The black man as theme

Posted in Debate, Opinion by Adele Todd on September 13, 2007


My writing has the tendency to go in pairs. The last post encouraged this musing on the black man as theme. Let us look at some of the artists who use the image.

LeRoi Clarke, Carlisle Harris, Jackie Hinkson, Louise Kimme, The late Boscoe Holder, Peter Minshall, Stuart Hahn, Dave Williams and Nicholai Noel.

The black man has huge meaning in Trinidad and Tobago. He has been mentor, lover, friend and foe. He is a conflicting symbol of virility and impotence at the same time. No longer a slave, he uses the past to ensnare as well as to blame others for his plight. Of all racial groups, he is the most prominant and obvious. His is the most down trodden and violent.

I ask, where are the nude or nubile paintings and sculptures of the Syrian or Chinese Trinidadian man?

As an image, the black man’s body is both beautiful and vulnerable and the artists who paint, draw, sculpt and film him, do so with an element of admiration and ire.

The painting of the black man may be a throwback from the late nineteen sixties, when the black power revolution became an offshoot of black civil rights. Trinidad and Tobago had its own reaction to what being black meant.

Today, Trinidad and Tobago can boast of a certain degree of colour blindness if one does not look too far beneath the surface at the very real halving and quartering of values based on hue, hair texture, complexion and money. What is not said is that slavery’s past demons parade about in broad daylight today still. The top issue is money and who has and why. But the second issue is who, of particular race has what they have and why, so the old race arguments are still very much in place and the black man as I stated before is the one walking in the most obvious light, casting the longest shadow. So painting him is the natural gravitation of the artist in our society today.


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