 Garden Side Street, Scarborough, from November 14-18.
While the exhibition will not raise all money the church needs for its repairs, Roberts hopes it generates renewed interest in the church’s cause.
“Five years down the road, with all the things that is happening in life these days, the Trinity is on the back burner,” he said.
After the art is sold, box sets and prints will be sold. The box set will include one print of each of the paintings on display and that can be bought for US$1,000, Roberts said.
He said the 200th-anniversary committee was hoping to raise over $1 million from it. Artists were also asked to donate a percentage (ten-50) of their sale to the committee. Hinkson’s three paintings were donated to the cause.
The exhibition is under the patronage of former president Paula-Mae Weekes.
Marking 200 years
Chair of the cathedral’s 200th-anniversary committee Dr Phaedra Pierre said the committee began its commemoration last year. It has held events such as Glimpses of the Cathedral – a video series shared on its social media pages; a blood drive for 200 pints of blood; and a hamper drive through which it hopes to distribute 200 hampers (it has already distributed 100).
Youth competitions in essay, art, poetry and spoken word were also held.
A gala dinner and dance at the Hyatt, Port of Spain, and an anniversary day at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, were held on June 2 and 4 respectively.
The exhibition, the printing and publishing of a coffee-table book and an arts festival and pop-up market will round off the celebrations of the 200th anniversary.
Pierre said after the earthquake there was tremendous support from people for the church’s repair. However, the covid19 pandemic took people’s attention away from the cause.
She said the church and its committees would love to bring people’s attention to the fact that the repairs need to be done.
“This is a national icon, it is a heritage site. The Government and the National Trust have recognised that it is a building that has real value (to) our cultural heritage in Trinidad and Tobago.
"Therefore, I think it is very worthy of some attention and commitment to making sure that it is restored.
“We need to recognise that the cathedral has given a lot to the nation of TT – not only to Anglicans but to the nation.”
The story of Holy Trinity
The exhibition’s curator Roberts, said, “In 1808, we had what was called the great fire of Port of Spain, and one third of the city was destroyed by fire, including the wooden Trinity Cathedral.
“When Ralph Woodford came here as governor, one of the first things he did was to rebuild the Trinity Cathedral...It was consecrated on Trinity Sunday, 1823.”
Woodford was TT’s longest serving governor, from 1813-1828. He had the cathedral moved rom its original site, in what is now the centre of Woodford Square
The National Trust’s website says the cathedral is one of Port of Spain’s oldest surviving structures. It was built between 1816 and 1823 and “was constructed as a result of a decision made in Britain to strengthen the Anglican Church in the West Indies and as a tool for anglicizing the predominantly RC population of Trinidad after it was taken by the British in 1797,” the site said.
“The cathedral was constructed using elements from the Gothic Revival movement which began in the late 1740s in England. As a result, the cathedral incorporates lancet windows, pinnacled buttresses, a steeply pitched roof and an overall emphasis on height. Materials used in construction include blue limestone, from the Laventille quarries and yellow brick (transported from England),” it added.
Anglicantt.com says colonial secretary Philip Reinagle designed the cathedral's layout.
"Architecturally, the cathedral reflects the late Gregorian style mixed with the Gothic, as well as elements of the Victorian Age. The magnificent hammer-beam roof is made of local wood and characterised by huge trusses. The altar is built entirely of selected local mahogany and backed by alabaster and marble mounted on a base of Portland stone," it said.
The cathedral also contains a marble statue of Woodford, sculpted by the famous British artist Sir Francis Chantrey from a design by the English-born, Trinidad-based artist Richard Bridgens.
In 1825, an earthquake also caused damage to the church and its bell tower. As superintendent of public works, Bridgens, who also designed the earliest version of the Red House, was responsible for repairing the damage caused by that quake.