Creating Like the Heart Is on Fire

I had a plan: 15 interviews with Tobago and Trinidad artists. Joseph would help me in many ways: “It is manifest, trust in Jah” using the Rastafarian term for God. It seemed around every corner was another opportunity to practice balancing uncertainty and faith in wisdom greater than my own.

Recognition

When assembling Pan Spirit, I’d met Rob, the host of a local PBS program who was preparing a show about artists. Months later Rob called to ask about doing a segment on what I was now calling Caribbean Art Promotions. Within less than a year, Joseph’s work was displayed at a museum and featured multiple times on television throughout northern California. Opportunities continued to unfold and that year Joseph’s carvings were featured for the first time at Trinidad & Tobago National Museum and Art Gallery. I traveled to Trinidad to attend the opening, carrying a promotional catalogue I’d designed of Joseph’s work. Seeing the catalogue, several artists in attendance asked me about representing them.

Taking the Next Step

Consulting projects were steadily coming in and I had the flexibility of working remotely as long as there was internet access. I’d saved some funds and it seemed like the right time to take Caribbean Art Promotions to the next stage. Joseph and I kept returning to the idea of a book, something that would honor and showcase the talents and stories of unknown and indigenous artists in T&T.

A year later I headed back to T&T with the goal of conducting at least 15 interviews over a two-month period. I always plan ahead with my itinerary laid out. But as Joseph and I flew from Tobago to Trinidad, not one interview had been lined up. Each time I anxiously asked Joseph how we were going to do this, in his calm and assured way, he’d say, “It is manifest, trust in Jah” using the Rastafarian term for God. It seemed around every corner was another opportunity to practice balancing uncertainty and faith in wisdom greater than my own.

First Artist Interview

Not even thirty minutes after landing and collecting our luggage, we met Clive, known by the locals for his quick pencil and charcoal portraits of passengers in transit. We hurriedly set up the equipment, borrowing stools from the outdoor bar, mindful that for Clive, time was money. After the interview, I breathed a sigh of relief that we’d officially begun. There was a predictable unpredictability to the interviews, as we never knew exactly who, when or where the next might be. Sometimes all we had was a nickname, “Copper Man” or “Saga Boy”, the name of a village, but no address. Rum shop patrons served as substitutes for Google and LinkedIn.

Driving through the backcountry one day, Joseph spotted large wooden insects dangling from the branches of a mango tree. We stopped to get a closer look and this was how we met Marcus, the craftsman of these pieces. Our gratitude for the willingness of these artists to share their stories was matched only by their appreciation of being witnessed and truly seen for their gifts. Yet I’d gained a greater clarity about who I wanted to be and was becoming that had come through this process of helping others to be seen and heard.

By Following the Heart

By the end of my stay, Joseph and I had found and photographed the work of 20 artists in a range of materials from carved buffalo horn, to life size wire alligators, wood sculptures, paintings on bamboo, paper mache, copper portraits and contemporary folk paintings. Amidst the constant balancing of uncertainty with faith in a wisdom I was learning was within me, I began to feel the confidence, ease and happiness that came from following what called to my heart, learning to recognize and own who I was meant to be.