Hinkson wants Tobago home for art

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Donald “Jackie” Hinkson’s mural on a wall outside the Bon Accord Government Primary School in Bon Accord, Tobago. Photo by David Reid

It is the dream of 80-year-old Donald “Jackie” Hinkson that Tobago will soon establish a home for artwork to be displayed.

In an interview with Newsday on Wednesday, Hinkson, an award-winning creative painter with a gift for capturing the light and life of the Caribbean, said there is a vacuum that needs to be filled.

Hinkson’s art was on display for revellers during the inaugural Tobago carnival from October 28-30.

He had two large murals outside the TT Electricity Commission (TTEC) on Wilson Road, Scarborough and along the wall of the Bon Accord Government Primary School. They are expected to be removed on Thursday.

Although grateful for the opportunity to display his work, Hinkson said the environment was not conducive to the longevity of the paintings.

“They are works on canvas with paint. The sun is going to damage them, rain is going to damage them, so they should not be here. Because I have these things stacked up in my garage, and because a very important thing for me is for people to see the work, then I take the chance of seizing the opportunity to put out whenever I can, knowing fully well I should not.”

He added, “I hope that someday they would find a permanent home, but it’s not up to me.”

He said he has had conversations about putting his painting at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, but there has been no favourable response to date.

“This one in Bon Accord was done 15 years ago; the one in Scarborough was done over the last three years, and is ongoing.”

He said both works of art were inspired by his perception of what was happening in society and in the world.

Donald “Jackie” Hinkson

“The one in Bon Accord begins with almost a historical depiction of early Carnival. Within that are allusions to social situations: it begins with an image of Columbus’s ships’ sails but the people are wearing robber hats, so right away there is a suggestion that there was an element of robbery in that era.

“Then I go on to depict some of the architecture of the time of early Carnival – the 1940s, when I was a child, and the movement from tamboo bamboo to steelband, with humble architecture in the background.”

He said thereafter the celebratory depiction of Carnival changed, so he alluded to certain current situations. That story, he said, ended there but led him to start the mural at Scarborough.

“In my mind I felt totally besieged by fights, conflicts, arguments, political situations, debates, anger, crime – every day you feel assaulted by all these issues and opinions around them and commentaries. I said, ‘This feels to me as some kind of mas, some kind of Carnival.’ So I picked up from the first mural and started that second one, where I would capture my mainly emotional reactions to all of that frenzy that is happening around me, but depict it through the symbolism of Carnival imagery.”

Asked how he became involved in the creative sector, he said “I have no idea.

“In school everybody doing little drawing and so on – everybody except you stopped doing it.

“For me to explain why I continued, I have no idea. Is it genetics, is it a combination of genes and social environments, is it what people vaguely call a gift?

“I have no idea, but that is how it started.”

Born in Port of Spain, Hinkson trained at the Academie Julien in Paris (1963-1964) and the University of Alberta, Canada (1965-1970).

He added: “We all in our lives have experiences – privately, publicly, domestically, socially, in our work environment. We all in our lives see things happening around us locally in our local environment, internationally, and we all respond emotionally to a large degree and intellectually to all those events and how they affect us.”