Beverley Tang-Kong: artist, mentor, community builder

By Michael Lashley

Mississauga and the broader Caribbean community in the GTA have lost one of their guiding lights, the late Beverley Tang-Kong, affectionately known as “Bev”.

Bev passed away on March 20, 2017.

On March 25, 2017, her husband Jerry and her sons Andrew and Geoffrey were warmly supported by their extended family and their close friends in a moving celebration of Bev’s life of love and sharing.

I first met Bev around 2005, when she donated the original painting of the female folk dancer to the Consulate General of Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto. It was her signature piece and is bathed in the orange and yellow hues which were her favourite colours as an artist.

That painting is prominently featured on the cover of her book “A Creole Soul”.

Sometime later, she returned to the Consulate General to introduce the artwork of some members of her network and caused quite a stir.

Or rather, it was a challenge of a very pleasant nature. Included in those drawings was a piece by Leslie Williams that set off a highly emotional reaction among the members of staff present. It depicted the humble houses with somewhat rusty galvanized roofs on the hills of the People’s Republic of Belmont. The authenticity of the artistic rendering was undeniable.

I was moved to intervene to prevent such a national treasure from falling into private hands. I had a quick tete-a-tete with the then heavily-bearded Consul General, himself a proud citizen of the said People’s Republic. He instantly arranged to have the masterpiece acquired by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

I had my second era of collaboration with Bev in 2014, when she had just launched her three-year blitz to get a select few of her projects out of her head and into the physical world.

There ensued a series of regular brainstorming sessions in the basement of Bev’s art gallery. Bev, Lloyd Pierre (photographer and photo-artist) and I explored a wide-ranging artistic vision.

Our first joint project took place in October of 2014. It was “Conversations on Art and Migration”, an exhibition of T&T artists combined with an oral presentation by myself and an open-mike discussion.

For the next two and a half years, a flurry of publications and exhibitions followed in quick succession, with the enthusiastic support of Marie, Kathleen-Ann, Wendy, Tanja, Gwenyth, Lloyd and a host of persons.

That flow was abruptly interrupted in 2016 when Bev fell ill, a large part of her artistic and community-building mission already accomplished with flying colours.

Bev was a lot more than the owner and manager of the art gallery “Imagemaker Art Prints” at Lakeshore Road East, in Port Credit, Mississauga.

She was an artist, art educator, art patron, art curator, as well as the author and publisher of six books featuring art and upcoming artists. Her valuable talents as a graphic artist embellished her own three books and the other three books which she published with the works of other artists.

She gave the same caring mentorship to her students, fellow artists, and business associates in her art network as she gave to her close-knit circle of family and friends.

She was also a loyal enthusiast of calypso, steelpan and carnival all her life, both in her native Trinidad and Tobago and in Canada, her adopted home.

In addition to her Chinese ancestry, she typified Trinidad and Tobago’s multi-ethnic society in which she grew up, with a variety of ethnicities coursing through her energetic veins.

She was, in her own words, “forever a creole soul”.

A few days ago, I got wind of a new project that is taking shape in Heaven. Beryl Mc Burnie ( Dance), Miss Lou (Spoken Word), Rex Nettleford (Dance) and Alfred “Alfie” Codallo (Folklore and Folk Art), all of them multi-talented super-achievers in various aspects of our Caribbean culture, are planning to produce a five-volume illustrated publication on folk expressions and traditional culture in the Caribbean.

Without missing a drum beat, I quickly dispatched a brain-mail directly to the late great Alfie Codallo and copied it to his distinguished associates.

In that communication, I pointed out that Heaven was very recently graced with the arrival of an accomplished graphic artist, a community-minded professional with first-hand experience in the portrayal of our popular cultural traditions. She is an effective team leader and project manager whose passion for getting the job done is highly commendable.

Bev, once again, you have it made.