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From La Trinity to London

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

Michelle Tappin-Davis is the fourth President of the Women In Art Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (WIAOTT), an NGO founded in 1996. She is also the Head Of Department for Language and Visual and Performing Arts at Hillview College. Although she enjoys experimenting with a variety of media, painting is her forte. Traditionally her style has been representational and the warm palette of her paintings reflects her Caribbean roots. Most of her pieces include figurative forms as well as visual metaphors, creating subtle narratives. Although she has been exhibiting since 1996, Michelle launched her first solo show, Celebration, in 2011, in which she began to explore conceptual themes in a more Impressionist style. Two of her pieces, Scarborough Sunday

Morning and Digging For Sand, Pigeon Point, form part of the National Heritage Collection, Shaw Park Complex, Tobago.

As one of the collaborators for the British Academy Research Project on “Crossing the Seas”, Tappin-Davis produced this 30”x24” painting, in acrylic and mixed media on canvas board, entitled From La Trinity to London. It tells the story of five migrant women, all hindus, who migrated

from a common district in Trinidad to London 15-25 years ago in order to pursue alternative career paths but who still cling to fragments of the lives that they left behind through cultural and religious traditions from their native land.

Central to the painting is The Temple In The Sea. The actual temple was built stone by stone, by Siewdass Sadhu, a poor labourer and Hindu devotee, over a period of 25 years, against all odds. Thus it is a testament to the leap of faith undertaken by these migrant women.

The temple is surrounded by red , white and black jhandis, the colours of the national flag of Trinidad and Tobago. Five scarlet ibis, one of the national birds of the twin- island Republic, leave their flock below the lush green canopy and fly towards the glittering Christmas lights decorating the distant London Bridge. The difference in the time-zone is also indicated as, at dawn, the scarlet

ibis rise from their roost in the Caroni Swamp in a synchronous ballet but at sunset, they fly at different times. The cultural traditions that warm the hearts of the migrants are also represented. The domino, iconic to the Trinidad Carnival, represents the fun –loving nature and care-free spirit of their compatriot while the brilliance of the vegetation and the ocean evokes their longing for the calmness of the beaches and nature resorts. The high relief areas at the base of the painting were created by mixing hand-made paper, dyed with saffron and embedded with dried petals, into the paint. The saffron represents the traditional spice used by all Trinidadians in their recipes. The petals are a keepsake from Trinidad and the hand-made paper is a testament to the traditional values revered by the migrant women and still maintained in most Trinidadian families.

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