Alladin — the art man

Alladin attended the Tacarigua Canadian Mission School and Government Teachers’ Training College, St Vincent Street, PoS. In the UK, he studied at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts, and the Chelsea Polytechnic School of Art.

In the USA, he furthered his education at Columbia University, New York. A former British Council scholar, he obtained the BSc and MA degrees in Arts and Crafts.

Even before I started to teach in 1950, I used to read about MP Alladin but I met him for the first time when he came to the Laventille RC to speak to teachers about education. He emphasised the point that art should be creative and the child must be given the freedom to express himself.

Alladin said in part, “Stop giving children rulers to copy whatever you have drawn with a ruler on the black board. That is not creativity. Give them blank sheets of paper and let them use their imagination and draw anything they want to — a football game, the falling rain, a day at the beach, or what Port-of-Spain looks like from the hill and so on.” The head teacher Mr Spalding thanked him sincerely for his enlightening lesson on creativity.

When I attended the Government Teachers College for two years in 1956 and ’57, Mr Alladin, in one of his lessons, said, “I want you to take a line for a walk on your blank sheet of paper. Start your line taking it wherever you wish, criss-crossing freely. Then shade in the spaces with colours of your choice.” The end products were many beautiful multi-coloured mosaics of all shapes and sizes.

His publications include:- Two Books of Poems, The Folk Arts of Trinidad and Tobago, Folk Chants and Refrains of Trinidad and Tobago, Folk Stories and Legends of Trinidad, A Village in Trinidad, Three One-Act Plays and the one I consider his magnum opus — Man is a Creator. In it he wrote, To: Mr Kissoon — Drama Officer. Compliments of MP Alladin’ 70, but I was only acting for Mrs Jean Sue Wing.

In “The Cane Cutter,” Mr Alladin paints a vivid picture in words. The poem goes, “Sweat dripping/Along arms,/Down back, / Over face; / Lips compressed; /Stooping / And gripping / And Swiping; / Poniard flashing; /Grip, swipe, flash; / Sweet steam / Severed, decapitated / Again and again / And again, / And, off and on, / Wet sweat cleared from face. The man, / Bending and gripping / And swiping and chopping; / Cutting the canes; / Conditioned labour, / Machine-like / In the blazing sun — / Ten rods today.”

The annual October “Weeks of Arts” — held for two weeks, was the brainchild of Mr MP Allandin. There were exhibitions, lectures, plays, folk songs, calypsoes and so on, in far-flung areas such as Blanchisseuse, Toco, Guayaguayare, Cedros and other places. Villagers were given the opportunity to meet and interact with such Trini celebrities as Allandin himself, Holly Guyadeen, Melville Robin, Ken Oxley, Bomber and many others.

My group — The Strolling Players, was a regular feature in “The Weeks of Arts.” After staging a short play, I used to invite members of the audience to come on stage and act with us. In Cunupia, a certain lady was really good and she joined my drama classes. When Horace James asked me to write plays for the TV show — Let’s Laugh, I created the character ‘Beulah’ especially for the lady — Shirley King, and she became a household name.

The motivational speaker told the audience, “The right angle to approach any problem is the try angle.”


"Alladin — the art man"

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