LINE a review by ADELE TODD

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“LINE” May 22nd – June 3rd, 2017 @ Y Gallery 26 Taylor Street, Woodbrook. Trinidad and Tobago. Artists were given a single piece of paper and a single theme to explore- ‘Line”.


“LINE” is a visually tantalizing show featuring twelve contemporary Artists from Trinidad and Tobago from veterans, Jackie Hinkson and Wendy Nanan to lesser known practicioners, Jade Drakes and Martin Mouttet.

The Y Gallery as a space is all glass and terrazo interior and walking in to see this show, at first I had no bearings, and needed to get my thoughts around many extremely different approaches to the request of the Curator, Melanie Archer and Gallery owner and Co-Curator, Yasmin Hadeed.

“LINE” as a show has made me ask questions that I may not ask in any other context. Questions such as why this? Why now? And, what were the parameters for it at this time? I also asked, how would the public view the work within? A glance at the price list showed figures from TT$6400 to as much as $25,000 with one price upon request. Now there was the literal rub.

“LINE” was a show of works on the simplest material – paper. The request was made of the Artists, to take a sheet alotted to them, sized, 29 inches by 72 inches and create a work based on the theme of ‘line.’

Do we in Trinidad and Tobago have a rigorous history of buying drawings on paper? I wondered, as I walked around the room, I felt continuously stumped by what I was seeing. LINE, yes, but somehow, the placement of the pieces – some similar in size, while others were cut up and made into a series – all vied for my eye. I was trying to find some connection between the pieces.

Very quickly, I began to guess who was who, and slowly something began to formulate for me.

Line Drawing, 2017. Wendy Nanan.

The first work on the right wall was a male nude by Wendy Nanan. I know of Ms. Nanan as a very private person, so, this thick brush painting was one that was a treat to see. Miss Nanan was venturing out of her comfort zone to me. And I found this to be an exciting moment in her already stellar career.

Character Flaw, 2017. Horacio Hospedales

Then, on the left wall, one could almost miss the next installation.  A  gently cast shadow informed  a  high, solid yet slight platform that was actually paper. A lone string and a slender hovering line of metal completed the awareness of the space actually ‘being.’ It was an audacious work by Horacio Hospedales titled, Character Flaw.

This concept got my adrenaline pumping, particularly because of the intellectualizing of the idea of what exactly IS  ‘line?’.

Character Flaw, 2017. (detail) Horacio Hospedales

Instantly I thought to myself, ” This is the sort of experimentation that I expect in a group show anywhere in the world, and I was glad to see it here in Trinidad and Tobago!” Risk taking in Art at its best.

Charlotte Street, 2017. Ashraph.

As I proceeded along, four prints done in mixed media by Ashraph named, Charlotte Street, Roberts Street, Picton Street and Frederick Street and Jackie Hinkson’s use of the full sheet of paper to create a dramatic expression, called, Playing Both Sides – caught my gaze. Again, quite contrary to what one would expect of either Artist and thus, another moment of delight to me.

Playing Both Sides, 2017. Jackie Hinkson

By contrast, Martin Mouttet’s Out of Line as the second installation piece in the show provided the most challenge. As a dimensional work with so much storytelling, I felt that it could have been pared down considerably and been much, much more powerful.


Out of Line, 1999-2017. Martin Mouttet

I felt the same as well for Josh Lue Chee Kong’s two pieces, Corbeau X and Corbeau Dreams. The poster size of both works begged the question of being more of a graphic exercise than a poised, completed work.

Corbeau X, 2017. Joshua Lue Chee Kong.

Susan Dayal’s Regeneration, Jade Drakes’s Nerve Map and Paul Kain’s Panty Line Series on the right side of the room did not resonate with me in any true sense of the question of line either, despite lines being clearly present in each work.

Regenration, 2017. Susan Dayal.


Nerve Map, 2017. Jade Drakes.


Panty Line, 2017. Paul Kain.

The challenge of themed group shows is in the interpretations and I wondered how much time was given for some of the Artists to produce the images for “LINE”?  Asking Artists to prepare something specifically themed is a dodgy challenge for any gallery. As mentioned, some Artists rise to the occasion. Some find comfort and others are either left askance or take it literally, going into their stores to pull out a past piece that may or may not relate. At the end of the day, the endeavor is not always one that will show an Artist at his or her strongest.

So when I looked at Che Lovelace’s, whose body of paintings are usually filled with lush colour – I was left lukewarm by his Composition with Landscape and Jalousies. The tension between horizontal lines and the colour representing the environment beyond somehow was not, to me, held up by the scale of the paper.

Composition with Landscape and Jalousies, 2017. Che Lovelace.

Then, titan of drawing, Eddy Bowen’s Fashion Statement made me think of the iconic ghost from the Japanese Animation, Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki.  That aside, I was concerned with the backgound of his contribution. The work looked sprayed to prevent smudging. However, this possible  “spraying” of the piece made everything that I absolutely enjoy and find stunningly beautiful about the graphite pieces of Mr.Bowen, now appeared dulled down and on the same level. So I lost the sense of rigor that his lines usually take on paper that leave the markings strong and filled with texture.

Fashion Statement, 2017. Eddie Bowen.

I felt the same challenge affecting Richard Mark Rawlin’s Polite Line, Do Not Cross. However, as there was color in his work, the dulling down of imagery being flattened out was much less pronounced. Mr.Rawlins courts controversy and his pastiche of rigorous drawing reminded me of Christopher Cozier in his heyday. The use of the clothes pin and repetitive drawing of  ‘drawers’ (underwear) and ‘national dress’ worked  in a  ‘poster’ like format akin to American Artist, Andy Warhol, was also an image that I felt was not made better by large size, but perhaps could be  better served by repetition of said paper, paired down to several sheets.

Polite Line Do Not Cross, 2017. Richard Mark Rawlins.

Of the group, experimental shows that I have seen over the years in Trinidad and Tobago, I am always aware of the need for Artists to prove themselves as working in a more international way. In fact, works such as these are less about selling and more about statement making to Curators abroad. Thus, when some pieces may look unusual or challenging in our ‘local’ space, they may be seen as humdrum in another place. It is all subjective indeed.

“LINE” is a show that I would like to see promote debate about the state of local art in Trinidad and Tobago today.

