Renowned Belizean Artist, Benjamin Nicholas, dies at age 82
The world of Belizean art suffered a great loss over the weekend with the passing of painter and sculptor, Benjamin Nicholas. At age eighty-two, Nicholas had been sick for about a year and was living with his daughter, Avis Nicholas in Dangriga. He also leaves behind his wife, Ysidora Nicholas and four other children as well as a host of friends and supporters. But his death will certainly touch the entire Garifuna community and the country on a whole, since he has contributed greatly to art and culture. The renowned Belizean artist has been recognized internationally and was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. Locally, his works, which highlight the Garifuna culture, can be seen displayed on the walls of numerous homes and businesses. And in his years as an artist, Nicholas was also an inspiration to other prominent Belizean artists, including Yasser Musa, who spoke to News Five. Musa knew Nicholas well and expressed deep admiration for his talent and work ethic.
Yasser Musa, Artist
“I’d like to say first that I’m extremely sad in hearing of the passing of Benjamin Nicholas. In terms of art, he has been an important person not just to younger artists but to many generations of artists because he has been working in art from before 1970. He really took off after 1973 but he’s been a dominant figure in our artistic community for so many decades. And so I’d like to start off by giving my condolences to his family and his friends and the many people that know him and loved him. I think to understand Benjamin Nicholas, you have to understand where he came from. He came from a small place near Barranco; Boyo Creek. He grew up in Barranco but he eventually settled down and lived most of his life in Dangriga. He is an artist that has been the visual narrator of his community, the Garifuna community for many decades but I believe he is important to the national psyche of Belize because many of his images have rooted themselves in our identity and his images have given us a confidence as a people to feel special about being Belizean. And so I think Benjamin Nicholas will be greatly missed by the artistic community, by the cultural community and it is a great loss for Belize.”
“Can you speak a bit about his style of art?”
“Well, in 1970 he got the opportunity to go and study art in Minneapolis at the school of art there. He went there until 1973. When he returned, his art took a dramatic shift. It became the type of art that we see now which is a very folkloric, narrative type of picture. And he said then that he would dedicate his work to the Garifuna culture and the Garifuna imagery that he would create and he would invent and make as his own vision because he had given a story in the book that Doctor Joseph Iyo wrote that when he went to Minneapolis, he didn’t see any type of Garifuna art. So he made a personal sacrifice to become the visual narrator for his people and I think that is an amazing testament to the man. I would say that his art, it transcends just visual works. It really makes us realize how important an artist can be in our society. So in terms of his style, it’s very vibrant, very colorful and very human style. Most of his work involve people, his people, and so I think that is an amazing accomplishment that he was able to put his stamp, his definition on what we call Belizean art today.”
Musa is encourages young artists to get a copy of the book “The Boy from Boyo Creek” to learn more about Nicholas.
Belize mourns the loss of Master artist Benjamin Nicholas
Belize mourns the loss of one of its greatest artistic prodigy, Benjamin Nicholas. The National Institute of Culture and History and the Institute of Creative Arts along with other organizations have offered condolences to his wife, Ysidora Nicholas, his five children and members of his extended Garinagu family. Renowned Belizean artist Benjamin Nicholas was born in 1930 in Boyo Creek near Barranco in southern Belize. He studied Art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design at the University of Minnesota. His paintings are inspired by the daily life he experienced in his youth. His colourful paintings depict Garifuna dance, drumming and other aspects of the culture such as cassava bread making, fishing and family scenes. Ben Nicholas will be remembered as one of the great visual narrator of Garifuna origins and settlements in Belize. Benjamin Nicholas an established internationally recognized painter also received a Member of the British Empire (MBE) from Queen Elizabeth II. Many of his paintings are a part of the national collection and can be found in many of the major banks and businesses in Belize as well as in many homes and museums all over the world including the Smithsonian. PLUS TV as well extends its sincere condolence to his family, friends and supporters.