Photos by Keno George
Nature, love and identity were the major themes that were examined by the nine young women who made up this year’s graduating class of the E.R Burrowes’ School of Arts.
The textile creations, paintings, drawings, graphic designs, photography, and leather craft that showcased the talents of the artists were exhibited for just over a week at the newly rebuilt Umana Yana.
Painting and textiles were the dominant areas of study.
Maria Lopes brought poetry to life with her series of paintings depicting the poem “South” by Barbadian Kamau Braithwaite.
“But today I recapture the islands’ bright beaches: blue mist from the ocean rolling into the fishermen’s houses,” Braithwaite begins, and Lopes starts off with a visual depiction of Braithwaite’s home in the island: a verandah overlooking the sea.
“In each paragraph or sentence within the poem, I’ve illustrated what was said…And as you move along, continue the poem, you will see that he is now on the plane right now, moving away from the island and now into the city life. And he comes now to his new home living in the forest, where the forests oppress him. He’s depressed and regretting moving away from his home,” she explained.
The illustrations of the cityscape presented in the series are done using the path knife technique, a method also utilized to produce several of Lopes’ other landscape pieces, which were showcased in the other half of her exhibit.
The young artist intends to follow through with landscape painting professionally and hopes to secure a job in the field of graphic design, where she is keen on animation.
“Expression of a Devotee” was the theme of Kamaladeo Sahadeo’s exhibition. The painting major and ceramics minor, said that a religious background has influenced the way she thinks and acts. “I think as a devotee,” she said.
Sahadeo’s major task was the peacock painting and rangoli on canvas, made using coloured rice. They feature the colours of the chakra, which she explained signifies the positive energies in the body, such as self-esteem, creativity and higher consciousness. The circle in the centre represents God, who is at the centre of everything.
“In the middle, I started with the ganapathi, which is the main source. I mean, God is our main source—this is where we got our energy from…So, once we can perfect all of these energies, we could be back to God,” Sahadeo stated.
Although not limiting herself to religious artefacts, she plans to one day open her own studio where her paintings, drawings and ceramic work will be on sale.
Twenty-nine year old Fiona Alert’s artwork is inspired by nature, with many of her pieces featuring interior landscapes. Although she has never visited these locations, they are all places that have managed to captivate her interest.
“I see that there’s not enough appreciation for nature, because even though this is our home, this is where we live, this is our environment, in today’s world we’re busy working or we’re busy walking with our heads down in our phones. Many of us don’t even look up, notice the stars or so on, or the moon or simple things,” she said.
Alert, whose pieces were specific to sceneries common to Guyana, said she hopes her work will encourage individuals to pay attention to natural scenery where they will find serenity and diversity, and hopefully gain a deeper appreciation for their country.
Her major task, a 5×4 painting done in oils, she did as a challenge, noting that it is her only painting to feature a person in it. The portrait is of a young, Amerindian girl in the kitchen. A river, nestled among the hilly, grassy landscape, can be seen through the opened window of the wooden house.
Another noteworthy piece by Alert is her leather portrait, also of an Amerindian girl. This, she said was made using three to four different techniques, in a bid to move away from traditional leather works, such as bags and shoes.
After graduation, she plans to continue independent study and produce work for sale.
Lack of recognition
“This is a piece of Radha and Krishna and my theme is ‘A Divine Love,’” Darshani Kishtana stated. Her major task depicted the religious story of two people in love who could not be with each other because of class issues.
Kishtana related that although her school life at Burrowes was hectic, with having to travel every day from Berbice to Georgetown, and at one even point plagued with illness—she was forced to take a year off because of an injury—but she pushed through because of her love of art.
She has not yet decided on a career but has considered the option of selling her pieces online. For now, she says, she is intent on learning more about textile and painting and possibly starting her own business.
Another Berbician, like Kishtana, Odessa Carmichael was also a textile major and painting minor. Fittingly, her theme was ‘Country Life,’ and Carmichael said that all her work features nature in some way.
A love seat using the macramé technique, a method using string knotted to form patterns, was her major task.
Carmichael has plans to pursue teaching, as she is eager to share all that she has learnt. Starting a business is also on her to-do-list.
The artist expressed concerns of there not being enough places for Guyanese artists to showcase their work, and what she perceived to be a lack of appreciation for local artwork in general. “It’s difficult for you to sell yourself because people in Guyana don’t recognise art for what it is or they do not have the value for art. So, I would really like if we would just value local stuff more than we value foreign stuff,” Carmichael said.
Creating art that functions ensures that 22-year-old Linda Fung is able to maintain relevance in the local market.
Specialising in textile and sculpture, Fung depicted the story of fertility for her major task—a hand carved bed.
“Having sculpture as my minor and textile as my major, I sought to create a piece that would equally balance the two. In doing so, I created a circular bed, I chose a circle because of the meaning behind it—it gives a sense of completeness. The top of the bed shows its design through woodcuts, [which depicts] the story of fertility. The three posts were carved so as to show the three stages of pregnancy…and the bed sheet, applique was used to design the motif that was created, it was designed in such a way that you could see the foetus through the mother’s stomach,” she explained.
Fung wishes to further her art studies in Trinidad to become a functioning artist.
Otella King addressed the socio-cultural issue of women of colour and natural hair in her major task—a sculpture of a kinky-haired woman, themed “Strength of the woman.” King divulged that her major task, fashioned from wood dust, took approximately one month and two weeks to be completed.
King, in describing the motivation for her concept, made reference to restrictions in the workplace as far as how women of African descent are allowed to wear their hair, while noting that certain hairstyles, such as afros, are frowned upon.
Her exhibit also featured African combs of a wide variety, including designs of Ashanti and Yoruban origin.
The lone photographer in the graduating class, Jermana de Freitas, declared that she uses art as a way to express her love for, and to preserve architecture and built heritage.
A photography major and leather craft minor, her booth showcased hand crafted leather bags, as well as a photography series called ‘Memories of the Demerara Shutter,’ which she said showed details of different houses carrying that architectural feature. Another series on display was one highlighting persons associated with historical architecture.
Asked what she believed is most needed for the local art industry, de Freitas replied, “support.”
“It would be nice to have people that would buy, but it would be nice to have people that would just come and see it to appreciate, to discuss it. To share it as well, take photographs, put it online. Because online you see you’ll get a broader coverage. Not many people know about the arts that are done in Guyana, but through social media we could be able to reach people outside and show them what we’re capable of,” she said.
Next on the agenda for de Freitas is a job in the advertising field, where she can utilise her photography.
The exhibition closed last Friday.