The name Henry Muttoo resonates among Caribbean countries familiar with the theatre arts and Caribbean history and culture. In a world where the word ‘maestro’ is often misused, the description as applied to Henry Muttoo is an apt and deserved one.
It has been my privilege to have been acquainted with Henry since he established himself as an icon of theatre arts in these islands. Passionate, committed and knowledgeable, he is the consummate motivator, cultivator of talent and mentor to theatre aficionados at all levels of development. I have always been impressed with his creativity, understanding and passion to not only understand Caymanian culture but his desire to make that understanding available to all who would care to learn of its importance. His expertise in things Caribbean, especially as it reflects social life, serves to elevate him to iconic status and has elevated him to the status as advisor and consultant to many Caribbean policymakers, including this author.
I consider Henry Muttoo a credit to any community in which he resides, and I am happy that he made these islands his home as I am convinced that his sojourn here has left us “the better off”.
J.A. Roy Bodden, President Emeritus University College of the Cayman Islands.
I’ve been blessed to know quite a few distinguished creative directors of cultural institutions from all over our world. None has ever been more passionate, nor more wholeheartedly dedicated and gifted than my luminous friend, Henry Muttoo.
In a country that perhaps all too enthusiastically embraced colonial culture, Henry championed both the authentic and the indigenous, the rare and the real. Muttoo made accessible the stage for imagination for theatrical audiences, welcoming both young and elderly, sophisticate and the very first-time attendee. He saw the magic in Miss Lassie and fought to successfully preserve her legacy like her soul’s own true son.
If Henry’s special smarts and passion for what’s right could be cloned, our world would surely be a far better, kinder, and more beautiful place.
To Henry and to Marcia, his lovely partner and muse, BRAVO on a lifetime well lived with My PROFOUNDEST GRATITUDE & ENDLESS ADMIRATION!
Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, Founder/Director, American Visionary Art Museum
Congratulations, Mr. Muttoo on all that you have accomplished for the Cayman National Cultural Foundation. You have given 33 years of time, energy, spirit, resources, and literal blood, sweat and tears to grow the organisation into the respected, cultural institution it is today. Bravo.
Under your direction and that of Mrs. Muttoo, the Cultural Foundation has shone a bright light on Caymanian culture and heritage with stage plays, publications, interviews, events, competitions, youth arts, cultural exchanges, culinary offerings, historic home preservation, and so much more, and for this I congratulate and am in awe of you.
Thank you for celebrating ‘things Caymanian’ when it was not popular, for showing us ourselves and saying, ‘be proud of who you are’, all the while guiding us to see that we are but one plaited strand in the whole basket, shades of blue in a rainbowed tapestry…part of a region with many commonalities, part of a global family.
I will always remember your pearls of wisdom and quotes that you shared to bring perspective to the work you dedicated your life to, such as Gandhi’s: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” Thank you for your boldness – it has ignited creative fires in many, myself included.
Perhaps this is the moment to say thank you for changing my life. My time at the Cultural Foundation, as a Young At Arts student, a volunteer, a performer, an assistant, a manager, shaped me like no other chosen experience, perhaps second only to motherhood. Learning from you and the many persons connected to the organisation has been a gift which I will treasure forever. Thank you.
May retirement give you the precious time and space you need to realise other, more personal projects, and for you to reflect on the legacy you are leaving. I know you will embrace this new chapter in life wholeheartedly, just as you always do.
Henry Muttoo has been a colleague and friend of mine for many years. I am happy to see him retire – in the hope that he can be blessed to continue his life’s work in the arts – but more to the satisfaction of his individual muse. It needs to be said, too, that though he contributed much, and worked tirelessly under several hats, we in Cayman could have gotten more, and better, from and through him. But we failed to ask for too many of the right things, lacked the necessary vision – and by ‘we’ I mean particularly the CNCF Board and successive Ministries for Culture. Had we fully recognised Henry’s many gifts, and understood how to really challenge him, the impacts of his work would have been felt even further within and from out of the Cayman Islands.
