Subject: Arnos Vale Waterwheel and Nature Park, Plymouth, Tobago
Medium: Mixed media on canvas Artist: Tricia Trotman-Maraj
The historical Waterwheel nestled in now tropical rain-forest just off the Arnos Vale Road in Plymouth, Tobago was once a thriving sugarcane factory that made many colonial masters wealthy when African slavery was the norm of the day and muscovado sugar was king. This former plantation has such a rich history that it is literally physically buried in the soil that feeds the thick vegetation.
This waterwheel was the only one of its kind ever built in the Caribbean and as such spare parts were kept close by in a riveted metal trunk. The atrocities that must have occurred on this plantation during slavery has indeed left its residual mark on the land and collective spiritual memories of the people. Archaeologists have even found Amerindian pottery that dates back to more than three thousand years ago. The large wheel was manufactured in Glasgow and installed in 1857 however work had been ground to a halt in 1875, thirty seven years post emancipation, because there was not enough water to power the massive relic.
There is mystery in this ancient place and to the average visitor it may seem like something plucked right out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie trailer, however for the people who have lived in or near this place it is part of their daily reality, a place of retreat, and even once a booming restaurant and historical tourist site that unfortunately now lies over run by vines and tall trees as bats nest in the rafters of what's left of the Arnos Vale Waterwheel and Nature Park.
Many stories have been told about this place and the cause of it's ruin, insomuch that it is hard to tell the difference between truth and superstition. Nevertheless the cause of it's ruin it is indeed poignant that such a treasure is now a playground for cows, goats and other mysterious things that go 'thump' in the night.
I laboured for several weeks painting this piece and could not understand why. It was magnificent in its own right, and I considered it to be one of my favourites. It came out of me slowly but with each definitive stroke of my brush there was a force behind it that I cannot explain. Little did I know that I would have the most amazing experience during the #blackhistorymonth when I launched the caribArt Project .
On 27th October at 1:30 p.m. Philip Brontë walked through the doors of Elizabeth James Gallery and changed my life as an artist forever. He had been walking past the gallery on his way to his cosy London apartment when he saw something familiar staring back at him through the window. Awestruck he entered the gallery and the only words he could manage to muster was, 'This is my home.'
William Brontë, Philip's father, was the sole proprietor of the Arnos Vale Waterwheel restaurant nestled on the 410-acre Arnos Vale estate where, in its prime in the 1970s, many wealthy European tourists, and British aristocracy including Princess Margaret and the Queen’s servants spent their annual holiday. Philip Brontë's father is the Trinidadian son of an Englishman descended from the literary Brontë family—Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell—who travelled to the Panama Canal and eventually ended up married and in Trinidad. I invite you to view my exclusive video interview below with Philip Brontë - a direct descendant of anglophone canon Emily Brontë.
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Below Philip Brontë, owner of the Arnos Vale Estate, Tobago and Tricia Trotman-Maraj with piece titled 'Relics of days Gone By'