BitDepth 711 - December 29

Dunstan E Williams was the master cartoonist of our time. This is an excerpt from an appreciation of his work given on the occasion of the TTPBA's posthumous award of excellence to the artist.
A memory of DEW

DEW's Tabanca, an instalment in his series interpreting Trinidad and Tobago's colloquialisms in his unique style. This illustration by Dunstan E Williams was part of a 1992 commemorative card set produced by the Trinidad Publishing Company on the occasion of its 75th Anniversary.

On November 13, 2009, the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association conferred on one of the Guardian's finest contributors, Dunstan E Williams, cartoonist, one of its awards for media excellence.
This is the award given by the media's management elite to the practitioners it considers to have given a life's work to the profession that is worthy of saluting.

On that night, Allyson Hennessy and Hans Hanoomansingh stood on the small stage to speak of their life's work, often in uncompromising terms. Theirs were stories of disappointments and triumphs, grand, operatic tales of the shaping of the media in its earliest days.
Before they shared their stories, it was my sad and singular honour to represent the late Mr Williams, to serve as his speaker for the dead. There isn't room in this space to reproduce the speech that I offered on his behalf. I invite you to share in this excerpt and to read the
full document.

I am mindful that today, there is a generation of young journalists populating the newsrooms of media companies who have no idea who Dunstan E Williams is. 
They have never seen the bold ink lines of his artwork, so robust and definite that they resisted the considerable variations of the printing presses of the past.

Dunstan Williams was born in Point Fortin, the youngest in a family of two boys and three girls. In a family known for its reserve, Dunstan was considered quiet.
His work was a remarkable, unique expression of what it means to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. With a gentle, wry wit Dunstan probed at the fabric of a simpler society, exploring the problems of politics, human interaction and the events of the day.

He was a fine writer and humorist, as any successful cartoonist must be. When couldn't fit his thoughts about matters of the day into his panels, he would write amusing, sharply considered letters to the editor as "I De Clare."

Within the constraints of the haiku of words and image of the single panel in which he did his life's work, he married incisive observations with a generous, forgiving perspective.
But as good as his writing and thinking were, his art was the true star of the daily DEW show.
There are three people that he constantly returned to in his single panel stories, a policeman, an unfortunate fellow and one of the many women he took such unbridled pleasure in drawing.

The policeman, his straight man, he drew with respect, though the character might express surprise or a stern, official frown. The man would invariably be the fall guy, the hapless butt of the story, dishevelled after some level of humiliation and left to explain the absurdity of his position to the incredulous officer.
The woman I have saved for last, because this was where the gentleman DEW revealed his romance with the female form. The woman might be elderly, middle-aged or youthful as suited his intent, but she would invariably be in command of the situation, hand on hip, proud and unforgiving of eye.

She would also be sumptuous of buttock and bosom, lush in her Caribbean womanhood with an expression that warned any comers that they had to come better than good to win her favour or avoid a clout.
This dynamic would play out again and again in his work, particularly in the Evening News. The ill-prepared man trying to be heard, the tolerant but impatient woman, the authority figure listening patiently with no intention of yielding. 

Trinidad and Tobago was shaped, through daily nudges, by his appreciation of the nuances and foibles that make us so special and the loss of him as an artist is only eclipsed by the loss of his work to public viewing.

His daily panels offered us a mirror into our lives that showed us who we are and who we could be. He was a pivotal consummate observer of life in Trinidad and Tobago. 
The recordist who imposed no ego, the artful visualiser of what he discovered, the comedian who could make us laugh at ourselves without self pity or remorse.
With every bold stroke of his pen he told us all how much he loved us and how much he appreciated the daily opportunity to express it.
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