As a fellow artist, I applaud Henry’s familiarity with the old ‘rebel arts’ of the Caribbean, especially how he grasped the universality of its project – to prompt the uprising within the whole of humanity, to strive for our best collective, and finest personal selves.
Henry is a perpetual student in the school for the optimal attainment of our (Caribbean peoples) being in this world, and for our parallel investment in the mysteries of forever. Long may he be sustained in this work. May he and his family be blessed.
Henry and Marcia Muttoo made a profound impact on the arts and culture in the Cayman Islands. There are very few with the artistic vision, tenacity and creativity to accomplish all that Henry and Marcia have accomplished.
Henry sought out traditional musicians such as Aunt Julia and Radley Gourzong and so many others to highlight for their connections to Cayman’s heritage. Henry’s artist eye was at work as he sought to celebrate Cayman’s heritage and contemporary culture while training a generation of Caymanians to use theatre and storytelling, music and the arts to express Cayman’s unique heritage and culture.
Henry recognized the artistic importance of Miss Lassie’s work and worked tirelessly to preserve her home as an artistic installation for Caymanians and art enthusiasts to experience.
Henry didn’t just put on theatrical performances, he laid the groundwork for Caymanian heritage and culture to shine for generations to come. I was privileged to be a part of Gimistory, a storytelling festival that to my knowledge is the longest lasting in the region. By bringing storytellers from the region and around the world, Henry introduced Cayman to the art of storytelling, highlighting not only the local tradition but elevating storytelling as a vital part of theatre.
I have known and worked with Henry for more than 60 years and I have had the unique perspective of knowing him from his early days in theatre to the maturity of his craft and artistic vision of today. Henry was part of the “All Ah We” performance troupe in the 1970’s, performing Caribbean regional work. Henry maintained his regional vision and knowledge of Caribbean poetry, music and theatre as he launched his career in Cayman, also bringing Cayman contributions to the wider region.
I knew from those early days that wherever Henry landed, he would bring his incredible energy and exacting artistic standards along with the ability to teach individuals to those creative standards. In those early days, I could not envision all that Henry would accomplish. Henry has been an integral part of my life in theatre and I continue to value his insights. I know that he will continue to make incredible contributions to the arts during his “retirement”.
Congratulations and best wishes my brother! We’ll raise a glass of a good red in your honor and look forward to when we meet again.
Henry is an icon in the development of the Theatrical Arts, indeed the Arts in general, in the Cayman Islands for the past three plus decades. When one says CNCF, Henry Muttoo comes to mind. He has worked steadfastly and tirelessly to elevate the value of and appreciation for the Arts and Culture in this country, particularly the Theatre. Henry is one of the main reasons that Rundown has become an institution in Cayman. It has been a privilege to work with Henry over the years. I have witnessed his passion first hand and I wish him all the very best. I know he will still be involved in some way, because, knowing him, he just can’t “switch it off” just like that.
A Salute to Henry Muttoo On the Occasion of His Retirement
The Cayman Islands have indeed been blessed to have found someone with the passion and talent of Henry Muttoo to nurture the nascent Caymanian culture and bring it out into the open “from behind the breadfruit tree”.
Henry’s experience and knowledge and insistence on everyone who works with him producing their very best have paved the way for the establishment of a body of firsts in our country that is substantial by any measure, and more so given the size of our community.
I first met Henry when he and Marcia came to Cayman in 1984 to work for the Cayman National Theatre Company newly housed in Harquail Theatre where they worked for two years before returning to Jamaica. In 1989 they returned to Cayman as CNCF’s Artistic Director and Managing Director, from which they have both recently retired after 30 plus years.
As a Deputy Chairman on CNCF’s founding in 1984 and Chairman since 1995 I have had the privilege of working with Henry both here in Cayman and throughout the Caribbean and my life has been enriched beyond measure with the introduction Henry has made to numerous Caribbean icons including Derek Walcott, Rawle Gibbons, Ken Corsbie, Leroy Clarke, Earl Lovelace, Amina Blackwood Meeks, as well as working with those many artists here at home with which the CNCF’s work immerses me.