In my opinion a piece I may find weak, you may have enjoyed thoroughly, and that is perfectly fine. My pronouncements are made specifically against work on its own and against others within the framework of the gallery space. The public looking at experimental art may be left quite skeptical. For example how many people take the time to read the catalogue to gauge what they may be looking at?

Nonetheless, Yasmin Hadeed continues to make huge strides in promoting Art off the beaten path. Her risk taking  with this body of work, succeeds in encouraging her clientele to experience something different from the typical figurative and idyllic  things seen all the time. I  highly commend her, for there is so much more for local Artists to explore in their careers in Trinidad, Tobago and beyond.

However, one takes work at face value. Whether a piece discusses domestic violence or curiosity of free form, they all are speaking beyond any attempt at intellectualizing an image.

“LINE” is meant for scrutiny. Can our public ‘get’ such work? Will they ‘buy’ it and want more of it? Is Art like this bridging a gap or creating a gap between what is Art and who it may be for? These are some things that this show made me wonder about, and when Art can cause questions to be asked, I say, that that show has done something that matters. For those who missed it, it was worth seeing. Art in Trinidad and Tobago needs a good jolt and I believe that “LINE” has started the seismic shift.


See the show’s catalogue here.


Adele Todd is an artist and educator, she lives and works in Trinidad.

Andre Bagoo on A Dress to the Nation

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A DRESS is a gendered thing. It makes us think of the guises adopted by women and men. Of the body’s impulse to conceal and reveal; to dress up and dress down. A Dress to the Nation, the outstanding new installation by Richard Rawlins at Alice Yard, is political in how it seeks to contrast bombastic presidential and prime ministerial speeches with a fading sense of patriotism. But the work’s most glaring questions relate to a different kind of politics: gender and performance.

Standing inert in a black box, it has an ambiguity that means it can be pictured, variously, on a girl, boy, a svelte woman or man. Just as the dress mirrors the national flag, it is mirrored by glass and echoed by the subtle use of sound.

“I can’t help but hear the song from the musical Annie playing in my head,” Rawlins, 50, says. What has gone astray in our wonderland is the fetishisation of the female: the placing of it behind a glass wall as if it is a strange, exotic thing, as if the only gaze that matters is the gaze of those who do not wear dresses, who scorn dresses, who regard them as markers of inferiority. The artist has given the nation a dress whose frills seem antiquated, whose noise comes from its smutty suppression, whose estranged body is at large, whose truth haunts us. Wearing its heart on its sleeve, it shows us the antagonistic link between the body of the citizen and the body of the speech-mongering statesman. It demands that we all be seen to be human.

Richard Mark Rawlins’ A Dress to the Nation was installed at Alice Yard, 80 Roberts Street Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, and was available to the public any time from March 3- 8. Audiences could also find a related poster design by Rawlins at Alice Yard’s adjunct space known as Granderson Lab, 24 Erthig Road, Belmont.

TOMORROW Marsha Pearce interviews Richard Mark Rawlins about his A Dress to the Nation

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First published in the Trinidadian Sunday Guardian Arts Sunday, February 26, 2017

How do you see T&T? Does a nation forged in fires of hope still hold promise? Richard Mark Rawlins’ latest artwork uses iconography from the orphan Annie musical and the fuel of local politics to attend to concerns about personal and collective expectations for the future. “The sun will come out tomorrow,” sings Annie, “just thinking about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow ‘til there’s none.” In this interview with MARSHA PEARCE, Rawlins gives insight into his installation A Dress to the Nation-a work that is equally attractive in its ornamental appearance and irksome in its repetitive accompanying soundtrack. Rawlins points to a tomorrow steeped in appeal and frustration. In speaking about his work, he also shares his views on the politics of art and culture.

MP: You often include words in your artwork, with some pieces exploiting meanings and ambiguities, putting a spotlight on wordplay. Tell me about your fascination with words in the context of your art making practice.

RMR: I live and work as a graphic designer; it was how I was trained. I am accustomed to communicating visually with words and images. I love typography, mass communications, and printmaking. I think of letters as texture. Art, like design, is work. I started using words in my work as a way of connecting the dots. It is a narrative approach to design, which I incorporate into my art. This seems natural to me since we are surrounded by words: mauvais langue, picong, patois, dancehall lyrics, soca, kaiso, good and bad sign painting, fete sign culture and the fact that we speak with our hands when relating a story.

I am always pushing to be able to speak to people in my work, always seeking to break the passive nature of viewing art. Words help me share my sketchbook thoughts and opinions and, in some cases, issue a challenge to the viewer to go deeper than the surface and look for their own story. I am literally trying to make art that ‘speaks’ to people, as language has the potential to serve as an art form. The thing about it is this: once the words are there, it’s hard to avoid reading them. In the context of a white cube or alternate gallery space the WORD may actually have more power than in the pages of a magazine or a book.

How did the idea for this new work come about? What was your intention for the work?

A Dress to the Nation is commentary. The idea to do this came about sometime ago while I was watching a recap via social media of an address to the nation by our Prime Minister. It started me thinking about the importance of the term “an address to the nation” and what it means today.

For one thing, in my 50-year span, I’ve seen countless addresses to the nation. As a child I remember hustling home with my family to make sure we did not miss whatever important thing was going to be said. I was too young to understand what it meant then. As I got older and more politically aware, I realised they had come to mean responses to public outcry, a clear position on an unwavering policy of some sort, the announcement of a coup, an explanation of how the country’s coat of arms managed to get onto a bottle of champagne, or to reassure a nation, that things will get better. An address was an opportunity to say: “It’s a little rough right now, but it will get better-tomorrow not today, it will be better. Maybe.”

Well I’m significantly older now, and ironically, the addresses to the nation don’t seem to hold the power they once had. Social media has eliminated the need to hurry home to hear the address at a specific time, and the public seems to be even more confused after the address than before it began – if one goes by the comments on social media anyway. So I decided I would design and make a dress out of enough material to make two national flags, and incorporate some lace and frou-frou into it so that it would be a Trinbagonian contemporary art take on the little orphan Annie dress. There’s a big bow on it and everything, a real fancy, pretty thing. I designed the dress and had my friend, fashion designer Lisa Gittens, fabricate it for me as I can’t sew. Well, I can sew a little bit but I can’t sew-sew.

