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Art Culture & Tourism – World Champion Body Painter in Belize

Apr 12, 2023

Art Culture & Tourism – World Champion Body Painter in Belize

World champion body painter Trina Merry is in Belize as part of her Body Art Lost in Wonder series.  Merry is renowned for camouflaging locals into famous iconic sites around the world such as the Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu, Petra and Chichen Itza, among others. Merry’s parents live in Belize and she has been encouraged to do a series of locations in Belize – promoting art, culture and tourism. News Five caught up with Merry at Altun Ha, the third of several locations where she is transforming her models into art. Duane Moody reports.

Trina Merry

Trina Merry, World Champion Body Painter

“I became a body painter by accident. I actually got struck by lightning while I was working in Hollywood and I went to the woods to get away from all the electrical lines and I was painting in the woods. My friends band invited me out to come see their show and they asked me to stand on stage and actually get body painted, like be the model and experience body paint for their opening act. I said absolutely not, no way I am getting on stage. After having a couple of nice cocktails, I found myself on stage having the most amazing experience of my life. It was an entirely life-changing experience. If I hadn’t been struck by lightning, I wouldn’t be the body painter that I am today, so I am so grateful. Even when bad things happen, good things come out of it.”

Duane Moody, Reporting

World Champion Body Painter Trina Merry is in Belize for two weeks. While it is an opportunity to visit with her parents who have retired and made Hopkins their home, this time around, Merry is visiting at iconic locations across the country for her Body Art Lost in Wonder Series, Belize Edition. Today, we caught up with Merry at Altun Ha; this is her third stop. Earlier this week, she painted a model at Cerros and Lamanai Maya monuments.

Trina Merry

“I am going to be doing some really amazing sites. So I got to collaborate with the Institute of Archaeology today, which is an amazing honour, so grateful to them for this opportunity. But I am also going to be doing a lot of other collaborations with like the Maya Center at cacao farm. I am going to be body painting on a boat in the river. My dad has a captain license, so we will be sailing out to the Bread and Butter Caye to snorkel and body paint so just beautiful moments. We will be body painting at the Mayflower Bocawina National Park which is an amazing site. I got to do a beautiful painting there, in front of a tree of life. This time we’ll get to body paint at the waterfall which I am so excited about. So lots of really fun collaborations – with Hot Mama Sauces and body painting at her site and just learning about the Maya culture. That’s what I really want to embrace in this series – not just a beautiful place, but what is the culture, who are the people behind these amazing places, what is the history and how can I best show that through what I do.”

Trina travels the world to paint locals into iconic locations. It’s her way of bringing art, culture and tourism together.

Trina Merry

“Although I am not Belizean, my family does live here. I am a tourist and so I want to attract other tourists to come to Belize. And so I want to help the businesses and the beautiful locations here in Belize and I am blessed that I have some platforms to share that on and collaborate with other people that have those platforms.”

News Five caught up with two of the many models being used by Merry for this project, American Airlines employee and art model Rebecca Lucha and Shaniki Hernandez from Punta Gorda.

Shaniki Hernandez

Shaniki Hernandez, Art Model

“I was super excited just being able to be a part of this. Like I couldn’t even believe it and I am so happy to be able to show my country.”

Rebecca Lucha

Rebecca Lucha, Art Model

“When Trina started talking to me about this trip, I was like I’ve never been to Belize and her family lives down here and they know they culture and they are just gonna show us so many things. I minored in archaeology in college and so I’ve studied the different kinds of ruins from the different cultures all over the world and I’ve never seen any Mayan ruins or anything like this or been to Central America before so it is very excited. It feels very spiritual. Last night or yesterday afternoon we were at Lamanai and we were at the mask temple which is a tomb for, I guess, one of the ancient rulers and I was standing on this stone that was right outside and there was this mask behind me and just the temperature was perfect, you could hear the howler monkeys and the birds and I was standing there like this and it was a nice pose. And I had to keep my eyes close since she was painting my face. And I was transported to like two thousand years ago and I got chills a couple times.”

Trina Merry

“There is a beautiful exchange that happens with body painting because there is electricity flowing from one person to the other and there is a very beautiful unity between myself and my subjects. I feel, especially when it comes to an amazing site like this gorgeous ancient Maya ruin that these people are connecting with me, that I can body paint with an amazing part of the indigenous Mayan culture. And so from an art history standpoint, I feel super honoured and connected to the people that lived and worked here and their amazing beautiful culture and feel so privilege that in the contemporary art world, I can carry that through in my own expressive practice.”

And for those who speak of cultural appropriation, Merry says it is an opportunity to educate about traditional Mayan culture and Belizean culture on a whole.

Trina Merry

“I am trying to infuse as many partnerships with Belizeans as possible. So I am taking the gifts that I have to elevate them and help them have a platform to tell their stories. Mayan body painting is so beautiful. It has these beautiful rites of passage so not only were people body painted to distinguish between what they did or the different tribes they are from, but it also was beautiful for women to showcase this is a coming of age moment, now I am married, now I am having a baby, I am an elder in this community. So for me it really tells a very personal intimate story of who are these people and with each marking that I put on the body, I am hoping to also tell a story of who are these people that I am painting. I just want to kinda facilitate that.”

Duane Moody for News Five.