Luise Kimme was a German sculptor who settled in Tobago in 1979. Before arriving in the Caribbean she studied in Berlin and London and lived and worked in New York and California. Throughout her education she was pressured into creating modern and abstract sculptures inspired by Brancusi, when in reality it was the classical Greek sculptures that fascinated her. It was only when she arrived in Tobago that she finally felt free to do what she really wanted: Sculpt human figures.
She fell in love with the people of Tobago, and she made large, animated, wooden sculptures of them. She also carved mythological creatures and characters from Trinidadian folklore, such as La Diablesse and Soucouyant. Many of the sculptures were carved from tree trunks brought all the way from a forest in Germany, others came from Tobago itself. She used Oak, Cedar, Cyprus and Mahogany and sometimes made bronze casts from the wooden originals.
Kimme turned her house/studio in Tobago into a museum (The Kimme Museum Institute) which is open for visitors on Sundays. Known as “The Castle,” it houses hundreds of wooden figures.
I was lucky enough to visit her home about 10 years ago. I was only 13 or 14 at the time but I remember her charismatic sculptures, and of course the artist herself, charming and funny. I even had the chance to see her at work, and she asked me for advice on how to finish one of her pieces.
Her death on April 19th 2013 was a great loss to the Caribbean, but her work will certainly become part of the local heritage.
And finally, here’s a trailer of the film recently made about Luise Kimme, I Always Wanted to Sculpt Apollo, directed by Eike Schmitz. I haven’t had a chance to see the film, but this clip is worth seeing!