None of the above would of course be possible without the support of Henry’s equally talented wife, Marcia who behind the scenes, and thankfully on occasion performing on stage, organizes with an almost invisible aplomb the efficient canvas on which CNCF’s work is created.
I wish Henry and Marcia all the best for a fun retirement with their expanding family of grandchildren.
Martyn Bould MBE, Chairman of and on behalf of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.
Mr Henry was more than a mentor to me. His passion for the arts is rivalled only by his dedication to fostering Caymanian talent and culture. As a young teenager working at the Harquail Theatre, Mr. Henry treated us like professionals and demanded excellence from every member of the production regardless of our age. Whether working on stage or behind the curtain, he pushed us to be our best selves.
For over two decades I was blessed to learn the art of directing from a master storyteller who was unafraid to dig deep into the complexities of character and nuance. With limited resources and boundless commitment, Mr. Henry made magic at the CNCF. After I became a filmmaker, he often asked me to volunteer in documenting older Caymanian artists with my camera. I remember the first time he brought me to Miss Lassie’s house, in the years when her work was under appreciated by so many others. He recognised her potential…and mine.
Thank you, Mr. Henry, for carrying the mantle all these years. Thank you for the sleepless nights and never giving way to mediocrity. Thank you for the audacity of asking us to preserve our own culture. Your work will inspire others to build upon the cultural foundation for which you will always be a cornerstone. I look forward to witnessing the next chapter of your esteemed career and continuing our work together.
Frank E. Flowers
I want to say huge thanks to ‘Sir Henry’ for giving me the opportunity to learn from one of the best minds (in my humble opinion) in theatre and all other disciplines in the Arts. A true artist indeed, your instructions, explanations and directions, are usually accompanied with, in-depth writings, notes and of course, your great detailed sketch drawings.
I will forever be indebted to you Sir, for introducing me to technical theatre and proper theatre practices, techniques, procedures and I remain impressed with your knowledge, passion, commitment, vision and dedication to Caymanian arts and culture and the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.
Thank you, sir for your enthusiasm and for always being willing to share your vast knowledge, experience and skill. It was indeed an honor and pleasure having you leading us artistically for all the years you did.
Salute and Arise, Sir Henry! Walk good and enjoy your retirement Sir.
As a cultural colossus not only in the Cayman Islands but throughout the Caribbean, Henry Muttoo has used drama and other forms of artistic expressions as tools for empowerment and social criticism. His role and contribution are not only to theatre production but to the arts, to cultural preservation, development, and celebration generally.
He has conceptualised and realised numerous significant national cultural development initiatives and he has been able to achieve the fundamental mission of the artist- that is- using the various means of art as critique and for national development. Henry’s contribution is enduring and indelible. I wish him well as he retires from the CNCF, and I know that his creativity will continue to flourish as he ponders and takes on new projects and challenges.
Dr. Livingston Smith
Henry Muttoo in his time at the CNCF made a massive contribution to the arts organisation in a variety of thrusts. Persons who work day-to-day in the organisation will be able to give you a more subject-driven summary of the specifics of his work than I, but as someone who did a lot of theatre work with him in his time, I can attest to the stabilising hand he brought to the Foundation’s work in the arts.
Time and again, in a range of productions, I saw Henry’s experience in theatre solve problems in various projects. His consistently calm demeanour was constantly at play in the range of vexing situations which can arise in theatre presentations, and time and again, one saw his vast experience with actors contributing to the final finished product. I don’t know that anyone spoke of it directly, but that understanding of drama and of the people engaged in it, coupled with Henry’s “town man” personality was often the balm, under the surface, in rehearsals. keeping matters on course.
