Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Art of the Peoples

Shirin Tobie-Paul of Tupah & Pohtay meets
Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy
I’ve had my heart broken by being an Artist of the Peoples, aka, a crafter. I went to college in the UK to a place that was as confused about what craft was as the worst person in the street: they taught us it was art, but even though it can be, it wasn’t, not the way they conveyed it. They neither taught us technique nor art, but rather something between, something largely homeless. So I left there wondering if I’d missed something. Well maybe I had, but I think most of all, they had. They’d missed the gift of being mentors and instead made the stereotype of ‘those who can’t, teach’ something that you really began to wonder may be true. I have since had my best moments in life being a teacher and a mentor - I never cease to be grateful I can.

I also left there convinced that the uppity snobby world of pretension that pissed on Art of the Peoples, was not a place for me - I wanted what I made to be inspiring to everyday people. Something to light up smiles on the faces of my friends, my dentist, the random worn out parent of a child whose eye passing by, caught the colours. (Thank you my dentist Azmina Long, for meeting me at the supermarket Friday and reminding me that you thought my art was beautiful and urging me to get back to it)

I've been a 'crafter' for many, many years and miss it immensely now my energies are used up at a desk-job, but those years also left a bitter taste in my mouth and scarred my path in life in ways that only other creatives may understand: the public that 'loves' your craft that pops hundreds on some foreign imported piece of crap and turns straight to your face and says 'bondye...give me a little break nuh...you can give it to me for less, you know the pockets empty?' (and what do you think mine are, you lash back in your head while struggling to maintain a semblance of a smile on your outside) Or turns away with a half-cheups, saying nothing at all to you but mumbling to others "I doh know why these artists don't make their prices reasonable...' as they turn to go and waste good money on some other 300% marked up plastic status symbol they deem more worthy. 

And while I'll be the first to teach that you have to know and cater for your market, I now make no apologies to also teach that 1) these people probably aren't your market and you need to avoid trying to make them until 2) development of the market has reached a place where people understand the value of what we make, what we artists do. 3) Don't give in. Find your market, find the one, two or handful that do understand and let them lift you up. 4) Practice what you preach - buy from your fellow artists, speak kindly to them and inspire them as you want for yourself.

So it was with an energy on an endorphin high that I spent my last two days at the Saint Lucia Taiwan Trade Fair where I began to believe that Saint Lucia might be, might, just, be, on the cusp of coming out of the dark ages where art – of the intellectuals and the peoples – has been a bad word, a road to debt, a highway to crazy where good people full of light, fade and dust and dry rot. Maybe, just maybe we are coming close to a long-closed door being recognized for what it is, what it has always been; the path to freedom.

Heart-to-heart talks, frank caring critiques from creative to creative, art of the peoples touched, bought and ready to be gifted at Christmas…The Ministry of Commerce having included a 'Voucher Scheme' where exhibitors could exchange vouchers to 'buy' each other's goods. The unbridled joy of primary school kids playing, singing and dancing our traditional songs; their teacher’s face a story of love. The adults testing the strength of the stage-boards leaping, pouring sweat, lost in the love of dances rooted in African pasts long foreign except in places that oceans cannot touch. This is my world, this is what I love. I will be back there today and I hope many more will be too. This is the true backbone of the nation, the Arts – of all shapes and forms. The works of expression that enable us to be.

I am hopeful.

See my photos HERE More to come, so please subscribe to my blog (make me feel good!!! TIA :)  and 'Like' the Cultural Development Foundation's Facebook page  - click to get Notifications also and you'll be kept in touch with all that we are doing (that's my day-job)