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A Stroke Of Art

If you have ever had the pleasure of walking into the paediatric ward and looking up, your eyes would be mesmerized by radiant, striking paintings created by artist extraordinaire, Michelle Rodriguez Bowe who brands each of these labours of love with a little calling card that simply says ‘mrb’. While most would think that ‘mrb’ represents Michelle Rodriguez Bowe, for her it has a more profound meaning – ‘moments remembering Barbados’.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Michelle has been living in Barbados for the past 34 years, and after a sip and paint party back in 2014, the artist has been successfully painting and showcasing the magnificence of Barbados to the rest of the world, through her artistry. “I went to that [sip and paint party] one night and realized I really like this; then I went into Bridgetown the very next day, into Laurie Dash, and bought myself some acrylic paints and canvases, and started painting on my own,” she joyfully relays.

Michelle Bowe

On the walk to the meeting area, Mrs. Bowe inquires whether the cafeteria is still operational, and reminisces on her meals there, blissfully describing it as some of the best food she has ever had. Conversely, the occasion which brought her to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was anything but, as in 2020, her son Alex, unfortunately contracted dengue fever, and was admitted to the QEH for 15 days, during which time Michelle never left his side. Like any mother in her position, Michelle was constantly worried about her son, and needed a distraction while he was recuperating; and for her, painting provided an avenue for some much needed stress relief.

But why paint ceiling tiles? The simple answer to this is fate, as at the time, the paediatric ward was under renovation and there were some ceiling tiles sitting there, awaiting installation. “That’s what Dr. Jennings had…I said to Dr. Jennings, just give me something to do,” Michelle explains, and the rest is history.

Completing each of the eight spectacular paintings took Michelle approximately one hour and 30 minutes, and every one of them is inspired by the allure of Barbados. However, there is one painting in particular that holds a very special meaning, the flying fish. During the course of her stay, Michelle bonded with another parent who was also staying with her son, Kimani. “Kimani was here in the hospital for 436 days, so I knew I was painting something for him… and then the colourful idea of a flying fish came to me.” Painted on that particular tile is an iridescent, azure blue flying fish leaping out of an aquamarine ocean, against the mellow background of the sunset. Next to the flying fish’s tail written in blue you’ll see “Kimani 436” to honour his long stay on the ward.

Michelle firmly believes that whoever said that miracles never happen was lying as she personally witnessed a miracle on the same morning that she painted Kimani’s memento. She recalls, “The weird thing was, the morning I painted that and put Kimani 436 on it, she [Kimani’s mother] messaged me to say that they were going home that day. It was really cool.”

After her 15 day stay at the QEH, Michelle embarked on a fundraising venture derived from her artwork to raise some much needed funds for the Paediatric Department. From three of her labours of love displayed on the paediatric ward, Michelle created and sells puzzles and cushion covers through My Collection Barbados, Mystique Boutique and O2 Beach Club and Spa. The profits from these sales are then donated to the Department.

Lauding the nurses that aided in the care of her son, Michelle extends special gratitude to Dr. Angela Jennings who was able to further diagnose her son to ensure he got the necessary treatment. She also thanks Dr. Gillian Birchwood and Dr. Kandamaran Krishnamurthy who continuously cared for Alex during his recovery.

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