A phenomenal woman and distinguished artist – Bernadette Persaud

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Art can be described as many things, but one thing is sure about art: It brings  life and gives new meaning to the many facets of life and society. Guyana has many outstanding and renowned artists in the arts fraternity. One such artist is Bernadette Indira Persaud.

Art can be described as many things, but one thing is sure about art: It brings life and gives new meaning to the many facets of life and society. Guyana has many outstanding and renowned artists in the arts fraternity. One such artist is Bernadette Indira Persaud.
In one of her exhibitions entitled “India: A Glimpse” in 2005, the guest curator Ameena Gafoor described Persaud as “a creative spirit whose strong convictions – political, religious and cultural – are transmuted into art with a passion that is inevitable.”
Gafoor continues by stating that Persaud’s art represents a continuous questioning of life with its ambivalences, ambiguities and contradictions.
Bernadette Persaud is a seasoned artist who gained national recognition in 1985 when she became the first female to win the National Visual Arts Exhibition and Competition. Since then, Persaud has moved on to achieve greater things on the art-scene, and is still recognized as one of Guyana’s most outstanding and prolific artists.
At her last individual exhibition, in May 2014, entitled “As New and As Old” – an exhibition of selected works (1984-2014), Alim Hosein highlighted that at her first exhibition in the 1980s, Persaud introduced her strongly politically-oriented work conceived around themes of mortality, repression and freedom.
“From the start, her work showed her capacity to enchant with seductive surfaces while disturbing with deeper undertones…in her paintings, she fused excellent painterly and artistic skills with personal experience, political morality, strong personal opinion and perceptive vision into paintings of tragic beauty,” Hosein emphasized.
Further, her painting epitomized a difficult moment in Guyanese history, succinctly capturing the public and private pain of life in Guyana at that time. Since Persaud’s first exhibition, there has been tremendous growth which resulted from the shedding “of its populist charm and gained even deeper cultural and political significance.”
While Persaud has strong views about life, culture and identity, she is equally strong as an artist. This is evident in the number of accolades she has received over the years for her profound and uncanny work. Some of her awards include:-
– National Award in Art for her painting entitled “The End of a Season”(1985).She was the first Guyanese woman to win this award.
– Purchase Prize for painting entitled “A Gentleman under the sky”. (1993)
-‘Woman of the Year’ award by the Guyana Review for work in the field of art. (1998)
– Arrow of Achievement for “an outstanding contribution to the cultural mosaic in the field of art. (1997)
– Distinguished Visiting Artist’s Travel Award (to India) by the ICCR. (2005)
– Caribbean Hall of Fame Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts. (2012)
Hosein cites Persaud as Guyana’s leading resident contemporary artist. She has established herself as one of the most important artists to emerge in Guyana in recent times through her commitment to producing work of quality, feeling, perception and artistic vision, while asking serious questions about our culture.
Not only is Persaud a productive artist, but an important one as well, her work adds an important voice to those of the other leading Guyanese and Caribbean artists who offer different perspectives into Caribbean reality and identity.
Not only this, but her work also takes Caribbean art to another step along the road of its development. While never being narrowly ethnic, it affirms a largely overlooked culture, but more importantly, it brings that culture into dialogue with others in order to seek answers which will benefit all.
The acknowledgement of culture and the exploration of location is a political act for Persaud, and are central to her work. Through it, she seeks a space for other, marginal, voices and challenges the hegemony of dominant voices in the shaping of Caribbean and world culture.
As a response to her heritage as an East Indian, and as someone who is also located in a cosmopolitan culture, Persaud’s work is making an important contribution to the debate on evolution of Caribbean and even wider society.

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