Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 27th 2016 Contents SUNDAY, MARCH 27, 2016
Today my father turns 85. Five years
ago on his 80th, we had a birthday
party for him. His favourite gift that
day was the box of custom made polo necked
T-shirts which my sister Linda had ordered
specially for him with an embroidered motif
of the cricket pun: 80 and not out.
The T-shirt message is still serving him
well---he continues to garden every day, enjoys
looking at "wrastling" on television and in a
corner of his front porch converted into a nat-
urally lit studio, he paints memories of an
uncluttered life before my mother developed
Alzheimer s, and the pastoral rural landscapes
of rural Trinidad of his childhood.
He draws and paints the ajoupas and wooden
huts of the villages of Lengua and Barrackpore
in which he grew up. His heavily impasto
views of the sea and countryside on paper or
canvas are a mixture of colours and textures
of earth, leaves, flowers, sand, rocks, clouds
like cotton wool and a scattering of pure sun-
light, blue in the tropical sky.
The paintings are textured, almost like a
collage of natural elements on paper. He sum-
mons up the cane fields and estates in which
his parents worked and where he and his
brother started as teenagers to earn a living.
His seaside scenes are joyfully reminiscent of
the days when, with a group of young friends,
he would do a 20-mile ride on a bicycle for
Ayoob was born in 1931, one of six children,
all except himself now deceased. He and his
brother Haniff both showed academic prowess
at Kanhai Presbyterian Primary School and
encouraged by the headmaster, they were both
trained as pupil teachers in this school.
Art classes were part of the curriculum. He
says, "We did not know about teaching art
then, but we had to instruct them still. We
gave them paper and pencils and crayons and
told them to draw trees and houses that sur-
rounded the village schools, to imagine a visit
to the seaside; many had never been to the
At age 22 my father entered the next stage
of his training, spending from 1953 to 1955 at
the Government Training College, then located
in St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
By this time, there were choices in the cur-
riculum and he selected the option of art. He
recalls that he and his brother Haniff, who
later followed him to training college in 1960,
both liked painting and drawing. Here he had
the good fortune of being taught by MP
Mahmoud Pharouk Alladin, born in 1919
in Tacarigua, was an orthodox Muslim, fluent
in Urdu, Hindi and Arabic, and was himself
trained earlier at the same Government Train-
ing College. Topping the island at his Teachers
Certificate Exams, he was awarded a schol-
arship, which led to training and certification
in fine and industrial arts in the United King-
dom and the United States. On his return to
Trinidad, from 1949- 1952 Alladin was assistant
lecturer at the Government Training College
and was later employed as an art officer by
the Ministry of Education and Culture during
the period 1953-1956.
In his responsibility for the art curriculum
in all schools and teachers training colleges
in T&T, Alladin would influence my father
and a generation of teachers of primary and
secondary schools who in turn would introduce
art into school curricula.
My father remembers that MP Alladin taught
them to capture what they saw around them.
This was also part of Alladin s own repertoire
of paintings: scenes of the rural environment
with agricultural works, thatched roofs and
mud walls and fields of sugar cane, street
scenes and vendors of the time, the Indo-
Trinidadian festivals like Hosay and weddings
Alladin was a founding member of the Art
Teachers Association. He served for many
years as the president of the Art Society;
among its membership were Carlisle Chang
and Sybil Atteck. This group generated an
early visual sensibility of national identity.
The intuitive renditions of my father at age
85 summon back the beginnings of this artistic
sensibility of the 1950s and recalls the emer-
gence of an indigenous art history with a num-
ber of other painters and artists who emerged
around this time, like Ralph and Vera Baney,
Samuel Ishak, Sonnylal Rambissoon from San
Fernando, Edwin Hingwan from Mayaro, Holly
Guyadeen, Alf Codallo and Isaiah Boodhoo.
Many of these artists, like my father, were
located in the South, picturing the rural rather
than urban environment and extending the
range of ethnic expressions that comprised
the visual identity of the society.
I think about this in relation to what art
now means to my father at age 85. He says
he is still influenced by MP Alladin when he
paints now, to paint what is familiar to him.
While the act of painting serves as a mnemonic
device he says, "Painting is a comfort, it is
relaxing, easier because now I have the time
to paint. Painting gives me mental, physical
and spiritual satisfaction."
My father paints with no commercial market
in mind. He gives away his work to his family,
his grandchildren and children when they like
this or that piece.
I celebrate my father s willingness to engage
in painting now for another reason. My col-
leagues at the Institute for Gender and Devel-
opment Studies and the Department of Social
Work at the University of the West Indies are
now involved in a research and community
engagement project to look at issues of work
and life balance that have accelerated with
modern pressures and its impact on ageing
We are understanding more and more the
fate of longevity that condemns many to end
their days without the dignity that our creative
imagination still allows. In a global culture
consumed with accelerated technologies and
the celebration of youth, surrounded by
increasing and apparently meaningless vio-
lence, I think my father finds solace in the
value that art contributes through its delight
in the beauty of nature, and as key to con-
tinuously defining one s human existence.
Patricia Mohammed is a professor of
gender and cultural studies at UWI, St
Augustine. She is the author of Imaging
the Caribbean: Culture and Visual Translation
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
Ayoob Mohammed at home in his studio.
Village House, Ayoob Mohammed, 2014, acrylic on
canvas paper. IMAGES COURTESY PATRICIA MOHAMMED
Seaside View, Ayoob
acrylic on canvas paper.
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