Then I created a soundtrack to go with the installation. I added an irritating 11-hour loop of the song Tomorrow from the movie Annie, and threw in my daughter’s old tap shoes and that was it. The tap shoes are a nod to the Annie musical and they complete the outfit. However they also suggest the idea of tap dancing around issues or maybe tap tapity tap tap as we wait and wait. As intentions go, I’d like people to see it and really begin to think about what these promises of “hope” mean for our country. It’s a personal narrative for all of us really. The original working title for the piece was A Dress to the Nation: Hope and Fear at the Edge of Feasibility.

What do you see as some of the politics – power machinations – of the art scene in T&T?

I have a question written on my studio wall: “How do we escape the gatekeepers?” I’ve learned it is the tree in the forest thing. If you aren’t aware of any gatekeepers, do they exist? The answer for me is, no. Well, that’s what I thought. Then I applied for a local fund aimed at cultural producers. It was my intention to produce a book about my recent exhibition Finding Black. After a month of not hearing any word, I called only to be politely informed: “Nah yuh didn’t get through. We can’t help you at this time.”

Now you probably will never see a painting with the words “I AM NOT YUH N—A” on a T&T High Commission wall or an embassy or a nice family restaurant, and the work I produce doesn’t fall under what is considered “culture,” and maybe it makes people uncomfortable. Yet, why must consideration only be given to funding Best Village, chutney and Carnival shows and historical documentation? Is the pursuit of “CULTyah” the only realm of understanding in our art space? If, as writer James Baldwin noted, the artist’s job is to disrupt the public space, then am I not doing my job?

I guess, in a nutshell, the real ‘power machinations’ are those that would see the ‘contemporary’ and the ‘conceptual’ as useless, or worse, dangerous while establishing a safe position of conservatism for our society, based on their own capitalist ideals or agendas. They are a problem. I will leave you with this: I once heard a Minister of Culture tell the audience at a book launch: “I used to draw yuh know but, I give that up. It didn’t have no money in that.”

Richard Mark Rawlins’ A Dress to the Nation was installed at Alice Yard, 80 Roberts Street Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, and was available to the public any time from March 3- 8. Audiences could also find a related poster design by Rawlins at Alice Yard’s adjunct space known as Granderson Lab, 24 Erthig Road, Belmont.

Dirty laundry in public …and why I like contemporary art

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Originally published in the Sunday Guardian: Sunday, October 9, 2016

Guest writer Dave Williams, a founder of CoCo Dance Festival, ruminates on recent work by artist Richard Mark Rawlins

Like Trinidad Carnival itself, contemporary artists are taking to the wide unbound spaces of our streets and backyards.

Very much like our Carnival where no other spaces fit for spectacle or performance existed/exists there is just one road out. As with your garden-variety homeless, under-appreciated, streetwalking crack whore mom, necessity and invention continue to conspire to get highs in T&T.

Contemporary visual artist and graphic designer, Richard Mark Rawlins is a street worn proponent and cheerleader of the Alice Yard art space on Roberts Street, itself a back yard that takes the inquisitive into explorations and conversations that share, follow and propagate a big chunk of the T&T arts “contemporaneousphere”.

A properly pickled mas player, Rawlins also spent most of his childhood and adolescence here in Woodbrook, exactly where the ad man works today. He is familiar with the streets, avenues, sewer tracks and increasing number of empty lots creeping between the suburban bars, businesses and dwellings of this minor metropolis. This portion of Port-of-Spain real estate can be considered Rawlins’ private gallery and exhibition space.

Resting on our Laurels, Out of Place, Action 5 is Rawlins latest—and hopefully still hanging—tag on the city artscape. It is Number 5 in a sequence of informal collaborations between various artists to mark Alice Yard’s tenth anniversary titled Project X.

Project X asks the questions that seek to alter the public’s relationship to artistic investigation and experimentation. What would happen if we dislodged the artwork from traditional forms of display/encounter and locations, dismantled mythologies of sole authorship and propose the status of the art object or action as an instigative “event”? OUT OF PLACE is co-curated by Alice Yard yearX artist in residence, Blue Curry and Alice Yard’s co-director, artist Christopher Cozier.

Resting on our Laurels: a clothesline airing a limited wardrobe of elastic-waist khaki shorts—each just like the other, one size fits all—each bearing a stencilled laurel on its backside.

Simple. But yet still, so much of a muchness.

Laurels are worn on heads, mostly the heads of the highly placed and accomplished. Shorts are worn on bottoms. In the politics of our post-colonial inheritance, khaki short pants are particularly compatible with schoolboys: keeps them in their junior, servile places, long after graduation. They also hide dirt pretty well.

What is Rawlins saying?

Are our heads up our own immature permanently prepubescent bottoms?

Are we stuck with a legacy of brown-nosing, redundancy, repetition and pedantism that revels in self-absorption?

Or is it just pointing to our heads—our leaders, our politics? Or is it a just treaty on languishing real estate and ketch arse in the current era? Or is it a commentary on local fashion—hanging out to dry?

The work went up without pomp or ceremony, without a guest list and invite to the appropriate Minister of Government, or without a wine-soaked opening night and media launch. Is this public invisibleness part and parcel of this work now hanging in that empty lot between a mango and a breadfruit tree at the bottom of Ana Street. Is the un-harvested fruitfulness significant? Does the piece even suggest who is doing this dirty laundry?

Not having spoken to Rawlins about this piece specifically, I enjoy my cluelessness and my untrained and clumsy mental gymnastics.

This simple piece is enjoyable for its pregnancy of possibilities and suggestiveness whether intentional or “un”.

Do a drive by. Hurry before these well made shorts go missing.

Dave Williams is a writer, dancer and choreographer.

Resting on our Laurels, Out of Place, Action 5 was a public art installation that remained up for the entire month of October 2016.


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by Richard M. Rawlins

All over the world, art residencies offer artists time and space in which to make work, uninterrupted by the challenges of their daily lives. They vary in length and their output depends on how an artist chooses to use his or her time and what they choose to create. For some, it may be a time for self-reflection and thinking about projects and career paths; others use the opportunity to make work in another locale and see what comes of that; some artists might begin a process of experimentation with new themes and directions. Bahamian, Blue Curry is the latest Artist in Residence (AIR), at the Alice Yard artspace on Roberts Street, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, Trinidad. Curry chose to use his Alice Yard residency to interact with and engage the wider community.


photo by RMR

In what can be described as, ‘A Marathon Affair in Trinidad’, Curry would, in a three week period, co-curate a series of artistic actions with Alice Yard’s co-director, Trinidadian artist, Christopher Cozier.

