A wonderful teacher, mentor and exemplar
It is sad and ironic that shortly before she died, Pat Bishop had been expressing doubts about her own achievements. According to Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, Ms Bishop had been talking about past efforts to bring culture into the mainstream, and had said she was sceptical of their success.
Nevertheless, Ms Bishop had not given up her efforts. She was at the time addressing a meeting of a committee organised by Dr Tewarie's ministry which was formed to promote culture and the creative arts. Although professing herself uncertain of its success, Ms Bishop gave readily of her time and expertise to this undertaking.
The public response to the news of her death has offered proof, if any more were needed, of the extent of Ms Bishop's accomplishments and her influence, both in the fine arts and in popular culture.
Indeed, it is laughable to suggest that she did not make a difference, and it is to be hoped that Ms Bishop's remarks to that effect were inspired by a passing mood of frustration and not a deep-seated conviction. She must have been aware of the reverence with which she was regarded by so many. There was also concrete evidence that her country held for her, such as the honorary doctorate bestowed on her by the University of the West Indies, her own alma mater, and the Trinity Cross she received in 1994.
Dr Tewarie summed her up as "not only an independent thinker but a cultural contributor of the highest order." It is difficult to single out the field in which she made the greatest contribution, however: one of her outstanding qualities was her versatility. Ms Bishop had studied and taught art and history, and was herself an accomplished painter. But she was best known for her contribution as a musician, as director of the Lydian Singers choir and the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. She worked successfully with both for many years, often combining voices with the sound of steel in rich new ways.
Through these art forms she was a teacher, mentor and exemplar to generations.
Ms Bishop was also a former curator of the National Museum and a former director of the Carnival Institute.
She was also a passionate, eloquent spokesman for the arts who argued that they should be given their rightful status in the drive for national development.
Her outspokenness did not endear her to politicians, and over the years she suffered unpleasant consequences for being critical of the policies of various governments.
Nevertheless, Ms Bishop remained a major figure on the national landscape. Her death marks the passing of yet another of the generation of luminaries who came to maturity since independence, who have shaped the culture of this country and who have left an indelible mark.