Re-Encountering De People’s Art Movement – Twin & Akyem still wow Barbados after all these decades

Many valid points were made at the Queen’s Park Gallery not so long ago when Antonio “Boo” Rudder introduced “ReEncounter” where Omowale Stewart, twin brother Sundiata and Ras Akyem revived DePAM: De People’s Art Movement which they began in the 70’s when Akyem drew figures more like Rodin rather than Picasso’s abstract period.

Mr Rudder, a noted percussionist and former NCF honcho, told the opening crowd that even though students at the Barbados Community College may have proper qualifications and receive excellent training, nevertheless, those young folk do not have the same kind of eye for Art that the twin and Akyem possess. Rudder says this is a skill which must be taught and never lost.

He respects the fact the trio all do art alone as a means of keeping bread on the table and the wolf from the door, and in fact Rudder sees no reason why any artist – even in Barbados – cannot earn a living from their craft. He says all too often Art is merely a sideline while folk make money from other endeavours.

The musician also believes that if Barbados is indeed a society where Freedom is truly respected than a person must have the right to speak/ live/ earn in a manner they choose fit if indeed Bajans live in such a society.

Mr Rudder then went on to give his view on Ras Akyem, who forces Barbadians to look beyond their own conservatism, Rudder cited the painting “Another Massiah” behind him with the pendulous penis between the Jesus-like figure’s legs as making people here examine what are their boundaries of acceptance. Rudder also acknowledged Akyem’s sculptures and he sees it as a new way of defining what is really indeed disposable in any society when a man can be environmentally responsible and yet fully creative?

The ex-NCF boss thinks Government needs to offer tax-incentives to all levels of Barbados so as to encourage all of us to willingly invest in local art, and by doing so, then the purpose of DePAM would have been truly vindicated.

Sundiata is the firebrand of the three – he came up to the podium stating clearly that Bajans have too many “smart” folk that sit back and watch instead of getting up and doing something and deal with the philistinic crap that hinders local art from advancing as it should!

Omowale’s turn to address the crowd found him humble and reminiscing – he recalled when he went knocking at Akyem’s door and how the trio spent hours exchanging tips and sketches in the attic of Yoruba Yard in Fontabelle. He remembered quite clearly how they all vowed to be artists FOREVER!

Akyem spoke the most and at his conclusion even apologised for his own “loquaciousness” but he began by stating that in Barbados, it is very hard to transcend the ordinary. Akyem spoke of how he learned to mix his own paint but that pigment alone cannot represent the emotions he feels right now, which is the raison d’etre for his sculptures based on discarded items.

This exhibition of such fantastically diverse talents is running until August 2nd, so hurry on over to Queen’s Park Gallery and invest in Barbados through its own culture!

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  1. Thanks for this post. It brings back so many good memories of when I lived in B’dos. I am so happy that these three talented Bajans stayed true to their dreams. I love all three of them. Omo and Sundiata’s humanity and generosity was boundless. I remember going up to Bathseha with them. Fantastic! I am still so proud of the fact that Omo named one of his children after me.


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