With a Master’s degree in Water & Environment Management, running an art gallery might have been the last thing Evelyn Hodge would have expected to be doing. The Ugandan-born Evelyn Hodge as she shares how her African roots is at the heart of what she does.
Why did you decide to open the Gallery?
I have been inspired by art since I was a child. Science is my background but after a while I decided that art is where I want to be. Art is an expression of our culture, and I don’t want my kids to lose the African side of their heritage. Wherever they go, they’ll know where they came from and they can pass it on for generations.
I love learning about different cultures. I think our culture is who we are, so if you lose that then you don’t know who you are. This is a way for me to preserve African culture. There are people of African descent here and I want to put them in touch with their African side.
Where are most of your pieces from?
We have pieces from all over Africa. The majority of the antiques are from the Congo because they have such rich art and rich culture. They are a very skilled people. A few items are from Haiti. Haitians find art and beauty in objects that we might throw away. They make art out of anything at their disposal.
I have some necklaces from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, as well as some pieces from Cuba, St. Martin and, of course, Anguilla. It’s an interesting mix of African and Caribbean art, and each piece has its own story.
Would you consider bringing contemporary art into the mix?
I think there is room for it. I am open to learning about other people’s taste in art and about the people themselves. My customers mainly ask for souvenirs, Caribbean art, or traditional arts and craft. I try to showcase local artists as well because not all of them have a platform for exposure.
Do you create any of the pieces yourself?
Yes. I do some of the traditional paintings and wooden souvenirs. I try to find different ways to use common objects. I used to look at a shell as just a shell but now I look at it and wonder how I can make something creative out of it.
I also make quite a bit of the jewelry. As a little girl I would sit on my grandmother’s lap and she would give me beads and say, “Start making your own”. I didn’t have to make anything perfect but she just wanted to pass on the knowledge, which is why I feel compelled to pass it on to my children.
Did you do any art while growing up?
I studied it for two years in high school but, back home, art is frowned upon. If you’re an artist, you’re not seen as someone who has made it. I guess that’s why I didn’t follow it then.
How do your parents feel now that you are into art?
They have been very supportive. I guess with the world evolving and a lot of things changing, people’s minds start to change too. I think because I have proven myself academically, my parents are satisfied, so now I can happily follow my art.
What’s in store for the future?
While I like to plan, I also like to play it by ear. I think people should try to keep evolving until they have arrived at a career that makes them happy. There’s a need to be dynamic; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. Otherwise you suffer. This economy is a good time for many people to explore their God-given talents. I’m going to take baby steps and see what happens.