You can study woodwork in London

■ She describes herself as an eternal nomad with permanent residence in Germany and Tobago. There she is particularly fascinated by the beauty of the people. A portrait of the sculptor Luise Kimme

Her fairy tale house is on the hill in Bethel overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Radiant white with domes, turrets, Arabic arches, a somewhat Gothic cathedral, a little Renaissance palace and a little colonial building with open spaces. The facade is decorated with the figures of Pan and Cupid and a faun. The roof swings over it in the form of a sea wave. A capricious architectural structure. The sculptor Luise Kimme, born in Bremen in 1939, lives and works here when she is currently on Tobago. This is where the 1.52 meter tall woman produces her wooden figures over 2 meters high. A pack of nine dogs cavort in the open courtyard, which is also the artist's studio. They guard the house, even when Luise Kimme is not there and guests from Germany or the gardener are checking that everything is in order. “Raids happen frequently in this better area,” says Luise Kimme.

Your house is an apartment, a studio and a museum. Her sculptures are open to the public on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mostly tourists come and admire the Caribbean bodies made of German oak, but older local couples also stop by after Sunday church. “They stand there and laugh,” says Luise Kimme, “they recognize each other. That makes me happy. ”The sculptor prefers to design dancers, but also animals in the area, mythical creatures from Caribbean myths such as“ Mama de l’eau or the Boa. Luise Kimme ships the wood for her work from Germany. An expensive and time-consuming affair. That is why she wants to work with local cedar wood in the future.

When she is not in Tobago, Luise Kimme mostly lives in Düsseldorf and teaches as a professor at the art academy. She studied in Berlin, London and Providence (USA). She discovered her passion for other cultures with her first woodwork in Jamaica, with the Navajos in California and during visits to New York in the 1970s. “Even then, I lived a lot among black people,” she says.

The professor will retire next year. Then she will move entirely to Tobago. “It always looks so simple from the outside, but it is also associated with a lot of loneliness. You have to endure this loneliness. But it is productive for my work. ”Luise Kimme needs a change of location. She feels like a wanderer between cultures, an eternal nomad.

In 1979 she came to Tobago. Before that she traveled to Peru, Mexico, Suriname, Honduras, Haiti, Jamaica, Guyana. Your weakness for this part of the world is obvious. In Tobago she stayed “a little” because of love, but also because the whites were more easily accepted here. In Haiti - for them the dreamland of creativity - it is not easy as a white man. "On Tobago there wasn't this economic gap, the social differences between black and white."

In the past it was the culture, the churches, the Baptists, the religion that fascinated her, today she is fascinated by the beauty of the people of Tobago. “The object of my sculptures,” she says, “are the beautiful bodies.” And she prefers to study these live in the open-air diso on Sundays in Buccoo. Then the sculptor also forces herself into a skin-tight dress, puts on high heels and dances until dawn. She observes poses, facial expressions, gestures, posture. She doesn't want to make art for galleries, but rather art “that I and people can understand”. Luise Kimme has long felt drawn to “the Negro cultures”. “It takes years before you can learn reggae, for example. Once you've got it in, it won't go out again. This is a side of me that can no longer be erased. "

Is she a female Gauguin, succumbed to the exoticism of black bodies? “Every artist has a face that he uses as a code for face. For me it's the blacks. That is the simple face shape ”. They are actually interested in the Greeks and the Renaissance. When visiting Berlin, London or Rome, the artist studies classical sculptures in museums. In her training she learned how to work with wood and stone, but only little about anatomy. That's why she says enthusiastically that on her last visit to Berlin she finally understood the principle of the chiseled armpit. The torsos of classic youngsters speak to them “of course more than the body of Aphrodite or Venus. I could kiss these torsos, they are so beautiful. ”Luise Kimme also thinks the men on Tobago are beautiful:“ You can look at them, and they are also willing and let that happen. My female characters are also very androgynous. I only have male models. "Meanwhile, she doesn't want to know anything more about the men: First my work came and came and then nothing for a long time."

She is heavily influenced by the carnival in Trinidad, especially by the Trinidadian artist Peter Minshall. He reacted spontaneously to their characters. “He bought it straight away,” she says. "With this money I bought my land in Tobago". She works for Peter Minshall, portrayed famous calypso singers like Sparrow and David Rubber out of wood for him and made the heads of his most famous figures.

Luise Kimme gets a lot of recognition in Trinidad and Tobago. Her sculptures are in the National Museum, she designed the sets for the Miss Universe election in May 99. Next year she is planning a major exhibition at the Trinidad Country Club. Rich “Trinidadians” like to decorate their houses with their sculptures. But Kimme also sells to England and the USA. "Especially the smaller sculptures sell well," she says, "also in Germany."

However, there she has problems with artistic inspiration. Tobago has soul for you. And Germany? “In the Eifel, where I have my other studio, there is nothing that stimulates me from the surrounding area. I can't make garden gnomes or deer? Or a forester? That would fit into the environment. "

Edith Kresta