Stalwarts of Trinidad’s arts & culture | Roundtable

Discover T&T chatted with our roundtable — Laura Dowrich-Phillips, Maria Nunes, Franka Philip, Ardene Sirjoo, and Penelope Spencer — about their favourite Trinidadian artists, designers, musicians, writers, and more — plus where you can find their work

Trinidadian artists, designers, musicians, and writers to look out for

Laura Dowrich-Phillips:

Fashion & jewellery designers

I love the work of Shop Shari and Loud by Afiya with their distinctive use of prints and colour. Charu Lochan Dass, trading as CLD, creates elegant and sophisticated outfits. Christian Boucaud caters to the plus size market in her portfolio. Lisa Sarjeant-Gonzales (Lisa Faye) creates beautiful hand-dyed caftans and free flowing gowns in silk. For swimwear, Rebel is super sexy, and Tropix by Keisha Als plays around with different fabric and designs that stand out.

For original jewellery, Rachel Rochford, Bene Caribe, Cocoa Vintage, Shop Shari.

<strong>Editor’s tip: more names to look out for</strong>
Clothing designs by Ecliff Elie, Adrian Foster, Heather Jones, K2K, the Lush Kingdom, Meiling, Claudia Pegus, The Cloth, and the Wadada Movement, and hand-crafted jewellery from Chris Anderson, Gillian Bishop, Janice Derrick, Akilah Jaramogi, Barbara Jardine, Rachel Ross, and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan. Also check out Dreamstones for silver and gemstone jewellery from a range of international designers.

Books & writers

  • Children’s Books: Aarti Gosine’s Her Magic Caves books are very engaging and provide children with local fairy tales; Jeunanne Alkins’ Hatch teaches children about the leatherback turtles and how to respect nature; Machel Montano’s Boy Boy and the Magic Pan teaches children about our national instrument and about the ability of culture to unify people
  • Maria Nunes: Her debut book, In a World of their Own, perfectly captures the passion embodied in those who are preserving our traditional mas
  • Aliyah Eniath: The Yard is probably the first book by a Caribbean author to centre on the life of a Muslim family navigating life in the Caribbean. Very compelling.
  • Angelo Bissessarsingh: The late author’s work capturing our history is perfectly captured in his books, A Walk Back in Time, Walking with the Ancestors, and Bridges of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • VS Naipaul: I favour his earlier work based on life in T&T, they are hilarious and timeless and scarily in many ways still resemble life today.
  • Michael Anthony: He has written several books but if you are yet to read Green Days by the River, get this. It recently got new life as a movie by Michael Moleedhar.
  • Sam Selvon: Lonely Londoners is a classic everyone ought to read.

Visual arts

The local art scene is a vibrant one with a diversity of art being produced. The Art Society based in Federation Park, Port of Spain hosts a number of exhibitions and pop-up shops. Horizons Art Gallery, Medulla Art Gallery, 101 Art Gallery, Y Art Gallery, and places such as Uncorked Wine Shop are good places to view local art.

Some of the names art lovers should note are: Halcian Pierre, Ozzy Merrick, LeRoy Clarke, Brianna McCarthy, Sarah Burrows, and Marielle Barrow.

Photo courtesy Lisa Faye

Photo courtesy Lisa Faye

Penelope Spencer:

Musicians I appreciate include 3canal for their cutting edge rapso style, thought-provoking and catchy music; Vaugnette Bigford and Bri Celestine — their mellow voices are Jazz styles are can hook you in. Then there’s the intoxicating Mavis John, of course Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and Olatunji. Their work speaks to me — Olatunji’s mix of traditional soca and African beats are to die for. I love Che Lovelace and Ashraph Ramsaran’s artwork — I love the vivid colours and textures and the boldness of their pieces.


The theatre season in Trinidad and Tobago starts after Carnival. Our theatre boasts a mixture of genres — from farces to drama, from historical to comedy. The main season venues are Central Bank Auditorium, Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain; Naparima Bowl in San Fernando; CLR James auditorium in the east; and National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) north and south. You will get lots of Carnival-oriented productions during the Carnival festival.

RS/RR Productions is one of the most consistent theatre production houses in Trinidad & Tobago. They specialise in comedies and Farces usually to sold out houses, they’ve won many awards for their productions such as Mary can dance, Why do men cheat. There’s Raymond Choo Kong Productions — some of their hit shows are Norman is that you?; Boeing, Boeing; Everybody loves Raymond. The Creative Arts Centre up at UWI stages local, highly acclaimed productions such as  Shango and Ten to one is murder, and they’ve produced a number of plays on our local calypsonians. Trinidad Theatre Workshop, which was headed by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, continues with small dinner theatre productions mostly in the classical style. I love Tony Hall, Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace, Richard Ragoobarsingh as playwrights.


I would recommend films such as Play the devil; The Cutlass; Hero (inspired by the life and times of Ulric Cross); Bazodee; and Green days by the river.