Alice Yard’s 10th anniversary ‘project X’ is a sequence of informal collaborations between various artists, who choose to engage the art space, asking questions that seek to alter the public’s relationship to artistic investigation and experimentation. As the Alice Yard blog says, “What would happen if we dislodge the artwork from traditional forms of display/encounter and locations, dismantle mythologies of sole authorship and propose the status of the art object or action as an instigative “event”?”



Curry on Charlotte Street. Photo by RMR

Curry’s ‘Marathon Affair’ started with Action #1, his mounting of Untitled, hair combs, 2013-2016 – a sculpture made of 30 plastic hair combs collected by Curry over a period of years – later moved to Charlotte Street (between Queen St and the Promenade) for one afternoon. This action in itself –moving from Alice Yard to the street – would prompt a whole series of informal engagements from passersby and Curry’s temporary street-bustling contemporaries. One such engagement involved a young woman who, rather intrigued by Curry’s ‘combs’, got stuck in a ‘time distortion loop’ of an inquiry of what the project was, what was the price and why she could not buy:

Woman 1: How much for dem comb?

Curry: They aren’t for sale. It’s an art project.

Woman 1: It’s an art project. It’s not for sale. I don’t see no price.

Curry: Well, they are not for sale. It’s an art project.

Woman 1: Oh, it’s an art project. It’s not for sale. So why I can’t buy a comb?

Curry: Well, they are not for sale. It’s an art project.

Woman 1: Oh, it’s an art project. It’s not for sale. So I could get a sample?

Curry: Well they are not for sale. It’s an art project…


photo by RMR

Another of Curry’s ‘temporary’ street-bustling peers, would take another approach. On realizing the combs were not for sale and that they were being photographed by the artist and I, she sought to engage with the artist himself and not the art.

Girl #2: So allyuh real taking pictures!

Curry: Yes, just documenting the work.

Girl #2: So allyuh come out here to take a set of pictures? Hmmm. Well why you don’t take a set of pictures of me up in the Savannah feeling sexy, eh?

Curry: [Place speechless thought bubble right here!]



Shadow and Substance, Christopher Cozier, Blue Curry. Shirma by Nadia Huggins

Curry’s other actions would engage other artists in less lascivious ways. He and artists Cozier and Trinidadian artist, Nadia Huggins would engage a shopkeeper, Shirma, of Shirma’s Daily Bread at 85 Norfolk Street, Belmont, for Action #2, “Shadow & Substance”, an exploration of the political economy of people as images. For this action, Shirma would become the subject of the image, her shop the gallery housing the image, and she the seller of the image at a price only she could determine. Shirma’s last words on this project were: ‘No cheque eh… they does bounce all over the place.’



Bird Story, Sheena Rose. Photo by RMR

Action #3, an impromptu performance, would see Barbadian artist, Sheena Rose, performing  ‘A Bird Story’, on the front steps of the restaurant adjoining Alice Yard. From her perch, with bird in hand, Rose extolled the woes and virtues of being a kept bird in a cage, and the “intense, intimate relationship” with a guy who is drawn to her state of “constant agitation” at being caged and minded…


Mixed Blues Abstraction, James Cooper. Photo RMR

Action #4, Mixed Blues Abstraction by Bermudian artist, James Cooper. This work, sent long distance via instructions from Bermuda, saw Curry and Trinidadian designer Kriston Chen out at 5am on Woodbrook’s boundary line, painting out some rain-faded graffiti with a mix of two shades of blue named after the Bahamas and Bermuda. Taking its basic aesthetic inspiration from graffiti that has been ‘cleaned up’ or ‘blocked out’ by authorities, Curry and Chen, as instructed by Cooper, emulated this blocking pattern and created an abstract work in a public place.



Resting on our laurels Version 1, Richard M. Rawlins. Photo by Blue Curry

Action #5, Resting on our Laurels, Version 1, consisting of 12 Prince and Oxford Style 0019 size 14 khaki school pants, spray paint, orange clothes line, 24 clothes pins, one mango tree and one breadfruit tree. Situated on an empty lot at the bottom of Ana Street, Woodbrook, I made this work as a social commentary on the way we utilize the knowledge that we gain in school. We are taught all these wonderful subjects, inclusive of the sciences, and of course social studies, but when we get around to being adults and administrators of our society, that education goes out the window – we go for the immediate, most compliable and often ‘doltish’ solutions to problems. So each day is the same ‘khaki pants’ in a sense.



British Ballast, Tamara Cruickshank. Photo by the artist.

Action #6, British Ballast by Trinidadian artist Tamara Tam-Cruickshank. Cruickshank carried ballast bricks ( whatever that could fit) in her backpack from Lapeyrouse Cemetery (where she found them) to Alice Yard. (Ballast bricks were used to weigh down empty ships coming from England and Scotland. The bricks were off-loaded on arrival in the colonies to make way for the cargo (sugar, coffee, etc) which was being sent back to Europe.) Cruickshank took pictures of the bricks then moved them again, further displacing them, to different heritage sites around Port of Spain. According to Cruickshank, she was, “Seeking to make a visual connection between the journey and the predicament of these bricks and these sites… A subtle way of conceptualizing, visually, the existing material culture in the city. Questioning our perpetuation and celebration of the colonial presence and heritage.”



Untitled, Deborah M. Caroll Anzinger. Photo by RMR

Action #7, Untitled, by Jamaican artist, Deborah M. Caroll Anzinger. Again, long-distance instructions were sent to Blue Curry, who enlisted several people (Alice Yard co-director, architect, Sean Leonard, Trinidadian artist, Shanice Gonzales and I) to help him assemble Anzinger’s piece. Untitled is a synthetic hair, fabric, aloe plants, mirror sculpture that re-conceptualizes power, gender and other social relations. According to Anzinger, “Not least social penetration and reconfiguring. The penetrated is the penetrator, the observer is observed. Everything must negotiate: Living organism with synthetic substance, the imagined with the real, subject and object, the self and other.” Assembling the piece involved the heavy kneading of dough by Gonzales, the acquiring of copious amounts of ‘hair weave extensions’ by Curry, and alas, Leonard and I camouflaged as ‘yard boys’, digging up and mounting the piece in a public place on Tragarete Road.



