Plantation Field Laborer with Tools, Trinidad, 1836


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This record was last updated on 01 Feb 2017

Image Reference
BRIDG-2_IMG

Source
Richard Bridgens, West India Scenery...from sketches taken during a voyage to, and residence of seven years in ... Trinidad (London, 1836), plate 14.

Comments
"The hoe is the only tool used for making cane holes," writes Bridgens. The laborer also carries a cutlass and crook, the latter to assist in the removal of dead leaves from the cane plant; on the hoe handle, he also carries "a sort of sandal worn when in the woods or to protect the feet from thorns in newly cultivated land." On his right arm there is a "too-too in a coarse netting of linen, termed by the Negroes tie-tie"; the "too-too" is a calabash canteen for holding water. A sculptor, furniture designer and architect, Richard Bridgens was born in England in 1785, but in 1826 he moved to Trinidad where his wife had inherited a sugar plantation, St. Clair. Although he occasionally returned to England, he ultimately lived in Trinidad for seven years and died in Port of Spain in 1846. Bridgens' book contains 27 plates, thirteen of which are shown on this website. The plates were based on drawings made from life and were done between 1825, when Bridgens arrived in Trinidad, and 1836, when his book was published. Although his work is undated, the title page of a copy held by the Beinecke Rare Book Room at Yale University has a front cover with a publication date of 1836, the date usually assigned to this work by major libraries whose copies lack a title page. Bridgens' racist perspectives on enslaved Africans and his defense of slavery are discussed in T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 460-461. Bridgens’ life is discussed extensively along with discussion of his drawings and presentation of many details on slave life in Trinidad in Judy Raymond, The Colour of Shadows: Images of Caribbean Slavery (Coconut Beach, Florida: Caribbean Studies Press, 2016). Raymond’s book, which is an essential source for any study of Bridgens, also includes a number of unpublished sketches of Trinidadian slave life. See also Brian Austen, Richard Hicks Bridgens (Oxford Art Online/Grove Art Online).