He also had the wisdom to deflect attention away from himself in the often-controversial situations that can arise in theatre by deftly giving the credit to others in the production for the solutions or recommendations he would introduce. In addition, Henry’s abundant patience and unwavering calm operated like a balm, time and time again, and his wide knowledge of theatrical techniques and methods was constantly at play as he put presentations together.
I must also cite his knowledge of human nature which was often on display in rehearsal situations. The man’s basic honesty and dignity stood him in good stead, time and again, and I know other actors will attest to this. He was a gentle guide in his work, a gentleman in his dealings. It may have occurred, but I personally never saw Henry berate a performer or chastise anyone. If you press me for one word that summarises Henry Muttoo in his work, I will say unquestionably “class”.
I met Mr. Muttoo in 1997 when I auditioned for a part in Rundown. Up until that point I had not been on stage since high school, but I always had the love for the theater in me. Three years or so later an invitation was extended to me to join the CNCF board as a member. 25 years later and 17 Rundown plus a menagerie of plays in between, I am still here.
I have learned and experienced a lot from Henry! His vast knowledge of literature, Greek mythology, play writing and stage directing is second to none and he is always ready to share and teach. He questions everything!!! “Why would your character do that?” “What is your motivation to move to that side of the stage?” “Would you really do that in real life?”
All things to ponder not just on stage but in life.
Thanks for your service and love of this island nation we all call home. The Cayman Islands is better off because of your contributions.
Uncle Mu, the Mighty Mutree of kaiso lovers’ fame, Garlic Pork Master, the original Banas, whenever you cross my mind, is a big smile and a chuckle you leave behind. And that ain’t start yesterday. Look how long you and the ‘All Ah We’ team, pass through the region, opening we eyes with pride and pleasure in we own literature! You was a old lady in a rocking chair reading a letter that had we tearing up and in stiches at the same time, healing with laughter.
Is simply one of your many gifts. All my Guyanese friends are fluent storytellers. I figure it have something to do with the breadth of your land and the length of your rivers. Yours, however, are the most natural and unpretentious, replete with ‘rass’, and other eye-opening epithets, that, said by any other, would be deemed ‘badwud’, rather than gut-shaking humour.
At Jamaica School of Drama, you established your reputation, in my view, as the region’s best theatre designer -sets, costumes, lighting, props, theatre architecture – the whole works. You proved yourself to be a teacher with tremendous skill and subtlety (remember, teaching us to paint booths for Jamaica Festival?), artist and detailed stage director, too. These were the gifts you offered Cayman Islands, along with Marcia the Manager. It was a package no fool would refuse.
For us in the Eastern Caribbean, unlike Jamaica, Cayman is but a distant mirage, a sandy beach, far from our familiar route. Your work there over 33 long years planted and nurtured an orchard of arts that nourish us all today. Gimme Story, Run Down, Miss Lassie House, Playwrights’ Workshops, show after show after show, producing and publishing the home-grown talent of playwright Frank McField. You saw to it that Cayman got the best of the Caribbean and the region, the best that Cayman had to offer.
And this is really the deep centre of it all, both the very source and the resolution, your grounding in the spirit of the Caribbean. (CALL AND RESPONSE) Who does cuss and it sound like poetry? Who does pay good money to stack up he library with rare books on 16th century West Indian history? Who could quote Walcott and Harris, Carter, Lamming and Lovelace? Who favorite calypsonian is Chalkie? Who, without getting paid to do it, have the belly to watch every cricket match the West Indies losing? Who have a generosity in everything he do that make him think, not of himself first, but ‘all ah we’?
Banas, I didn’t grow up in Guyana, but I imagine when you, Dinky and the other Allbouys Town tesses gyaffing, what’s precious is the past you carry. I can imagine no awkwardness of denial or erasure, no shame, just the ease of self-acceptance, which is true cause for celebration. So too, in this phase ‘meant for re-tyring’. You’ve laid the tracks down and earned your ease. Moreover, you’ve shown that even in this ‘downside-up’ world, much longer than rope is time.
Best wishes to you, Marcia and family.