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Nurturing Young, Tobago Artists

Today we highlight the works of two of our members – Avie Bacchus-Hopkins and Askala George - as they nurture young artists in Tobago High Schools.

I had the pleasure of judging a High School Art Mural Competition, here in Tobago. The theme for the mural was “Building a Nation, Building Excellence”, to commemorate Trinidad and Tobago’s Diamond Jubilee as we celebrated 60 years of Independence.

Mural - “Building a Nation, Building Excellence” - 4 ft x 8 ft - Acrylic on Panel

The winning mural is four feet high by eight feet wide and was created by five young artists from Bishop’s High School, on Mount Marie Road, Scarborough, Tobago. Coincidentally, the five artists are all female, and ‘animatedly’ expressed excitement and satisfaction for their finished ‘masterpiece’.

Young Artists - Tea Duncan, Sushmita Gopee, Thea Santana Small, J'Leise Johnson, and Daniella Taylor

They said it took them about four days to execute the painting but a bit longer to sketch the surface. They weren’t sure how the painting would turn out, but they had to trust the process and each other.

The young ladies were enthusiastic and thrilled about their work. They said they were happy that they were able to combine their individual skills to create this masterpiece and realized it was not just about them, but it was about creating a memorable piece of art. This project also pushed them to research parts of the History of Trinidad and Tobago so they could better communicate it through the artwork.

They said the artwork is an indication of our culture and depicts the evolution of the history of Trinidad and Tobago as they paid homage to our ancestors, and proudly illustrated the present. Slavery, as depicted by the bodies buried is the foundation for the piece of artwork. The three largest religious groups, Catholics, Hindus and Muslims as depicted by the church, mosque and deya. The three people in the painting represent, sports, farming and tourism. Other elements of the painting included the shoreline, national birds, Caribbean Airlines, running with goats and children of our future – all describe the attributes of our twin islands.

The ladies said that no one in particular came up with the idea as they incorporated each other’s ideas and worked as a team although they did have disagreements and minor squabbles.

Mrs. Avie Bacchus-Hopkins - Curriculum Officer for Visual and Performing Arts, was instrumental in the execution of this project. Mrs. Bacchus-Hopkins said, “This Inaugural Mural Painting Project was an initiative out of the Curriculum and Planning Development Unit at the Division of Education. This idea was borne after having been forced in the virtual space because of the pandemic. After returning to in-person school, we wanted to present the opportunity for the students to express themselves. We thought that the celebration of Trinidad and Tobago’s Diamond Jubilee as an independent nation was the perfect chance for students to articulate their understanding of our history as an independent nation, through visual art.

Mrs. Avie Bacchus-Hopkins - Curriculum Officer for Visual and Performing Arts

Students from forms three and five, across secondary schools in Tobago, were invited to participate in this initiative and the idea behind the project was to encourage collaboration, critical thinking, research, visual communication, and self-expression. I am pleased with the work the students have produced and I want to congratulate them on a job well done.”

The Principal of Bishop’s High School, Mrs. Cindy Ramnarine also expressed her gratitude and excitement with this project. She said from time to time she went to check on the students while they were painting and was so inspired by the students and how they collaborated and helped each other. Principal Ramnarine said as she watched the students learn from each other, she hopes that we will have more of this type of collaboration as it has been a great team building exercise.

Principal - Cindy Ramnarine and Art Teacher - Askala George

Askala George – the art teacher at Bishop’s High, said she was proud of the students who came together with their individual skills and produced this masterpiece.

Artwork signed and ready to be displayed

The artwork will be hung at the A.N.R. Robinson International Airport.

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