By Dominique Hunter
Edna Gwendoline Cadogan was born November 26, 1925. Her early years of education were spent at the St. Angela’s Ursuline Convent. Following the completion of her education there, she went on to further her studies at the Government Training College of British Guiana where she came under the training of art veteran Edward
Rupert Burrowes; the Institute of Education of the University of London (1957) where she pursued a one-year Associate Degree programme in Education with an emphasis on Art; and finally the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico (1968) where she received her Masters in Education.
During her years of service in Guyana, Cadogan worked as both educator and administrator. While employed at the Government Training College, she held several offices, gradually ascending to the upper most level of the institution. She was lecturer; senior lecturer in charge of the Art department; Deputy Principal and finally Principal, after the institution moved from their Battery Road, Kingston location and was renamed the Cyril Potter College of Education. She also held the post of Assistant Registrar at the University of Guyana.
In 2003, Cadogan was presented an award for her 75 years of active service in the field of Education. In 2010, the Guyana Women Artists’ Association (GWAA) recognized her stellar contributions to the group with a Long Service Award, in the form of a wooden sculpture carved by local artist Winslow Craig.
While she was perhaps most recognized for her years of dedication to teaching, Cadogan shared the same passion for her art practice. In fact, she has contributed to a number of exhibitions hosted by the Guiana Art Group, the Guyana Women Artists’ Association and has held exhibitions at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico between the years 1964 and 1965.
In an exhibition form signed and dated July 12, 1987 under the section “Any additional information” a few hand written sentences from the artist herself read:
“Have subjugated my art for the teaching of art to young teachers. Have not done any work since University because of administrative duties. Usually do quite a lot of pencil sketches but nothing to exhibition standards. Have done quite a lot of craft work but more recently only in crochet, needlework and knitting.”
The note sheds some light on the inner conflict she might have felt by having two equally demanding yet satisfying passions. In spite of those challenges, she continued to make and exhibit her work whenever the opportunity presented itself. In addition to her pencil sketches and needlework pieces, she has also produced several oil and watercolour paintings, graphic works, printmaking pieces and a few textile designs during the course of her artistic career.
Those who knew her all described her devotion to teaching art to students who were in the process of training to become teachers. So devoted, that she often referred to those she taught as her children.
Close friend and colleague of hers, Lucille Cadogan (also a founding GWAA member), described several instances of mistaken identity over the years, although there was no relation between the two women. Reminiscing on the times they would have spent together in years past she remarked, “Nevertheless, our time together will never be forgotten. We shared fond moments in the annals of history. As her colleague in education, she dedicated her service at all levels of education (primary, secondary and tertiary) to maintain a standard that was favorably recognized, both nationally and internationally. We will truly miss her and our condolences are extended to her relatives locally and overseas.”
Recently elected president of the Guyana Women Artists’ Association, Aiesha Scotland, also had the following to say about the passing of Ms. Edna Cadogan, “The saying goes, if you give someone a fish they eat for a day, but if you teach them how to fish they eat for a lifetime. As an educator these words describes the impact Ms. Edna had on whomever she came into contact with. She was a remarkable teacher in every sense of the word. She has changed many lives by giving of herself: her time, talent and treasure. Words cannot explain how much she meant to the women of the Guyana Women Artists’ Association. Her mere presence was a source of strength and encouragement for each member. It was so remarkable to see how much she persevered as an artist and educator, knowing how difficult it can be to balancing both. She shared her life experiences and knowledge of the arts with us. Society will forever be indebted to her. She was a woman of purpose and lived to fulfill that purpose. Ms. Edna will forever live on in the lives of many, we will miss her dearly.”
Edna Gwendoline Cadogan passed away on Monday March 28. She was interred on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at the St. James the Less Church ground after a brief service at the St. George’s Catheral, Georgetown, Guyana.
Dominique Hunter is an independent visual artist who recently graduated from the Barbados Community College with a Bachelor of Fine Art (First Class Honours).