The love of who came before me

February 28, 2022

Encounters: Tessa Alexander – The islands of Trinidad and Tobago

~ by Sivan Ravivo

It’s morning for Tessa and I can hear the birds singing in the background as we meet each other online. She is seated in her studio and I can see a beautiful watercolor portrait in the background. It really looks like an inspiring room for an artist. Tessa lives in Trinidad and works as an artist and lecturer, she has 3 daughters and she does children’s art workshops as well. She currently is a PHD candidate in cultural studies and her art revolves around subjects like identity and heritage.

I am fascinated by the story she tells me about her own heritage and where her parents and grandparents come from because her lineage is very mixed. Often the term used is ‘ Creole’. It explains the racially ambiguous people of the Caribbean whose ancestors who came from elsewhere, which has to do with a colonial past. She explains that she is what they would call a ‘Dougla’, meaning, a person of African and East Indian heritage. Her project ‘In search of my mothers garden’ a title borrowed from Alice Walker’s book of the same name, is one of her projects. It reflects all these pasts with archive pictures on which Tessa drew and decorated with beautiful colors and patterns to honor  these unnamed woman.”It’s a project of love”, she says. “The love of who came before me.” And she expresses this by inserting love to the archived images. 

She did her master on the subject ‘Art and motherhood’. She comes from a very creative lineages of different crafts. Art is very important to her. We connect a lot on many levels, also on motherhood and being an artist. She tells me the story of the time she was working on a painting and she left in on the floor, I immediately looked frightened because as a mother I know exactly where this story is going… Her daughter took a sharpie and drew on the painting. This is part of learning to get around in motherhood she says with a big smile. She still has this painting and used it for het master.  

Her preferred art material is watercolor and collage style as well. She loves how he watercolor does what it wants and if you learn to work with it you will be surprised with what you can make. Also she researched about watercolor art and found out that in the old days it was mainly woman who made art with that because it was the only material they could use and easy to use at home compared to all the male artist who paint with oil paint. She does not like acryl or oil paint, it’s not good for the earth. Watercolor paint is so old and ancient and it feels feminine and empowering to her, this way it adds an extra story to every work of art she makes.  

When she first looked at our cup of stories it reminded her of her aunt who used to read tea leaves. Like a fortune teller she would look at the leaves and tell you a story about who you will meet of how your day will be.  

See her beautiful work on her website:

Or follow this amazing artist on Instagram.