Cool o Breeze o, Alicia Milne. Photo by Luis Vasquez.

Action #8, Trinidadian artist Alicia Milne’s work ‘Cool o Breeze o’, was a playful public gesture that utilized very familiar everyday objects (styrofoam cooler, ice, salt, pvc, a fan and plastic chair). to offer a free “breeze out” (cool down/breeze out) to passersby. The project operated from 10am-2pm on a bright and sunny Saturday at the Brian Lara Promenade.


Cool o Breeze o, Alicia Milne. Photo by Luis Vasquez.

One amused passerby said: …yeah I could see dat’ I like that, I could see me using that at night oui, when it hot. Allyou come good there. Milne’s ingenious, low-cost air condition is a styrotex box filled with ice and fitted with a cheap ‘made in China’ fan that pumps air through the cold box and out two pvc angled pipes to create fresh cool air.



OUT OF PLACE, Bruce Cayonne. Photo by RMR

Action #9, OUT OF PLACE. Trinidadian sign man, Bruce Cayonne from Arima, engaged projectX via the provision of 20 black-and-white fete style signs bearing the project’s name: Out of Place, Cayonne’s work is well known on the fete circuit and to the wider public: his fete signage is ubiquitous. In Out of Place, Cayonne “worked against the usual colourful aesthetic of the fete signs and [went] completely monochrome. Cayonne painted these works in a way he has not done before, in reverse, filling in the positive space with black paint to create the lettering from the white background.


OUT OF PLACE, Bruce Cayonne. Photo by Kriston Chen

For him this opens up new possibilities of pushing text beyond the limits of the edges of the pressed wood sign-board. Trying it out, as a way to slow down the quick delivery of information that is expected of his work, each sign is unique.” Among Cayonne’s instructions for sign placement were: way above head height, 3 nails down the middle for trees and wooden poles, try to put holes only in the black on the signs and hang all signs at a 45 degree angle.



The work of Clean Cutz Barber Shop. Photo by Kriston Chen

Action #10, [The Marathon within the marathon] BLUE CURRY SPECIALS – FRIDAY ONLY – PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD. CATCH THEM WHILE THEY LAST! Doubles with spicy pineapple sauce. George’s Doubles, Corner or Roberts and Murray Streets. Open 6.30am-1.30pm; A Unique hair mark design, Clean Cutz Barber Shop, Belmont Circular Road between Jerningham Ave. and Erthig Road. Open 10am-5pm; $100 oil and filter change, BASE Auto Mechanic, Pelham Street between Belmont Circular and Reid Lane. Open 9am-4pm; Fried arepa topped with shredded beef, fried egg, ham, coleslaw, cheese, avocado and house dressing, Taryn’s, 23 Mucurapo Road, St James. Open 7am-5pm; $20 Cafe Latte, Perfect Cup Espresso Bar, Corner of Ariapita Ave. and Luis Street. Open 7.30am-2.30pm; Free Toothpaste with any Dental Cleaning, St. James Family Dental Clinic, #6 Jerry Street, St. James. Open 9am-4.30pm; $1 off any short drop ride, Lindley’s Taxi Service, Woodford Square, St Ann’s Taxi Stand; Mango flavoured snow cone, J&K Sno Cone, opposite Memorial Park, in front of National Museum. Open 10am-4pm; 25% off storewide, Oblique Imperative, corner of Tragarete and Maraval Roads. Open 12-10pm. (All Prices in Trinidad & Tobago Dollars).


J&K Sno Cone, opposite Memorial Park. Photo by Kriston Chen

Curry created 9 actions within one action and engaged far too many people – to possibly list here – in one 8 hour period. Suffice it to say that this action would even spark a social media shout out by noted Trinidadian calypsonian David Rudder: ‘Whenever you’re in Trinidad or in Port of Spain, check Blue Curry in front of the National Museum’, as well as new Jersey artist, Nyugen Smith’s ‘a mash up’ of the George X doubles and the Taryn’s arepa.

Blue Curry specials to the world!



Untitled, Alex Kelly. Photo by RMR.

Action #11, Alex David Kelly’s, ‘Untitled’. The work – three blue oil drums stacked one on top the other, topped by a wooden palette – is, according to Kelly, “a way of visualizing the economy and our false sense of security, with the pillar of oil supporting the weight of our dependence on foreign products and foreign ideas. On close inspection it doesn’t look terribly sound and it certainly doesn’t feel like it. With today’s weather there is anxiety about whether it will collapse. It’s fate is out of my hands.”


Photo by RMR.

This totem was installed like a thief in the night (at about 2am on the last day of Blue Curry’s residency) at an empty lot just south of the Queen’s Park Savannah and east of Cipriani Boulevard. It presents us with an inversion of an ‘oil rich culture’. Do we as a nation, as the inversion suggests, do things ‘ass-backwards’? Is this totem to oil and gas a signpost of what is to come in our recession-filled years? The piece stands there smack dab in the center of that lot like one of Arthur C. Clarke‘s Space Odyssey series’ monoliths. Much like the monoliths one day it wasn’t there and then all of a sudden it was there. When we approach, when we touch it, will we be imbued with the knowledge necessary to get out of our economic quagmire?

Sunday after we erected the totem, I went back to the site to take some daylight photographs. There were two construction workers from an adjacent work site, observing cautiously…

 Man 1: Where that come from?

Man 2: Me eh know, but I not touching no obeah thing nuh…

Then, like the man upstairs, on the seventh day, Curry rested and got on a flight headed for the Dominican Republic, having been integral to sparking a sequence of events and interactions that will continue its explorative path for the next year. Yep. There’s more to come…


Photo by Kriston Chen


Untitled, Alice Yard Residency, Blue Curry, 2016, 14 artists, 1 architect, 1 sign man, 4 graphic designers, a spirit of experimentation, 30 combs, 11 business proprieters, 1 DCFA class and lecturer, 1 carpenter, 2 truck transports, a lack of overthinking, 30 signs, hair weave, oil drums, flour, khaki pants, clothes line, 2 tins of spray paint, 2 gallons of blue paint, clothes pins, cable ties, styrotex cooler, 1 fan, 4 bags of ice, extension cord, coffee, wire, nails, pvc, wood pallet, mirror, a basic desire to get things done, oil changes, dozens of hashtags, aloe plants, access, eyelashes, flower dress, chunky jewelry, incense, 3 blue lights, a plastic battery operated bird in a plastic cage, brown cotton, soil, a promise of more to come, wooden stakes, doubles, hair cuts, arepas, sno-cones, dental cleanings, taxi drops, store discounts, goodwill, oil changes, ballast bricks, heritage sites, 1 back pack, an abused cellphone and a blue plastic chair.



