The Tobago Gaze

We live, we die, what’s between is just a kaleidescope of experiences.

Tobago, often feels neglected from the overbearing attitudes and ownership from Trinidad. It has an unique identity particularly with its people, a purer African stock less tainted by those here in Trinidad. In their spoken idiom, sometimes you think they are directly from Africa, the accent is much different from a well spoken Trinidadian.

Yet, Tobago has had a turbulent past, fought over by many Europeans and has been part of Trinidad since 1888 under a single Crown Colony. But today a few European artists have considered it their second home and the work produced from the island shows the uniqueness of its native habitat.

At the Annex at the National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, the Dutch painter Han Vilé expresses his male gaze on the women of Tobago in thirty small paintings.

In art terms, the objectionification of any culture by another carries a heavy hand from the standpoint of who can or can’t form a proper representation of the subject.

Mr.Vilé depicts a portrait of the contemporary youthful exotic Tobago Negro in vignettes he has observed. They are highly charged as he searches to outline the female form in places dark and mysterious. These paintings are quirky and folklike with a rich gamut of primary colours, and in setting we West Indies most often take for granted.

Although, in retrospect they border on the lines of graphic illustrations and are more suited for a tourist travel guide. Men may just flock over just to experience these exotic beings. So be it as it may, step back from the illusion of what you think it should be, and chuckle, laugh and admire these women from Tobago in all of their whimsical physique and sexually.

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