PATTI-ANNE ALI remembers a Christmas when she was around six and really wanted a dollhouse she had seen on TV. That year, Santa Claus could not bring her just that dollhouse, because it had been a hard year at the “North Pole”. Instead, Patti-Anne got a beautiful handmade, unique dollhouse made by her father, with her name painted on the roof. It was better than what she had asked for because “it was made with love, imagination and ingenuity.”
Patti-Anne – one of the daughters of the late media personality Ian Ali – said that this love, ingenuity and imagination are part of his work. And Ali’s art / work is now archived on a website built by his family. They launched Ian Ali – Online Art Gallery, on August 16, the 14th anniversary of his death. Ali hosted the popular 80s children’s show Rikki Tikki – which is now a warm memory for many – and also a teacher and an artist.
He grew up in Tunapuna and later moved to Mayaro, Patti-Anne said. At Naparima College, San Fernando, he excelled in the arts, literature, and theater. In 1962, he won a state scholarship to study art in Britain. He attended the Bath Academy of Art, where he studied painting and filmmaking. At Sir John Cass College, he also studied sculpture, jewelry, commercial art, magazine layout, and television production. Ali also studied environmental sculpture, design and fabric work at Hammersmith College of Arts and Building, Patti-Anne said in a biography of him.
His family has done several things to archive his life and creations since he died at the age of 70 on August 16, 2007. In an email response to Newsday, Patti-Anne said the idea of creating a “digital warehouse” of his work was conceived by his daughter Jo-Ann and son-in-law Hakeeb Nandalal. “Especially in the context of the covid19 pandemic, it became a way for the public to enjoy Ian Ali’s work safely, as they would have done if they had attended a live exhibition, but from the comfort and safety of their homes,” Patti-Anne said. Since his death, the initiatives through which the family with other organizations and bodies have honored his life and work have included a 2010 art exhibition hosted by Hilton Trinidad and the Conference Center called Renaissance Man; an illustrated biography called Ian Ali, Great Nationals of TT, launched in 2011 by the then Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism; his admission in 2012 to the National Council of Indian Cultures (NCIC) Hall of Pioneers; TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) 2015 posthumous award for Media Excellence; and the 2017 Iconic: Ian Ali Memorial Exhibition organized by the Art Society. The idea for the website was developed in March this year, and the work began almost immediately, with his widow, Carolyn, leading the project, and daughters Patti-Anne, Jo-Ann, Tammy and Judi working on the content. It took the family about six months to get the site up and running.
“During that period … Carolyn localized various owners of the artist’s paintings locally, regionally and internationally, while Jo-Ann and Hakeeb worked on the technical aspect by presenting close to a hundred different images, and Patti-Anne developed the content with her sisters. Tammy and Judi, “Patti-Anne said in the email. Visitors to the site can find content that reflects Ali’s work through his four decades in the arts and television media, she added. “In addition to working in various communication disciplines, he also worked in various artistic media. Paintings are categorized as brush and palette, mixed media and illustrations.” Anyone with a nostalgic connection to TT or the Caribbean will enjoy the artist’s loving and vivid depictions of cultural diversity and the beauty of land and sea. “For art scholars and critics, there is plenty to discuss, from the abstract work of Fireflowers over Baghdad (brush and palette) to the amazing emotions and mastery of craftsmanship from The Last Carib (collector’s page).” Art students will find it useful to observe it way in which the artist navigates in the different media, for example by comparing his work in watercolor with the illustrations, with his work in the acrylic works. Kids can especially enjoy the illustrations, as these were all made for Carolyn Ali’s children’s publications, and they are charming and whimsical. This is especially important given the need for more local text and visual content in Caribbean children’s literature. There is also information about the artist’s remarkable life and achievements in milestones, a collector’s page and comments. “
The family hopes the website will be a place that welcomes anyone who wants to enjoy Ali’s life and work. “Ultimately, the goal is to archive the work of this master artist and cultural icon in the hope that his own journey from poverty to success will inspire everyone to follow their own dreams. It is also hoped that this site will be of artistic and educational benefits that promote the TT culture on the global stage, “said the Ali family. They also have a number of other projects in mind to continue offering Ali’s work. To them, their father and husband were a “very untraditional, loving, creative and supportive” person. They said he believed his daughters were able to follow their dreams and fulfill their greatest potential. “He refused to be defined by his own difficult and challenging childhood, and he valued the power of imagination that every single creature can access, regardless of their circumstances. He encouraged us to think outside the box, to think for ourselves, to rely on our own instincts, to create and imagine, and to welcome and celebrate diversity.
“He wanted to show it through his art, and that was partly behind the decision to launch the website so that” the energy of joy and creativity could be available to anyone, at any time with the click of a button. ” Ali’s paintings want to have their paintings displayed on the website, they can send an email to email@example.com or call 222-5450.