A Barbadian Artist, and a bird in cage walk into a yard…

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By Richard M. Rawlins. (originally published in the Sunday Guardian Arts Section. 09.10.16)


‘But wait Sean, dats a man talking to a bird on a cliff I see there? Cheese on…’ (Bajan accent). The answer, was yes, it was a man talking to a bird.

That conversation between Barbadian artist, Sheena Rose and the chief architect and Alice Yard contemporary space co-director, Sean Leonard, some years ago would be fully realized as a work to celebrate Alice Yard’s 10 year anniversary in 2016. Rose was the first participant in the Alice Yard site-specific improvisational 24hr Residency (2009) as conceived by artist Marlon Griffith and Alice Yard’s co-director, Christopher Cozier.

Branded Out of Place,  the celebration is actually more a series of actions than any sort of ‘big’ event.

Co-curated by Alice Yard artist in residence (AIR) and Cozier, Alice Yard’s 10th anniversary ‘project X’ is a sequence of informal collaborations between various artists, who choose to engage the art space, asking questions that seek to alter the public’s relationship to artistic investigation and experimentation. As the Alice Yard blog says, “What would happen if we dislodge the artwork from traditional forms of display/encounter and locations, dismantle mythologies of sole authorship and propose the status of the art object or action as an instigative “event”?”

Artist Sheena Rose’s fascination with the birdmen of Trinidad would inspire a performance piece called, ‘Bird Story’, at 10 o’clock in the night on Saturday, September 17th.

A man talking to a bird is nothing ‘slight’, as noted on instagram by @anikamagic3 who commented, “Doh be watching dem small cage and big man slight in de road nah… Chiki Chong does sell for 20-40k here.”


Yes, there is no business like bird business, apparently.

Artist, Christopher Cozier (co-director of Alice Yard) has a story about once having to babysit a bird. This ‘bird-sitting’ required all the normal and pre-requisite considerations: bathing the bird, sunning the bird, walking the bird, feeding the bird sensimillia seeds mixed in with the regular seed, playing some salsa music for the bird, putting the bird outside when the lawnmower making a set of noise on a Sunday morning. Thing like that..


Rose’s performance on the front steps of the health food restaurant at Alice Yard, came with far fewer pre-requisites than an actual bird-sitting session, but was every bit as compelling a story.


Sheena Rose, with her recent ‘Black Obeah’ series of artworks – including mixed media pieces and performance art – have been casting a spell on us for a while now. Just type in #sheenarose #performanceart #blackobeah and watch what happens.


Rose is becoming known for her online performances, often involving a series of characters shaped from her own psyche such as Mr. Fox, Diamond, Sassy, Georgie Bundle, Sub Title, The Over Thinking Artist, the Serious Art Critic and She. Rose’s characters are becoming household names in their own right as they play themselves out in 10 – 45-second instagram soap opera episodes; think American artist Cindy Sherman on a dose of ‘social media bashment’ steroids and you begin to understand what Rose is really capable of.


The performance started at 10pm, (according to Rose, 10pm is not too far from 11pm and that is close to ‘duppy’ hour). So as any clairvoyant would expect, the performance began with the lighting of a set of Black Sage incense to ‘ward of the duppy and dem’. Duppies (or ghosts) are a thing with Rose. Her last performance at the Gwangju Biennial (Korea) was about a rather rude duppy that was into oral sex. Yeah I know… but hey – all’s fair in unrequited love and art.


On this night though it wasn’t about Rose and the duppies, but rather a new character by the name of Miss Bossy. Miss Bossy – a bird played with much aplomb and mysticism by Rose – was clad in a beautiful flower-print dress, a big wig, long nails and faux diamantes. She sat on the front step of the restaurant in the glow of a couple of indigo lights as a projected black and white video of her character with a bird cage in hand (the bird inside singing chirpity, chirp, chirp) as Bossy invited the audience into her bird cage via a little front gate. The audience, many of whom caught a vibe from the character inside the ‘cage,’ preferred to view the action from behind the safety of the short front wall and through the bars of the small front gate, with the one or two brave souls venturing in.


‘Where he is, where he is so? I doh be here by myself this long yuh know? I always by this man side.’

What followed were some great interactions between Miss Bossy and the audience which was slowly being sucked into the spell of the performance. Rose is quick on her feet and adapts to what is happening around her in real time. So she works with what she has, as do many of the artists that pass through Alice Yard. For 45 minutes, we were party to a heated interaction with an audience member that Miss Bossy suspected to be a mongoose. She lamented about having to wait on her man to come back for her; told of her feelings of isolation, captivity and feeling used.


You want benefits too? You want me to scream cause I feeling a lil’ agitated with all the noise around me.’

Alice Yard is located at 80 Murray Street, so it’s in the middle of some hectic nightlife at times, including bar, street traffic, prostitutes and general limers. Every time there is an artist talk, the natural acoustics and ‘foley’ of the space make for some serious attention-getting competition. Ms. Bossy would get more and more agitated and louder and louder, almost to screaming at times when loud vehicles passed by: something she said she couldn’t take. ‘Why this man have to live in a noisy place? Why he have to bring all these girls around me to be screaming and screaming so? Yuh want to hear me scream? Apparently they like it when I scream…’


‘You feel coop up too, or is it just me?’

The bird at moments slipped into the role of an avian therapist, often inviting the audience to reveal and share. One man, who claimed to be ‘befuddled and confused’, was admonished by the bird, with the flick of her wrist, toss of her head and curl of her lip: ‘Charrr… like you need my man to straighten you out?’

‘Do I sound ungrateful to you?’

There was a lot of introspection too, as the bird questioned the nature of the relationship with her man. And yet, “I shouldn’t complain. I shouldn’t complain at all. I get pampered. I get showered and I heard I’m valuable…” When someone said to the bird that the gate was open and she was free to leave, she again became agitated, agreed that she could leave, got up off her perch and defiantly walked towards the front gate of her open cage as if to go through. But she spun around on reaching the gate, as she ‘chose not too leave’.

