Makemba Kunle emerged as one of the most progressive visual artists in the Caribbean from the early 1970s. The Black consciousness movement at that time played a major part in influencing his progressive style of art. Born at Old St. Joseph Road in Laventille, on August 14th 1950, Kunle grew up in Barataria. A former St. Mary’s College student, he was trained as a teacher at the Mausica Teachers Training College at Valsayn; Kunle always had the burning desire within his soul for expression of his creative talent of visual art.
Growing up in a community where the artistry of Trinidad’s carnival culture flourishes, his art was influenced by the power and magnificence of Trinidad carnival’s brilliant designers. As Kunle himself admitted, “I always had this feeling for art inside of me, so I taught myself everything I wanted to know about art.”
Kunle found the ideal habitat for the development of his artistic perspective when he served as NJAC’s artistic director for over 20 years. It was he who was the mind which produced the backdrops and artistic work for all the organization’s cultural productions.
Kunle has also contributed to the formation and administration of artistic institutions such as the Caribbean Arts Community and Studio 66 Art Support Community which is based at his Barataria home. He has also impacted in the field of art by his high-quality stage and set designs, carnival costume designs, portraits, formal theatre designs, graphic illustrations and cover designs for leading Caribbean writers.
Kunle’s creative mind has also ventured into the area of writing and so far he has produced two books of his own entitled A Collection of Illustrated Short Stories and The Caterpillar Who Wanted to Fly.
This gifted artist has also contributed to the wider national community by a number of initiatives including his 1997 involvement as the artist-in-residence at the Pamberi Pan Theatre in San Juan when he tutored youths in the theory and practice of artistic skills.
The magnitude of Kunle’s work manifests itself by the volume of work he has produced for several exhibitions, twenty (20) solo, and numerous group shows he has held over the years. This has culminated in his 2014 Retrospective at The National Museum & Art Gallery, the fifth artist ever to do so. And most recently held ‘In Between Worlds’ at the Gallery of Caribbean Art Barbados in August, 2017.
It is instructive to note that this creative gem of our Trinidad and Tobago soil continues to work as Artistic Director and artist-in-residence at Studio 66 in Barataria.