M.P. Alladin

Mahmoud Pharouk Alladin

B. 11 January 1919
D. 1980

Born in 1919 in Tacarigua, Trinidad, Alladin was one of the leading artists in this country for a great many years, and was well-known internationally in the field of Art and Art Education. He held the post of Director of Culture in the Ministry of Education and Culture for a number of years. He was also a poet, writer and broadcaster. He studied locally for his Teachers’ Certificate. Later on the British Council awarded him a Scholarship to Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts and in the United States he obtained the M.A. Degree from Colombia University.

He has taught in Canada and the West Indies and travelled extensively.

Since 1944 his works have been shown in mixed and one-man exhibitions locally, in Britain, Spain, the United Slates, Canada, Sao Paulo and the Caribbean region. He is represented in collections in several countries. He has produced work on diverse commissions and has been the recipient of important prizes and awards for his art and craft products and organizational work. Indeed, one of our most outstanding artists who derived his inspiration from the simple village folk- their joys and sorrows as well as their labours and customs. His subjects include genre scenes as well as experimental, non-objective expression in various media. His paintings were generally of an impressionist style.

Alladin was a gifted poet and writer and produced a series of research papers on local folklore, oral tradition, chants, dances and music. These still remain one of the leading sources for reference material.

Alladin also was a sculptor and proficient in many other crafts.

Alladin was President of the Trinidad Art Society for many years.

BIO extended

Influential, a cornerstone of local artistic expression and most impactful as an educator, Mahmoud Pharouk Alladin broke ground as perhaps the first widely-known Indo-Trinidadian visual artist. His depictions of life within Trinidad and Tobago’s East Indian community, including Muslim celebrations such as Hosay, the Hindu festivities of Phagwa and Chowtal, commercial sugar cane agriculture and rural communities, were indicative of his campaign to promote visual and folk arts from within the country’s East Indian and African populations.

His works were exposed to an international audience thanks to exhibitions in England, Brazil, the USA and Canada. In 1957 he was commissioned by the Trinidad and Tobago government to produce the Back to Africa work as a gift to the people of Ghana on the occasion of that country’s independence; a second token to Ghana would follow a decade later. In 1973 Alladin’s acrylic on canvas expression, The Palms, was featured in the Organization of American States’ exhibition, Tribute to Picasso, in Washington, D.C.

Alladin, who worked with different mediums such as acrylic and oil and whose subject matter also included recreations of urban life in Trinidad and Tobago, was born into a devout Muslim family in Tacarigua. He attended the Tacarigua Canadian Indian Mission School and was later educated at the Government Training School in Port of Spain. By the time he was 30-years old he had already established himself as an artist, was an assistant teacher at the Tacarigua Mission School, had served as the Principal of Arima Boys’ Government School for one year and had just started as an art lecturer at the Government Teachers’ College.

Alladin had also been awarded a British Council Scholarship but, while he did eventually graduate from Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts in England and eventually achieved an M.A. from Columbia University in the USA, he eschewed European and North American-inspired subject matter and instead yearned for a liberation of Trinidad and Tobago art from overseas influences in expression, experiences and subject matter. He formed part of a mid-20th Century movement of artists who began a more deliberate representation of the domestic cultural and ethnic diversity – a group that included Carlisle Chang, Boscoe Holder, Sybil Atteck and Amy Leong Pang. 

Alladin, who was appointed as an arts officer in the Ministry of Education and Culture, was involved in the introduction of a standard art curriculum into Trinidad and Tobago’s primary school system. He later served as Director of Culture from 1965 to 1979, when he actively exerted his mandate to promote a national cultural consciousness. He was a major role model for several creative talents such as artist Isaiah James Boodhoo and carnival band leaders/designers George Bailey and Wayne Berkeley.

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