The National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain. Photo by Rapso Imaging

The National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain. Photo by Rapso Imaging

Franka Philip and Ardene Sirjoo:

Local artists

Che Lovelace, Sabrina Charran, Brianna McCarthy, Halcian Pierre, Maria Nunes…

Che because of the way he makes the humans in his work ethereal. He captures the ordinary — things you might take for granted on a daily basis, he brings them to life.

Sabrina’s work has a rawness and emotionality. She seems to plumb the depths of human emotions to bring out a message. She’s also been doing a great work in her teaching at QRC where the students have been much more serious and dedicated to their craft due to her motivation and example.

Brianna impresses with her use of texture, detail, shapes. Her work speaks to a regal Afrocentric yet extremely Caribbean aesthetic. She’s attracted lots of interest in the US, and when she works with brands, they tend to be high quality artisan brands.

Halcie’s pop art is very joyful and celebrates different aspects of our culture in a vibrant way. She also makes her art quite accessible because she paints on different sized canvases.

Maria is dedicated to capturing the best of traditional mas — her photos of fancy sailors are beyond brilliant. As a historian she uses her lens to capture elements of T&T culture that are disappearing too fast. Her recently published book In a World of Their Own: Carnival Dreamers and Makers is a must-have.


Jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles’ passion about exploring different elements of our culture, particularly the traditional aspects like tamboo bamboo and the tambrin band, is refreshing. An Etienne Charles concert is always a stimulating event.

Vaughnette Bigford is singer who has brought a new generation to appreciate local music with her reinterpretations of some of our pop and calypso classics.


Barbara Jenkins, Shivanee Ramlochan, Kevin Jared Hosein, Lisa Allen-Agostini, and Danielle Boodoo-Fortune are fiction writers at the forefront of a new dawn in T&T literature. Judy Raymond is a writer of non-fiction who is an asset to the genre.

Vaughnette Bigford wows the crowd at North Coast Jazz (Blanchisseuse) last May. Her album, Born to Shine is available at Photo by Camille Lowhar

Vaughnette Bigford wows the crowd at North Coast Jazz (Blanchisseuse) last May. Her album, Born to Shine is available at Photo by Camille Lowhar

Editor’s tip: dance

Keeping traditions alive (or creating new ones), local schools and dance companies present shows in a range of styles — regional folk, ballet, jazz, modern, and Indian classical, plus experimental multi-media productions — at many of the same venues as Pennie listed for theatre.

A parting thought on heritage from Maria Nunes:

Visit the Temple in the Sea at Waterloo… Take the time to walk through and around Woodford Square (Port of Spain), and make sure to go to see Carlisle Chang’s masterpiece Conquerabia at City Hall. It’s one of our overlooked public art treasures. Take a guided tour through Paramin. Visit Lopinot House (the former estate house), and get a guided tour through the area. I’d like to recommend going to Banwari Trace…but it’s not yet set up properly…

The magnificent view from Paramin. Photo by Jason Audain

The magnificent view from Paramin, looking out to the north coast and Caribbean Sea. Photo by Jason Audain

About our Roundtable 

Photo courtesy Laura Dowrich

Photo courtesy Laura Dowrich

Laura Dowrich-Phillips

Laura has been a journalist for over 20 years, and is currently the Regional Lifestyle Editor for Loop News, a regional digital news platform. She co-hosts the Music Matters podcast with Nigel Campbell ( The podcasr looks at the music industry in the Caribbean. She is passionate about positioning the Caribbean on the global stage and educating the world about the region she calls home.

Photo courtesy Maria Nunes

Photo courtesy Maria Nunes

Maria Nunes

Maria is a photographer who specialises in the documentation of cultural heritage. She’s deeply interested in our history, and uses her camera to have conversations about history — to meet people she might ordinarily not get to know, and to explore the diversity and complexity of who we are in T&T. Her book In a world of their own is available at bookshops, and at

Photo courtesy Frank Phillip and Ardene Sirjoo

Photo courtesy Frank Phillip and Ardene Sirjoo

Franka Philip and Ardene Sirjoo

Franka and Ardene both enjoy developing and executing interesting creative projects. Their backgrounds in media and general curiosity led them to co-found Trini Good Media, including the podcast Talk ‘Bout Us and OpedTT, which curates opinion writing. Franka is an experienced journalist who’s worked at the BBC World Service and Guardian Media, and writes the Cookup column for Caribbean Beat. Ardene co-hosts the popular radio programme The Mandate on i95.5FM, is a frequent event host and moderator, and works with the Bocas Literary Festival as the media and marketing coordinator.

Photo courtesy Penelope Spencer

Photo courtesy Penelope Spencer

Penelope Spencer

Pennie has worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years as an actor, writer, director, teacher, producer, television host, and casting agent. She co-hosts OMG Live on Facebook and The Sisterhood on TV6; and is the artistic director of Necessary Arts School/Productions. She recently completed her first children’s book with Lylah Persad, Tales from the forest.

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