National Treasure – Carlisle Chang


What our flag may have been – “Some of dem wanted Sugarcane, Coco pods, Hibiscus, Humming bird……some of them wanted fourteen colours on the flag”.

See his interview regarding the design of Trinidad and Tobago’s national Flag on youtube

Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation forty-five years ago this last month. In the supplements put out by various newspapers there was information about the flag, coat of arms and other symbols of our independence. The creator of the previously mentioned was credited as the “Government Art Officer” or some such title. That would have been the late Carlisle Chang. Chang had been part of the early Art Society movement with Amy Leong Pang, Hugh Stollmeyer and Sybil Atteck though he was their junior. From an early age, his fascination with the art world was ably encouraged by his mother and his older sister Beryl and he was to distinguish himself receiving art scholarships to study in Britain and Italy.

Despite his brilliance, he returned home to live the life of the artist. Chang was a profound influence on many people, author included but the value of his contribution to our very Trinidadianess cannot be discounted. Though a noted painter who generally sold work off his easel, he gave up the brush in 1967 to explore public works of art in the form of large sculptures. In 1958, he designed the Coat of Arms for the West Indian Federation. This at a time when Caribbean personalities abounded, Norman Manley, Eric Williams, Grantley Adams, it is instructive to observe that the honour did not go to Edna Manley, herself a noted artist but to Chang. He went on to design the TnT Coat of Arms, itself a painstaking experience with meticulous research in heraldry and symbols. Always a scrupulous researcher and even more so when it came to his work, his design is not only correct in terms of heraldic protocol it is reflective of the time and his own sense of nationality.Incidentally, he was also a member of the committee that was responsible for the flag and insignia, though he never said publicly, he was the driving force of the committee and it is probably Carlisle that we have to thank for our beautiful red, black and white.

Chang was also to sculpt some of the most influential works of public art in Trinidad and Tobago, his murals, “The Inherent Nobility of Man”, “Conquerabia” and a host of others at the Central Bank, City Hall and Textel. He pioneered the use of fiberglass as a sculpture material and left behind a legacy that has never been matched. Through his long life, he received many awards and was recognized in several areas but Chang’s greatest contribution to Trinidad and Tobago was his independence work and the support that he gave to several generations of artists. For this alone his name should be mentioned in the textbooks. – Natasha

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