The reporter, Darcel Choy wrote in her first paragraph, “The wife of Ramdeo Sampath-Mehta, the man responsible for placing a Mahatma Gandhi statue at Gandhi Square, Kew Place, Port-of-Spain, wants citizens to know that he is alive and well.”
That was indeed good news. The article stated that, “Ramdeo Sampath-Mehta, author, former lawyer, and politician erected the statue in 1983.” That was a big surprise to me. His wife said they brought a sculptor from India and he stayed at their home in Maraval. Mrs Sampath-Mehta went on, “We housed him, fed him and kept him for over a month and this is what we produced, this statue.”
Congratulations! But that information was even a bigger shocker.
I thought that statue of Gandhi, just opposite the main entrance to Lapeyrouse Cemetery on Philip Street was the same one that was a commissioned work of art, conceived and constructed by the sculptor Patrick Chu Foon. When I was seconded from St James Secondary to the Division of Culture to act for Jean Sue Wing, I remember when Pat brought the first red clay model of Gandhi about a foot high, in the office for me to check it out.
Pat Chu Foon and I became friends and he told me quite a lot about himself. His dad was a Chinese who married an Afro Trini. Pat attended Rosary Boys’ RC School and Tranquility Inter-
mediate where he fell in love with art but his first job was that of a display-man and window decorator at a Port-of-Spain departmental store.
Chu Foon was the recipient of the Hemisphere Scholarship, Uni-
versity of the Americas — Mexico, and the Trinidad and Tobago Government Scholarship in 1966. After four years at the University, he returned home and was appointed Art Officer in the Ministry of Education and Culture. When MP Alladin retired as Director of Culture, Pat Chu Foon was appointed to the post.
Everyday thousands of commuters see the Kitchener statue outside Harvard’s Club opposite to Roxy Pizza Hut and “Ambiance”, an abstract stone sculpture, where Richmond Street meets Tragarete Road near to Strand, but only a few persons know that these masterpieces were made by Pat Chu Foon. He has had one-man exhibitions in Trinidad, West Indies, Mexico, United States, Brazil and England.
After Pat’s Gandhi was erected at Kew place, there was a hue and cry from certain quarters that the figure does not at all look like Mahatma. Critics shouted, “Too short!” Too stocky!” “Face too fat and fleshy!” Some even cried out, “It looks more like Chu Foon than Gandhi.”
I had to find out whatever happened to Pat’s “Gandhi”. The telephone directory had only one Chu Foon listed and that was David, his son, who used to come to the Division of Culture when he was a little boy.
We talked for some time and he said the statute was vandalised and what is left of it, is at the Art Society in Federation Park.
An exhibition of 142 paintings by Mary Mahon entitled, “Art through the years” was on display when I visited the Society. The elegant beauty and the ecstacy refinement of her paintings really impressed me.
The curator, Gregory Williams, Joy — the artist’s daughter, Stephen — my five-year-old grandson and I made our way to the back of the building. Gregory cleared away some heliconia plants and there it was — just the bust, battered and scarred with a broken nose — Pat’s “Gandhi”.
We had a good look at it. Joy commented, “It does not look like the Gandhi I expected to see. I thought it would be thin and scrawny. Somewhat like you, Freddie,” and we had a hearty laugh.
A mother and her young son were in Paris looking at the famous nude statue, “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin. She asked the boy, “Now, what would you say, he was thinking about?” The boy replied, “He is wondering where he left all his clothes.”