‘I heard many times that I could go through that gate yuh know. But I love him.’

Her actions, (reminiscent of the grand charge of a secondary school fight, think ‘doh hold meh back!’) instantly schooled the audience on the symptoms that are part and parcel of Stockholm syndrome.


‘I need to close my eye’…

And just as quickly as it started and we got sucked in, we were unceremoniously put out as the bird declared she was tired of us all, shut her gate and continued waiting for her man. The audience was left to talk among ourselves and seek attention elsewhere, all the while questioning the sage advice of an avian philosopher as well as our own caged reflections and insecurities.


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by Richard M. Rawlins


My first indoctrination to Adele Todd’s ‘Black Guard’ came, not from where it is currently on exhibition at the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago, but rather at a little early nineties basement night club in Diego Martin.

On my return from ‘school’ in Canada about ’91, I was taken to said night club in Diego Martin by a childhood friend tasked with integrating me back into life after ‘foreign’. Although I didn’t know it at the time, she would be my temporary tourist visa to this world to which I would later be denied access.

At the entrance to the club I was ‘braced’ by a rather large ‘BLACK GUARD’ and told without reason, “yuh cyah get in…” I was rescued by my friend who on realizing that I had not gone in behind her came out looking for me and told the guard, “He wid me. Steuppps. Wha’ wrong wid you?” The Guard’s retort was: “Ah dinna kno’. Cool cool, go on in, as is you.” Then came my first physical experience in about 10 years of feeling like a fly in a bowl of milk (ironic really considering that had I lived in Canada for decade before and never been faced by any sort of exclusion, racist or otherwise), and like the little lamb that Mary had, that club was white as Snow.

At the time, that club seemed like the place to be. This is a story that would be echoed throughout the nineties in a number of clubs that would have segregated nights: “coolie nights” and “niggar night” etc. It would even spark car-park-club protests by UWI students and lead to what I believe can only be described as ‘exclusivity by committee’, and secret venue clues like ‘You know where, let your shuttles take you there…’ All laughable now, it wasn’t to me then. So I set about figuring out how to gain access to this world with its exclusionary politics.

I applied for membership, something that concerned my father greatly as he wished I would just leave this alone instead of trying to make some idealistic point, (still basking in the post-university idealism glow I guess). This involved a two-page application that I had to fill out on the spot in the front office of a car rental establishment. I met all the criteria filled in the form and never got an answer or membership, after checking for two weeks. I got tired of checking to be honest, and went onto to re-integrate myself into places with people like myself and all-inclusive spaces, that were preferably outside and by the sea.



Adele Todd’s exhibition, Black Guard, presents us with a view of the state of security in our country. A responsibility that for the most part falls on the Afro-Trinidadian, read black people. Neatly couched in the lower front room of the National Museum, now painted red at the artist’s request (and with a National Flag at the center that turns the room into four imaginary chambers), the show is comprised of 26 pieces. The medium is embroidery, Todd’s stock in trade.


RED ARMY, detail.

Not a new thing as a form, the use of thread or yarn in works; artists such as Irénée Shaw, Che Lovelace, Ashraph, Kwynn Johnson, Pat Farrell Frederick and more recently Brianna McCarthy, have all used thread or yarn within their work – some utilizing thread as a metaphor to examine everything from sexuality, lines of communication, to physical and meta-physical lines of access, and others more concerned with examinations of the notion of a Woman’s Work and the elevation of such ‘decorative arts’ into the realm of serious art discussion. Todd’s use of it though is more extensive, it’s not an addition, embellishment or metaphor. Todd creates drawings with thread. While much has been written about the feminine arts and domestic process this work by Todd isn’t about that or even necessarily concerned with it. The pieces can be described as a series of symbols and drawings housing a double entendre and some humor.

One such pastiche of humour is Todd’s choosing to put the viewer’s gaze under scrutiny itself by installing four security cameras within the space.


Todd’s cameras are plush, stuffed cloth, and are as non-functional as a lot of the security cameras we have out there on our city streets that never seem to be able to aid in the curbing of our society’s runaway crime problems.



Another is a plush packet of du Maurier cigarettes and butts made by Todd out of felt and placed just under a large embroidery of prison officers entering the prison to begin their shift. There is a large sign in that drawing that lists among other ‘do nots‘ at the prison, NO SMOKING.



People are stepping on my cigarette box (lol) so I might make a gate.- Adele Todd

The pieces, all white thread and black thread drawings on red linen, are fully sewn in some cases and in others partly finished, revealing Todd’s process and her chalk sewing guide lines. The red linen is stretched so tight you actually see the struts of the stretcher bars through it. In this way I believe, that Todd willingly asserts her own agenda around the making of an object. Will it still be considered art if you can see the under washes and pencil lines or in this case the artist chalk sewing guides? Will it still be art if it is not neatly packaged, on canvas, or embedded in an ornate baroque frame? Is it art if it’s shown in the National Museum and not in a commercial gallery space or for that matter the other way around? Somewhere in here for me though lies a little conundrum about the stretching of works: would they have been even more effective un-stretched and hung like tapestries or maybe even shrouds? But these are ultimately decisions for the artist.


PRISON SIGN, detail.

Hours before the opening of the exhibition, a rather well meaning ‘good samaritan’, obviously un-aware of artists and their deliberations and relationships surrounding their work, suggested to Todd that “we could get a wet rag and rub out the chalk lines and get a blow dryer and dry it off before people come. What you think?” The artist’s response: “Whattttt? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FRIGGING MIND?”

Delicate materials for delicate issues. This is not light work. If you’ve ever been involved in sewing anything (even socks), you would know that Todd’s venture here as is presented, is an ambitious and laborious one. This is not easy, in contrast to a willing acceptance of a ‘status’ quo that puts black people on the ‘outside’ of certain things that they were at one time responsible for creating. Two years of work went into this and began on her return from Glasgow where she had just finished showing an earlier work ‘Police an’ Tief,’ a visual investigation of crime and punishment in Trinidad and Tobago.

From her notes:

‘In a flash of inspiration, I saw our national flag and upon the flag, grainy images of our protective services. I felt compelled to continue my work with a new mandate. I would investigate the subject of those who take on the responsibility of keeping us safe.’

