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Caribbean art.

In the past, Caribbean travelers were often content to return home with suitcases stuffed with brightly colored T-shirts, ashtrays emblazoned with maps of the countries they had visited and huge straw hats. Today, culturally savvy travelers want to experience the lifestyle, food, art, culture and rich traditions of the people in their destinations. Instead of tacky souvenirs, many travelers are returning home with pieces of Caribbean art to proudly grace their homes and offices. Not only do they serve as vivid reminders of an enjoyable vacation, the artwork represents the vibrant island atmosphere and the many talents of its multicultural people.

Caribbean artwork can be distinguished by the preponderance of vivid, intense nature-colors used by its artists. The multihued brilliance of village and parish life frequently find its way to the canvases of Caribbean painters.

Loris Crawford, owner of Savacou Gallery in New York City, points out that in addition to rural and agricultural landscapes and sea scenes, art patrons will often find political and religious themes among Caribbean offerings. Urban street scenes, especially Carnivale and other spirited cultural events, are also frequently depicted. "Art has always had an important place in Caribbean society," says Crawford. "Artists were often in the forefront of the anti-colonial struggles."

While all the islands have a diverse range of art offerings, Haiti, Jamaica and Barbados are noted for their fine wood carving and sculptures and for their emphasis on African heritage found in many island artists' works. Practically all of the Caribbean islands offer a range of places where artwork can be viewed and purchased. Art schools and resident artists' galleries are good sources of unique artwork. An island's tourist board can also direct you to artists and curators who can be immensely helpful in steering you to sources of high-quality, reasonably priced art while on vacation.

Arts organizations and gallery owners in major American cities may be able to provide good referrals to the best places that offer quality island art. Caribbean arts journals, such as Arts Jamaica, can provide an education on what to look for aesthetically during your travels. Away from the formal galleries, there are numerous gifted artists selling their creations at island marketplaces and roadside stands throughout the countryside.

Island Finds

The Bahamas lures thousands of tourist annually to its Straw Market (Bay St., Nassau and the International Bazaar, Freeport). The brilliant water-colors, oils and prints of talented Bahamian artists are featured at the Nassau Art Gallery (East Bay Shopping Center, Nassau; 809-393-1482). Angelo's Art Centre and Museum (Harold Road, Nassau; 809-322-1114) currently under renovation and scheduled to reopen in June and the Temple Gallery, both in Nassau, are two other popular national art locales.

Browse through the Jamaica National Gallery (12 Ocean Blvd., Kingston; 809-922-1561). Among its offerings are the intense mystical sculptures of Kapo, a famed priest of Kumina - an indigenous Jamaican religion with strong African influences - and the unique masterworks of the late Edna Manley, mother of Prime Minister Michael Manley. The Edna Manley School for Visual Arts (1 Arthur Wint Drive, Kingston; 809-929-2352) is another must-see exhibit as well as Things Jamaican (Devon House, 26 Hope Road, Kingston; 809-923-8928) where original paintings, sculptures and crafts by Jamaican artists are featured. Significant sites for island exhibits are The Frame Centre Gallery (10 Tangerine Place, Kingston; 809-926-4644) and The Mutual Life Gallery (2 Oxford Road, Kingston; 809-926-9025 or 929-4302).

Batik fabrics, created by dyeing designs onto cloth, are made into clothes and wall hangings throughout the Caribbean. Smaller islands such as St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis are famed for their lovely batiks. The works of St. Lucian artists can be found at the Arts and Crafts Center at Choiseul (Lafargue; 809-454-3226). An array of stunning, colorful batiks including wall hangings grace the interior of the Sea Island Cotton Shop (Bridge St., St. Lucia; 809-452-3674). Watch St. Lucian artists design batik fabrics for clothing and well hanging at Caribelle Batik (Old Victoria Road; 809-452-3785) in The Morne, then select your favorite from a wide choice of artistic offerings.

