Saturday 29th July, 2006

Lisa Allen-Agostini
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The art of town

Remember when it had a squatters’ mall in town name the Drag? It was on Independence Square which part it have Brian Lara Promenade now. The Drag Brothers Mall, it did name, a set of board shack selling sandal, incense and, town say, weed. But maybe that was just the racist and them fighting down the black man as usual—because, of course, the majority of the fellas selling inside the Drag was black man and Rastas, to boot.

Or maybe it was smell they used to smell it, why people say it had weed in there.

Me ent know; I was too small to recognise the smell if it was in there. My mother never carry me inside of there and by the time I was old enough to go for myself it was gone, board shack, sandal and weed, too, if they ever had it there.

On the rest of Independence Square it had car park and vagrants, and must be one or two tree that the exhaust fumes didn’t kill. It must be was embarrassing for we to see all that in the heart of the city, boy. This ramshackle place with a name like Independence Square. Independent to be what? To do what? That is the face we go show the world?

So we rip up all that and put down something nice, the Promenade. I remember when they first come with the red and white bricks to put on the ground.

I never see fancy bricks so, in patterns, too, just for we to walk on. It was like a present to weself, with the smooth, white marble bowl on one block, the green, green grass all down the promenade, the flag poles and lights in the ground in front of the Central Bank.

True Trinis, we didn’t stick. We start to lime one time. It had chess games, modelling, singing, drinking, hustling, man just sitting down to watch woman, woman eating ice cream what she little son leave back because he busy running down a pigeon.

It was a good spot for we. If I ever meet Colin Laird, the architect who design it, I go shake he hand. (I would of say I go dance at he wedding, but I ent figure he going and have a next one at he age.)

But, nice as it is, it have one thing it missing.


Going through San Juan, Puerto Rico, give me a little reminder of that.

Imagine, all over San Juan it have park and in most, if not every one, it have art. In one, down by the beach, it have this giant sculpture of a little girl in the rough, impressionistic style that plenty Puerto Rican artist does use.

In a next one, next to a church name Stella Maris (Spanish for “Star of the Sea”) it have about 36 big concrete seashells lay out in the middle of the park.

My favourite was a playground in Condado because it had concrete sculptures that wasn’t just to look at, but they was shape like cushions and pillows and the children could use them to sit down or jump on and thing.

Because, you see, art is not just a thing to watch, a pretty picture on a wall in a gallery or a museum.

Of course is to watch, yes, but is not only that.

Art, whether it pretty or not, is something that does affect we just as how we does affect it. Imagine life without Carnival or Ramleela or the spinning magic that is a Hosay moon. How it go be to never see a tadjah?

We art does be on the road and in the savannah, but it ent have no real reason we can’t move them temporary thing into a more permanent arrangement.

What if we hire a Minshall to make a Man Crab and pose it up in the concourse in front the Central Bank? Or get Ravi-Ji Kendra to sculpt a tableau from Ramleela and put it by the Hall of Justice?

What if we get youngblood painters like Shalini or Nicholai Noel to do some public murals?

I could see the swirling colours from Shalini all now in my head, or some big fellas with wings from Nicholai Icarus series liming in town watching people going inside KFC.

I saying we streets and pavements and public spaces could be better, more interesting places if we make a little effort to develop the things we done have already.

I know we don’t have a big history of public art—I ent forget the Sparrow bacchanal in St Ann’s Roundabout, or how we tear down the Chang mural from in the old airport without a care—but three of my favourite things in town is art. That is the piece on the Textel Building on Independence Square, the Conquerabia mural on City Hall, and the Ralph and Vera Baney mosaics on Scotiabank wall on Pembroke Street.

That prove to me that, yes, we have it in we. Is only to bring it out now. Then we could show the world we face for true and feel proud to do it.





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