 Todd, like a number of our artists, has a close relationship to themes surrounding Carnival, specifically the disappearance of the ‘traditional’ and the use of ‘MAS’ as a platform for performance. The latter is where Todd has had many successful and successive interventions over the years with her numerous provocative incursions into jouvay. What caused the destruction of man? 2010, saw the artist carrying around a large black box containing the fall of man. One had to pay to look inside the box. This intervention set up all kinds of discourses about the nature of sexuality, females as commodites, and the nature of ‘Mas and its role in the performative moment’. In 2009, Todd took to the jouvay streets with an Examination of the Herald by Audrey Beardsley, in it she wore a huge phallus.


Examination of the Herald by Audrey Beardsley

From her notes:

 No woman in our carnival history had attempted to ‘wear’ a phallic piece, in all this time. Surely, we enjoy making light of our politics with the satire of the ‘Bomb competition’ during the wee hours of Lunde Gras.  We wear the prosthetic breasts and bottoms, and men have extended the penis in play. But in all of the good fun, feminine imagery is blown up to an extreme of bikini mas. When women ‘play themselves’ they too seem to miss the irony of it all. So, amidst the good fun, I chose to cut a path with my attire, and the response was beyond my wildest expectations. Men were stunned and women giggled. No one passed me by without comment, and more often than not, the comments were close to me, for my ears alone. Pictures abounded, flashbulbs went off in abundance and people wanted to pose with me at every step.

 So there is no surprise that, in the exhibition, there are number of Carnival pieces that engage not the sexuality of Mas but rather the security of Mas. In one particular piece, an all too familiar scene of black men holding a rope to keep outsiders out of a band is presented for contemplation. Todd and I have had numerous discussions around this aspect of Carnival.

From Trinidad Guardian, February 10, 2016:

 Carnival experience marred

 “That aspect of our security and its extraction protocols are being reviewed. The members involved have been replaced. We are committed to serving our masqueraders and thank them for being with us,” the statement added.


THE ROPE, detail.

We, (Trinidadians), speak about service in the country as though it were a bad word. Service and pride in your job and what you do seems to be lacking in some quarters, especially as related to our tourism industry. But this is not the case for the Carnival security. No, not at all. Quite the contrary, for there is a zealousness that comes with holding a rope, and defending masqueraders often much lighter shades of black than the security officers themselves from the on-looking crowds. Many a citizen has been beaten up by the ‘Mas Security’ (a lovely phrase, the meaning of which was not lost on Todd as it’s embroidered on to the figures holding the white rope while wearing white gloves), while attempting to cross an unwieldy band of thousands. Is the rope there to keep them in? Or keep allyuh out? Who exactly is the allyuh?



In another piece, a costumed Mas player portraying a ‘Dragon Mas’ is seen in the foreground as a motorcycle police officer looks off attending to his own concerns and paying him no mind. In stark contrast to the previous piece there is no intent on securing this player here. Maybe he isn’t deemed as of the same value of the ‘Beads and Bikini masquerader’ as alluded to in Todd’s notes, and maybe, he isn’t even seen as of a high enough threat level to concern the police office.


There is one work in the show that is literally on its own. By this I mean that it stands alone, under a glass box, on the floor of the exhibition space. There are one or two pieces of each sub-theme, maybe three within the show, (interesting considering the room size and it being painted red, which brings all the work literally pillar to post down on you in a bit of an overly intimate arrangement). The piece on the floor, ‘Guard Booth’, portrays a guard in a booth at the head of a gated community. The glass box creates a bit of magnification and at the same time gives the impression of being outside and having to look in, through a sort of force field. We can’t even think about entering there. Yuh doh see the guard?

Todd purposely stayed away from going down the road of multiple examinations with this as she felt it would lead her to a discussion toward access and gatekeepers, something she sees as a whole totally different exploration. The work is positioned diagonally to the flag, a nod perhaps to the many security guards that are often seen taking down National flags around the country at 6pm. These little juxtapositions within juxtapositions show Todd’s cleverness and her design sensibilities. Todd, an artist, educator and graphic designer by profession, understands design’s role in communicating through specific spaces and media.



There is an odd ledge like area within the gallery space. Todd uses it to her advantage. Within this she sets up five works portraying different aspects of the annual Independence Day parade. Mostly depictions of columns of different members of our protective services. Although the pieces seem static in the representations, Todd embroiders and adjusts the dimensions of the characters placed within them to such an effect as to render the idea of the lines about to march off the parade ground. The work combined with the odd space creates a visual of the Independence Day parade ground as if from the President’s box itself.

One of these works, portraying female police, or as they are known in Trinidad and Tobago (and lovingly called) ‘woman police’, sets up a discussion around gender in the works.



Ah pullin’ way from she for she to hold meh tight
The woman police mus’ hold meh tight
An’ ah doing all of dat fo’ spite
for she to hold meh tight, tight, tight – Mighty Spoiler

There are numerous depictions throughout the exhibition of ‘woman police’, one such work depicts a ‘woman police’ weighed down with heavy tactical gear just like her male counterparts. This inclusion is very dear to me as my aunt (and coincidently, Todd’s dear family friend) Mavis Griffith was both a soldier and later the first ‘woman police’ in Trinidad and Tobago. And just as we speak of the role of the black man in the role of security so we must also acknowledge the black woman, not only their accepted roles as mothers and protectors, but also their crucial roles within our security forces as administrators, mentors, mavericks, humanists, and often the ones with cooler heads.



This whole discussion brings to mind a line I once read in my early advertising days. It was for a little half-page recruitment ad for female security guards. The headline read: Are you the measure of a man? Todd’s column of white and black thread women sets up that moment just before the ‘woman police’ leave the parade ground and march down Frederick Street. The moment that follows though, which is not captured by Todd, is that ‘pore raising’ moment when they actually hit the street and hundreds of women and little girls go crazy and begin screaming for the ‘woman police’ in a show of pride, as the ‘woman police’ go marching by, sub-machine guns across their chests, trying not to crack a smile at all the adulation being meted out on them.

There is a lot to be found in Todd’s Black Guard; it’s a work like that, which sets us up with a clear way of viewing. It’s a choice really: Black Guard or blackguard.

From her notes:
Blackguard, pronounced blaggard is an old-fashioned term for scoundrel.

Adele Todd – Black Guard opened on the 22nd of July and runs through 20th August at the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, Trinidad,