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By Dr. Rudi R. Guyan- If ever an example of how to identify a “child of the soil,” one only needs to review the life of the late Philip Alfonso Moore (Philip Moore) or Pa Moore. Respectfully it may be said that Pa Moore was a most renowned artist, painter and sculptor.
There is an old saying in Guyana: “Wisdom comes from the East.” Baba Philip Moore as he was also so fondly and respectfully called is from the East. Baba Moore is a Berbician: hailing from Manchester Village on the Corentyne. Berbice is in the East. Baba Moore was a Teacher, an Elder, a Parent, an Artist, but most of all he was a Sage. He placed his spirituality above and within everything he did.
Philip Moore was born on October 12, 1921 and died on May 13, 2012, at 90 years old. For those who understand the cosmology or metaphysics of our existence, they would understand Baba Moore’s seemingly making spirituality the essence of not only his person, but primary in everything he produced, to be shared with not only his fellow Guyanese, but the “world.”
As an African in especially rural Guyana (British Guiana), young Philip would have been exposed to a number of religious traditions, but especially shades of West African spiritual traditions, diluted by Judeo-Christian: Anglo Catholic, Roman Catholic, up and coming Protestant religions. Out of all those tendencies, Philip Moore like most working class (poor British Colonial subjects) of post independence Guyana experienced more Ancestral Spiritual connections by joining the spiritual traditions of the Jordanites.
Philip Moore’s spirituality was expressed through omens, dreams, premonitions, sacrifices, offerings, and experiences which Christians would prejudicially class as superstition. In spite of all the Christian prejudices, Jordanite Spirituality gave meaning to the lives of those “Wretched of the Earth,” whose lives and practices for personal and community development, were expected to have meaning only within the narrow context of European religious traditions, fractured by the struggle for hegemony among the various Catholics, Jews and Protestant religious sects.
Philip Moore was an international person. He was a professor with international responsibilities. He was a sculptor, and taught his art to students in Guyana and in the United States of America. So successful he was in his teachings, that in the City of Demerara particularly, his students may be seen exhibiting for sale their sculptures of Art in the Avenues, especially Main Street, with a noticeable “Mooresan” style.
In the United States of America (USA) Philip Moore was a professor at the prestigious Princeton University. Skills as a teacher were so highly appreciated that throughout the illness of his latter days, his place as a professor at Princeton University was kept open, hoping that he would return to his anxious students. So appreciated he was by the University, that the Authorities were prepared to come to Guyana to take Baba Moore to the University where his teaching styles were most appreciated. So appreciated Princeton University was for his services he received a pension throughout his illness, to the time of his death.
He was a most appreciated professor at the Burrowes School of Art in Guyana. His association at that College was more of a community rather than the formal education institution that it was. That was the atmosphere of Peace that was generated with his presence. His family were very surprised at the number of young and adult persons: students and professionals who expressed so much grief at their loss, when he died.
His style was unique. His productions were not just physical objects known as sculptures. They were spiritual messages, capturing the Ancestral essences.
Was it by chance or by Ancestral design that:
Motivated by love for his native Guyana and assisted by the government, he got the chance to create what would be the largest bronze sculpture in the region. Moore’s 1763 Monument, nearly 25 feet tall, dominates the Plaza of the Revolution in Georgetown, Guyana. A defiant African warrior, with pre-Columbian-like helmet and African breastplate, stands at the ready to march against any enemy who dares to desecrate his homeland. It reminds one of the pervasive African belief that the spirits of one’s ancestors continue to exercise influence upon the living. (Source Folk Art of America from: https://folkart.org/mag/philip-moore)