National icon LeRoy Clarke has died. He was 82 years old.
The first of nine children, LeRoy Clarke was born on 7 November 1938 in Gonzales, Port of Spain, also known as “behind de bridge”. In his lifetime he became many things including schoolteacher, singer, member of the theatre community, artist, author, poet, philosopher and Orisha Leader.
His official biography at https://www.leroyclarke.com/biography describes him as a man of many talents, noting that “this former schoolteacher was also a lead singer in a popular singing, group THE BEAMERS (1958-65) and, was seriously involved in the theatre community. He was an early member of The Trinidad Theatre Workshop, where he earned a fine reputation as its Stage Manager and Set Designer.”
Considered to be one of this country’s finest contemporary artists, this self-taught master often described his work as being ‘obeah’, a deliberate evocation of untainted African energy and spirituality, both erased from modern consciousness. After holding his first exhibition at the age of 27 years, Clarke’s prowess as a visual artist grew from a compunction to “see and, to go deeper than surfaces allowed”, using his life experiences to shape the worldview to which he, as artist championed all his life.
In 1998, he was the first to be conferred the title Master Artist by The National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago.
LeRoy Clarke would go on to achieve many honours in his lifetime, including being acclaimed a National Icon by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 2003; and having bestowed upon him an Honorary Fellow of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in 2005, as well as an Honorary Doctor of Letters in 2008 from that same institution.
However, the honour of which LeRoy Clarke was most proud was being awarded a “Staff of Eldership” and Chieftaincy Title in the Orisha community by the Ile’ Eko Shango/Oshun Mil’osa (I.E.S.O.M.) during the sixth annual Shango/Oshun Rain Festival in 2005—the title reads: Chief Ifa’ Oje’ Won Yomi Abiodun of Trinidad and Tobago.