More than a colour carnival

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Celia Burgess-Macey examines a new guide to the historical and political diversity to be found in Caribbean painting, sculpture and crafts

Art of the Caribbean - Art, Craft and Design for the National Curriculum Series 6 Set 51

Teaching guide with postcards

The Goodwill Art Service, The Old School, Upton, near Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 9JB

The introduction to art and design in the national curriculum states that pupils should "learn about the diverse roles and functions of art, craft and design in contemporary life and in different times and cultures" (DfESQCA 1999). Yet art from the Caribbean region has often not been included. Representing the work of 25 artists, together with a teaching guide, this excellent resource redresses this imbalance.

The pack includes postcards of paintings, sculptures, pottery, murals, musical instruments and masquerade, reflecting both the cultural diversity and the vibrant creativity of the Caribbean region. Some unifying themes emerge: history, identity, political struggle, ritual, mythology and religious belief, as well as love, play and carnival.

Much of the work is rich in colour, symbolism and spiritual and emotional power. Haitian painter Wilson Bigaud's strangely compelling "Zombies" and Pen Cayetano's "A Belizean History: Triumph of Unity" repay detailed study; Denzil Forrester's "The Burial of Winston Rose" uses dramatic line, structure and tones of blue to convey the tragedy of yet another death in custody.

The inclusion of musical instruments - Everald Brown's "Instrument for Four People" - and carnival costumes - Peter Minshall's "Mancrab" - widens the definition of art. Caribbean artistic creativity refuses to be pigeonholed.

Dr Anne Walmsley has written a scholarly summary of the history and art of different Caribbean islands, covering Cuban and Haitian art, the former Dutch and British West Indies and English-speaking Caribbean. The French West Indies are not included. A carefully contextualised analysis accompanies each artwork, including brief information about the artist, which supports further classroom research.Classroom activities are aimed at developing students' skills in observation and appreciation and promoting creative responses. They are mainly planned with key stages 3 and 4 in mind, but many could be adapted to KS1 and 2.

Celia Burgess-Macey is a lecturer in the department of educational studies, Goldsmiths College, London

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