Elated but surprised!
This is how wood sculptor A. Ashanti Trotman has described his success in this year’s Crop Over Fine Arts Festival.
“It’s a good feeling really. I am elated,” he told Bajan Vibes shortly after it was announced that he was the recipient, for the second consecutive year, of the Award of Excellence top prize.
However, “to be honest with you, when I entered the exhibition, I had no idea really that I was going to win,” he said.
The 58 year old Ashanti, who is well known in cultural circles, previously worked with the National Cultural Foundation as its Special Project Officer, responsible for coordinating events such as Grand Kadooment, Bridgetown Market and the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes, before he resigned the position in 2007.
“[That was] when I was perhaps at one of my lowest ebb,” he told Bajan Vibes.
“I had resigned from the NCF in 2007 and gone overseas for awhile and then came back to Barbados not really sure of what direction to take; if to get back into work or take up the mantle of carving because before I went to the Foundation in 1998, I operated out of Pelican Village doing carving at House of Ashanti,” he explained.
During the intervening years spent at the NCF, the artist was not carving an much.
“I tried to do as much as I could but I didn’t really have the time to do a lot of the stuff that I really wanted to do,” he said.
However, on his return to Barbados he decided that he would commit to doing “some stuff”.
This is how last year’s award winning sculpted piece, Echoes of Our Heritage, came about.
“I just had so much energy that I wanted to push out something. Like I said, I was at a very low ebb and it is only really God that brought me to finish the piece in 2013 because . . . I was operating under very testing conditions,” he told Bajan Vibes.
“The piece was a very large piece and to be able to work on it you practically had to be either lying down or sitting down on it. Then there was the theme I worked with. It took me almost a year to finish the frame of the panel, which really told the story of the Middle Passage.
“There were some scenes that were really very difficult for me to conceptualise. In fact, I had sorta given up on it in frustration and I mean, I had done about 98 per cent of the work,” he recalled.
“But I’ll be honest with you. I really prayed about it because I really had some other things happening in my life at the same time.
“I really went to God about it and I don’t know that I have really gone to God about some of the other works that I have done.
“Out of that I can only summise that through God’s help I was able to finish it and enter it in an exhibition that I didn’t even think I had a chance in.
“As a matter of fact, there was another artiste that I thought he should enter and I went out of my way to get the registration form and encourage him to participate. I was shocked when my name was called.
Tears ran down my eyes. I didn’t expect that,” he said.
Still he says perseverance, and commitment to seeing things through and a love for God drove him to complete his work of art.
Echoes of Our Heritage currently hangs in the Foyer of the Tom Adams Financial Centre, as part of the Central Bank of Barbados’ collection of local artworks; as soon too will this year’s piece, When Sugar Was King.