What Things Are True by Jackie Hinkson

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Published in 2012, the year in which Jackie Hinkson celebrated his 70th birthday, What Things Are True reflects far more than a book title: it’s the author’s attempt to answer a lifelong question, one to which he knows there may be no swift recourse. Hinkson’s memoir reveals the interiority of some of his most highly generative years in the world of art. The narrative focuses on segments of the artist’s life in chapters that are both beautifully and simply titled (“Dreaming of an Old House”; “A Boy in Cobo Town”; “Autumn Blues In Paris”). Indeed, much of Hinkson’s reflections transmute what is seemingly ordinary — a childhood schoolyard scuffle; a series of ruminations on an old house; a sea voyage to an unfamiliar country — into reflections that are ornate with the weight of memory, coloured in by a mind attuned to perceptions of light, darkness and the countless variations betwixt those two states.

A Paria Publishing Title, What Things Are True has been described by historian Bridget Brereton (in her Trinidad Express review of the book) as containing a “rich social history in Hinkson’s finely written” prose. Brereton draws attention to the author’s numerous pen portraits that intersperse the chapters, adorning written recollections with visual hearkenings to buildings, portraits of family members. These illustrations serve to flesh out and deepen the ways in which the reader appreciates Hinkson’s artistic journeys.

Teeming with myriad reflections of a vanished age; of both the pleasures and perils inherent in the working creative’s existence; of the rewards bestowed by family and the dangerous allure of critical fame, Hinkson’s memoir is, perhaps above all else, the opposite of a full stop. It’s a declaration of intent: a promise of a continued life in the visual arts, marked with as much attentiveness and sensibility as shines through in these pages.

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Battle Dress and Fancy Dress by Irwin Ottley

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

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Published in 2012, in commemoration of Trinidad and Tobago’s 50th Independence anniversary, Battle Dress and Fancy Dress is described by Bridget Brereton, in a Trinidad Express review, as both “well researched and strikingly illustrated”. Carnival scholars will relish the addition of another scholarly, informative work on the origins of T & T’s mas traditions, which Ottley convincingly argues have the bulwark of their roots in pre-colonisation practices of West and Central African rituals. While not refuting the European influence on some aspects of Trinbagonian mas foundations, Ottley presents a clearly-demarcated series of positions that support a West African bedrock. He credits African Christmas Carnival festivities with bearing the blueprint emblems of creativity that endured in local modern mas.

The author also gives credence to the presence of T & T’s militia, along with the troops of the British army, on aiding in the cultivation of carnival traditions. The “battle dress” half of the book’s title derives principally from this influence, which Ottley describes as significant in the style of dress and weaponry displays enacted by these militiamen and soldiers.

Battle Dress and Fancy Dress‘s back cover, featuring a collage design of numerous illustrations referenced in the book.

The meticulously researched text enjoys frequent punctuations from a plethora of detail-captioned black and white images, predominantly sourced from online slavery archives that have been curated by tertiary institutions, as well as the Michael Goldberg Postcard Collection, housed at UWI St. Augustine’s Alma Jordan library.