Artwork for Leona Fabien art exhibit, Woodbrook, a Living Hell. - Soft Box Art Gallery

Leona Fabien sheds light on the nightmare of the inhabitants of Woodbrook, a living hell

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Work for Leona Fabien’s art exhibition, Woodbrook, a living hell. – Soft Box Art Gallery

RHIANNA MCKENZIE

Artist Leona Fabien Woodbrook’s exhibition: A Living Hell depicts the impact of commercialization on area residents.

Woodbrook, Port of Spain, has in recent years become a hotspot of activity and a developing business community. The area, made popular by Ariapita Avenue, which has become the center of night owls and bar-goers from all over the country, has also attracted restaurateurs and street vendors.

As outsiders gravitate to Woodbrook for business and entertainment, the development has become a nightmare for the people who live there.

The latest collection of 42 pieces from Fabien, artist and Woodbrook resident, depicts the impact of commercialization on residents.

A piece by artist Leona Fabien from her exhibition, Woodbrook, A Living Hell at the Soft Box Art Gallery in St Clair, Port of Spain. – Soft Box Art Gallery

The exhibition, a partnership with the University of the West Indies, can be seen at the Soft Box Gallery, St Clair, Port of Spain, through May 13.

A statement from the gallery said the exhibit explores the results of cultural and social changes on residents, the alteration of the built environment and ultimately the demolition of former residences in the once mostly residential neighborhood. The research was carried out by Fabien as part of the partial achievement of the cultural studies requirements of the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies at UWI.

“The area used to be very residential,” she told Newsday in a phone interview Friday.

Looking back on her 35 years living in the area, she said it was a very different place from when she grew up. “Before, we played football in the street in complete safety. There were many more children playing in the yards. There were chickens and dogs, children outside.

“There were a lot more fruit trees and it was very quiet and clean. Even if the companies were next to you, you could play on their ground. You can’t do this now. She said it was difficult for her to determine when the area changed, but the changes were drastic and sudden.

“After a while it happened. I tried to ignore the changes because I was in shock.

She said residents have often complained about noise pollution coming from the avenue at night over the years. “Sleeping can be difficult (and) it seems to have had an impact on crime. We no longer know if a person is a scammer or is really trying to help.

Artis’ exhibition Leona Fabien Woodbrook: A Living Hell depicts the impact of commercialization on area residents. – Leona Fabien

She said she believed people were now more willing to leave the area.

“If (the owners) receive a good offer for their property, they can accept it. However, there are many more inhabitants than businesses, but not along the avenue. The avenue went to businesses.

Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez has expressed his intention to turn the avenue into a strip, banning traffic and making it a walkway. Fabien said this idea would further alienate residents.

“The youngest are not afraid of eating places and clubs. They are used to it. It is the elderly who are alienated and totally afflicted. I put myself in this category.

Fabien said he conducted his research from 2018 to 2019, including newspaper articles, photos and interviews with residents, past and present. The study focuses more on feedback from residents.

She admits, however, that the situation is complicated because many locals own the businesses in the area, including bars, salons, bakeries and family pharmacies.

Fabien’s work also reflects the impact that seasonal Carnival celebrations have had on the region with two or three of the pieces. One piece, she says, depicts a red handprint on someone’s wall. Litter, paint, and mud are common in the area, and residents often complain of vandalism to their homes and other property such as cars during Carnival.

Leona Fabien’s work also reflects the impact of Carnival celebrations on Woodbrook. This painting depicts a red handprint on someone’s wall – a hallmark of the aftermath of J’Ouvert. Woodbrook a Living Hell is presented at the Soft Box Art Gallery in St Clair, Port of Spain. – Soft Box Art Gallery

She said, however, that many locals accepted the carnival celebrations.

“Woodbrook is a nice place if you want to enjoy carnival from home. Because Carnival has always been there, locals have accepted it but it’s (sometimes) out of control where revelers take liberties with houses and vehicles on the street. It’s called vandalism. »

She said in her research that an old newspaper article told the story of a Roberts Street resident who got into a run-in with revelers after damaging his property. She recalls the article saying the resident had complained that the police station was only a stone’s throw from his home, but there was no intervention.

Fabien said another resident, who now lives abroad, said harmony between residents and businesses could work if there was better planning. “(The interviewee) said he understood the inconveniences, but if the young workers live close to their place of work, like in Manhattan, New York, and it’s well organized in terms of parking and the people who live in the neighborhood can get to work easily, they can walk to work, that’s how it works in Manhattan, but it has to be well planned.

Viewers enjoy the work of artist Leona Fabien at her latest exhibition, Woodbrook a Living Hell at the Soft Box Art Gallery in St Clair – Soft Box Art Gallery

Fabien has received several scholarships from the UWI endowment, including the MP Alladin prize for the best student in visual arts for his final year. The statement said she participated in the Hilarian Celebrating 100 Years – A Call to Arts exhibition, held at Castle Killarney in Port of Spain. She has exhibited with Women in Art of TT since 2001. In her final exhibition of 2021, Radiance, at Red House’s Rotunda Gallery, she received a Merit Award for Most Outstanding Textile Art.

Fabien has also had works exhibited at the National Museum and Art Gallery and Carifesta X, Georgetown, Guyana. She teaches art, design and visual arts at Bishop Anstey High School, Port of Spain.

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