Philipsburg, St. Maarten galleries such as Greenwith Galleries (20 Front St.; 011-599-5-23842), the Fine Arts Gallery (Front St.; 011-599-5-24189) and the Bearden Art Gallery (Palm Plaza Arcade; 011-599-5-24189) house the works of St. Maarten's gifted residents. A leading St. Martin artist, Roland Richardson (011-590-5-87-32-24) invites i. land visitors into his Orleans home by appointment to view his watercolors and prints of St. Martin life and scenic spots.

Only a short ferry ride from St. Maarten, beautiful Anguilla shows off its locally produced works at the Arts and Crafts Center (The Valley; 809-497-2200). At Caribbean Style, above Koalkeel Restaurant (Old Warden's Place; 809-497-2930), a former plantation, batik lovers will be fascinated by the spellbinding images of full-lipped, liquid-eyed black women imprinted in the fabrics available there. The works of Barbadian-born Courtney Devonish, internationally known for his sculptures and potteries, can be found in Anguilla at his Devonish Gallery (Old Factory Plaza, The Valley; 809-497-2949).

Festive Creations

Famed for its annual Carnival held each February, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago exhibits the intricately designed and colorfully flamboyant costumes of past carnivals at its National Museum and Art Gallery (117 Fredrick St.), along with the works of other island artists. Two of its internationally known brothers, Gregory and Bosco Holder, have their creations and those of other artistic nationals on display at Art Creators and Suppliers in Aldegonda Park (7 St. Anns Road, St. Anns; 809-624-4369). In Tobago, visit the National Fine Arts Center in Scarborough (Orange Hill) to see the art of local residents.

Puerto Rico is a virtual mecca of the arts. The San Juan Museum of Art and History (200 San Francisco St., Old San Juan; 809-724-1875) is a converted market-placed-turned museum featuring changing exhibits of Puerto Rican art. Galeria Botello (208 Cristo, St., Old San Juan; 809-723-9987) features a permanent collection of Spanish artist Angel Botello's work, along with those of 40 other local and international artists in a variety of mediums. A bevy of arts-and-crafts fairs are held throughout the year around the island.

Art And History

Wood sculptures and carvings along with clay pottery dominate the art offerings found in Barbados. One of the island's most noted artists is sculptor Karl Broodhagen. Acclaimed for his wooden statue of "The Freed Slave" aka. "Bussa," in which a slave with his chains broken raises his fists towards the heavens, the piece stands as a hallmark to the 150th anniversary of the island's emancipation at the traffic circle in St. Barnabas.

In addition to tracing the island's historic heritage, visitors can view a variety of fine art paintings and sculptures at The Barbados Museum (St. Ann's Garrison, St. Michael; 809-427-0201) and the works of resident artists at The Barbados Arts Council (Pelican Village, St. Michael; 809-426-4385). Observe clay artists at work at Chalky Mount Potteries (Chalky Mount, St. Andrews Parish).

A reverence for nature and its rich, vibrant earth tones, along with intense spiritual imagery from the African-derived vodun religion, typify Haitian artwork. Despite the constant political turmoil that has besieged the nation in the past few years, both its artists and art galleries have continued to proliferate. The Episcopal Cathedral de la Ste. Trinite (rue Pavee, Port au Prince), the Centre d'Art Haitien (52 Rue du 22 Septiembre, Port au Prince; 011-509-1-2-2018) and the Le Musee d'Art Haitien du College St. Pierre (place des Heroes, Port au Prince; 011-509-1-2-2510) are repositories of the works of some of the island's now internationally celebrated artists such as Philome Obin and Rigaud Benoit.

Art and culture lovers will want to attend CARIFESTA V, sponsored by the CARICOM (Caribbean Common market and Community) governments this August in Trinidad. Bringing together over 2,000 artists from throughout the Caribbean and other areas, the festival will feature continuous exhibitions, lectures. workshops and over 1,000 live performances.

Wherever you journey in the Caribbean, a unique and culturally enriching variety of arts await the discerning traveler, making each visit a richly memorable cultural experience.
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Author:Cousins, Linda
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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