Thursday, February 22, 2018

Renowned Trini sculptor Baney dies at 84

Internationally celebrated Trinidadian sculptor Ralph Baney has died at age 84.

His younger brother, former Express photographer Sookdeo Baney, said yesterday “Baney’s work was his grand passion” while Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh lauded him as “an international icon”.

The elder Baney passed away on Tuesday at his Maryland home in the US. His wife, Vera Baney, who worked in ceramics, died on May 20, 2008, from heart failure. He is survived by his s6on, Clarence. 

Via a telephone interview yesterday, Sookdeo Baney, 63, said: “Baney started from humble beginnings at Philippine Village, San Fernando. He has applied himself in his career. Sculpting is the only thing he loves. Sculpting was his grand passion. 

“He did the first Coat of Arms for the Central Bank (1970). He did a mural for Scotia Centre in Port of Spain (1984). He left Trinidad to go to teach at one of the universities abroad in the 1970s. There is a piece in the lobby of the Pan American building in New York. 

“He did a number of exhibitions in wood carving and cera­mics. His late wife, Vera, worked more in ceramics. He made the Baneys proud.”

He added the Baneys were very close to Zalayhar Hassa­nali, wife of former president Noor Hassanali, deceased. 

Gopeesingh expressed sadness at Baney’s death, noting he was heavily involved in education and arts at the ministry. 

“He has distinguished himself in the world of arts. He was an icon in arts throughout the world. He will be missed by many of his friends and associates in the field. I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and his international friends. I think Winston Doo­keran (Foreign Affairs Minister) and gentlemen from the arts fraternity like Ralph Maraj, Stanley Algoo and play­wright James Lee Wah will remember him fondly. I had the pleasure of meeting him once,” he said.

Jalaludin Khan, member of the T&T Art Society, conservationist and designer, said, “Baney was one of the significant professional sculptors of T&T. He has displayed his work extensively. He was personable and sensitive to young artists to express the importance of discipline and creativity. 

“Baney’s work is symbolic in terms of his abstract of Trinidad’s iconography. He had realistic work. For the man in the street, on Independence Square, the Coat of Arms was done by him. The late Carlisle Chang did a sculpture on top of TSTT building. Inside Central Bank, there is one of the sculptures by Willi Chen. Three powerful artists. Chen is alive. 

“Baney was important in developing T&T iconography. Baney’s work is supportive of a medium that is not heavily expressed here. Beautiful sculptures are being done by Shurland Peters who has been working in that medium.”

Baney’s work is also part of Queen Elizabeth II’s private collection. 

A memorial service for Baney will take place on February 8 at First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, Maryland, while another is scheduled for Trinidad on a date to be announced.

Clarence Baney said instead of flowers, gifts can be given in memory of his father to the Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Naparima Girls’ High School. Gifts will also be collected by the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County. 

About ralph baney

Ralph Baney was one of ten chil­dren born to the late Seecharan Ba­ney and Bhagia Seecharan in 1929.

He attended Naparima College and Naparima Teachers College. He received a government art scho­larship to study at Brighton Col­lege of Art in England where he earned the NDD and ATC degrees (1957 to 1962).  After nine years as an art officer in the Ministry of Education and Culture, he embarked on graduate studies at the University of Mary­land (1971 to 1976), earning the MFA and PhD degrees. 

He has had 12 one-person shows, including at Georgetown University (1974) in the US and a retrospective at the National Museum in Trinidad in 2004. 

He has participated in numerous group shows in the United States, Canada, England, Japan and Jamaica. Honours include an honorary doctorate (DLitt) from The University of the West Indies (UWI), in recognition of his lifetime achievements in sculpture. 

He participated in an international sculpture museum in Yugoslavia in 1984.