Trinidad & Tobago: Dr. Pat Bishop Passes On

Just as the netizens of Trinidad and Tobago were coming to terms with the loss of one of its patriots, they learned of the death of another: artist and musicologist Dr. Pat Bishop, who collapsed during “a meeting with a cabinet appointed committee of high level experts on culture and the arts” this past Saturday and later died at the Port of Spain General Hospital.

“Vahni Capildeo Reading: Pat Bishop reads” by caribbeanfreephoto, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Creative Commons license.

Bishop strived for excellence in everything she did, from art to advocacy, creativity to commentary. She was intelligent, quick-witted and well-read, knowledgeable about a plethora of subjects, and passionate about art and music…with a special affinity for the music of the steel pan, Trinidad and Tobago's national instrument. A believer in the power of the arts to transform and uplift, she was a staunch cultural advocate and was awarded the country's highest honour – The Trinity Cross – for her outstanding contribution to the cultural life of Trinidad and Tobago.

Online tributes soon started to pour in.‘s Christian Khabay noted that:

With the passing of Dr. Bishop…the flood of eulogies and commendations will follow in the coming days. Replete with the obligatory parcels of tiredly worn clichés – “national treasure”, “cultural icon”, “sorely missed”- many commentators and public figures will latch on to these often times too easily regurgitated insincere platitudes that ironically [don't] even measure up to Dr. Bishop’s contribution…

From Carnegie Hall, to Despers Panyard, to Queen’s Hall to Naparima Bowl Dr. Bishop’s tireless pursuit of beauty and art has heavily cauterized the eternal bloodletting that has characterized our national strife for artistic mediocrity. With rare genius as hers comes an irreverent, unapologetic impatience with mediocrity.

In her final moment, not surprisingly, she was, though earlier feeling unwell, in service of her nation, in company of some of her peers…

The blogger went on to chastise successive governments for not having proper protocol in place to honour the country's heroes:

As with Sir Ellis’ death, Prof. Kenny’s recently and now Dr. Bishop, opportunities keep presenting themselves for the establishment of a national space dedicated to our heroes and patriots as recognized by the National Awards. An archive of biographies, achievements and recognition is badly needed as part of a wider framework for national rehabilitation.

From Barbados, B.C. Pires wrote about Dr. Bishop's selfless contribution to her country:

It seems you can’t wake up nowadays without hearing that another good, hardworking person has bit the dust, leaving more of them and fewer of us. Of course people are dropping all around us like flies every day, but so few of them, in these West Indies, and particularly in an increasingly selfish Trinidad, work for others, not themselves, that you tend to notice the passing of someone who cared for more than the main chance.

Sorry to see you go, Pat Bishop. The music is less, now, as is the place.

TOO.MUCH.EYES simply republished an old photograph that was posted on Facebook, of Pat Bishop with Carnival designer Peter Minshall. Twitter also had its fair share of netizens posting their condolences:

@ChutneySharon: RIP Pat Bishop. Cultural Icon Pat Bishop Passes Away

@Trinifood: RT @De_real_dwears RIP #T&T's Pat Bishop, u will be missed! – Very sad news. Great memories and amazing contribution to TT.

@MsPaigeMusic: Trinidad has lost a cultural icon. RIP Pat Bishop – we thank u for ur contributions, which will forever live on

@marionettes: We are stunned & saddened to hear of the passing of Pat Bishop. Our deepest condolences go out to her family,…

Local celebrities and musicians tweeted their reactions to the news:

@wfitzwilliam: Today I say a prayer of thanksgiving for the life of the iconic Pat Bishop! Gone but never will be forgotten rest in peace Pat.

@DestraGarcia: R.I.P. Pat Bishop…will love u forever! Thanks for your talent and all your contributions to music.

Artist, photographer and writer Tracey Chan was a former student of Dr. Bishop's and had warm memories of her:

A woman of great talent, abundant knowledge and with a beautiful soul, she is one of our country's most important cultural icons. Oh gosh, Miss Bishop, who gonna fill yuh shoes? I hope we can do something. We must.

As one of my lecturers at UWI almost a decade ago, Ms. Bishop's classes, were the most dreaded but in hindsight, the most appreciated and significant…Pat's memory was insanely acute. I marveled at her ability to recite entire passages of classic literature. She loved her Shakespeare and history. I swore at one point she knew everything.

Most important to Chan, however, was the continuation of Bishop's legacy:

She left us doing what she loved, passionately fighting tooth and nail for our culture, for our rights to art and expression, for the ability to do what we do. She reminds us to look at where we come from; how this affects us, our culture, our lives, our creativity. We are not to mourn, but to celebrate a wonderful person, a full life and to recognise her landmark contributions to this country. We should perhaps take this as an opportunity to start examining ourselves even closer, to see what we are doing, why we are doing it and approach our ‘hows’ in new ways. Historically, our cultural icons like Pat, have been beaten down, then lauded, and at the end of the day, terribly ignored again. We, as practitioners and supporters may continue to be the underdogs, but what else can we do? There's nothing heroic in shrinking and giving up. Saving our artistic heritage and culture in order to save ourselves from a seemingly crumbling cultural space is of great importance. In our relatively small efforts we must continue to be a part of a forward movement. Ms. Bishop, may your spirit stay with us as we try to carry your torch.

Funeral arrangements are still to be announced.


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