The Independent London Newspaper

 

Novelist Lawrence Scott charts life of Trinidadian artist Jean Michel Cazabon

From left, Light Falling on Bamboo author Lawrence Scott, New Beacon Bookshop founder Sarah La Rose and Anne Walmsley

Published: 12 October, 2012

WEST Indian author Lawrence Scott popped along the street from his home in Stroud Green Road on Wednesday to the renowned independent New Beacon bookshop to read from his latest novel Light Falling on Bamboo.

The novel is about the Trinidadian fine artist Jean Michel Cazabon, who was born in the “free coloured community” on a sugar plantation in the 19th century and became the first Trinidadian-born artist to work professionally on the island.

Mr Scott told the 100-plus book lovers who gathered at the George Padmore archive above the shop that he was born on the neighbouring estate in Trinidad – although a motorway now runs through both of them.

The novel is an imagined biography of a man torn between his home and Europe. It is set in 1848 when Cazabon returns to Trinidad to be at his mother’s bedside and follows the artist’s “sensual” life to the end of the century. The island was a British colony during this time.

Mr Scott, an award-winning author, took part in a conversation with Anne Walmsley, a writer on the Caribbean, who asked how he managed to fill in the biographical details of Cazabon as there are few records about him and he didn’t date his paintings.

“Cazabon didn’t write anything apart from one advert for himself as a painter,” he said. “There are no journals, no letters, so no voice of the artist that I could depend on. But we do have dates on his birth and death certificates and ship journey records.

“He went to school in Hertfordshire and there are records of gallery hangings at the Louvre. He painted the English governor of the island. So there is a skeleton biography that I used. But it was a frame.”

Cazabon painted portraits of many people on the island, he added, and these were shipped off and sold in Europe. Mr Scott said this, for him, echoed slavery.

“I found it interesting that his painted women were going to be sold and we’d just had a time when people were going off to be sold.”

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