Barbados Community College
Center for theVisual and Performing Arts
Between A Rock And A Hard Place:
Local \Global Dynamics of Funding and Sponsorship in Caribbean Art
The creative tension between the local and the global has been articulated in ways that illuminate the functioning and sustainability of artistic communities in the Caribbean. The local, with its attendant ideas of nationalism and falsified notions of traditional artistic production is pitted against the global with its universalizing tendencies and standards. This theoretical conflict between local specificity and the homogenizing force of the contemporary, a term that links it’s meaning to globalization, will be examined in this paper. The relationship between these local and global positions and the circuits that have been created by funding and sponsorship agencies for the visual arts will also be analyzed, along with the roles they play in terms of influence on artistic production and sustainability in the Caribbean during the last two decades. An analysis of these processes will hopefully allow a view of scholarship that could help to inform curatorial practice in and for the region which is more inclusive and developmental.
What really is traditional Caribbean art? Is contemporary Caribbean art a rupture or a continuation in a different form? These interrogations into the field could give the possibility of opening frames of reference to go beyond the tropes of immigration, hybridity, creolization, border crossings diaspora, new-media communications and post –black aesthetics, whose thematic exhibitions seem to dominate curatorial decision. What I am proposing is an ‘esthetics of place’ which will hopefully move the perception of ‘the local’ to a definition beyond its current designated position which at best is a mere marker of identification or at worst a site of retrogressive nostalgia.
I will argue for a series of concepts whose origins hail directly from the Caribbean space. These ideas which I believe are significant to the production and development of Caribbean art will be expressed through the framework of the ‘local’. They will include notions of poverty, Caribbean identity, embodied practice, geographic location, nationalism, memory, trauma the longue durée and the effects of arts institutions. Globalization with its built in power to determine and influence state policy in the forms of cultural elites with access to sponsorship and funding sources will be used as a counter position to be critiqued.
Art works to be included and examined are by Ras Ishi Butcher and Winston Kellman, two artists from Barbados working at the site of ‘the local’ They remain resolutely engaged in the traditional medium of painting, still critically articulating relevant ideas in the Visual Arts in Barbados and possessing what could be called a global sense of the local.
Keywords: Caribbean art, poverty, local-global dynamics, nationalism, memory and trauma, Commonwealth.
Biography: Winston Kellman was born in Barbados in 1952. He studied at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham B.A( Hons.) Fine Art 1981 and the Chelsea College of Art and Design, Post Grad Dip History and Theory of Modern Art 1990. After two decades as a London based artist he returned to Barbados in 1992. He is a practicing painter and tutor of Studio Art and Art History at the Barbados Community College and he has had several one –person shows and represented Barbados on a number of occasions at International Exhibitions. He recently completed a M.A. in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Barbados.
Framing the Local: History and Poverty
The concept of poverty which is directly linked to funding and sponsorship can be seen as a fundamental issue in relation to sustainability in the arts in the Caribbean. This poverty is the direct result of the infinite variations of imperialist, colonist domination in the region that has left most of the territories in a state of economic dependency. It is generally agreed as proposed by Clive Thomas that this early period of colonial rule was a time when a comparatively small group of countries, British, French and Dutch colonizers, emerged at the center of the world capitalist systems and became the main benefactors, while the larger group, the colonized remained at the ‘periphery’. The rhythm of growth and development in the systems as a whole is seen to be based on economic policy that sees the gains dictated by the course of accumulations at the center. The periphery by contrast is wholly dependent on the system because growth is considered to be largely a reflex of development internationally. This ‘inherited’ poverty, becomes a large part of our basic identity as it shapes and conditions our daily lives as an inherited legacy and leads to a type of social –cultural poverty in terms of consciousness and creative production. This has come about as a result of systems and institutions which were designed essentially to maintain and enforce a certain type of cultural attitude that had its origins at the same ‘centers,’ and where the notion of acculturation was and is the prescribed cultural norm for these dependent territories.
Counter to this cultural poverty however, alongside the antagonisms and conflicts, a system of what can be called indigenous values and thought processes, a characteristic way of looking and perceiving the world emerged. In other words, a regional social consciousness was forged and is reflected in the arts, literature, music, theater, dance and religious practices. Against the backdrop of such contradictions, such contrariness even such chaos is the unifying space in which an identity that defies stasis, while it promotes order and stability is being forged. This concept of the ‘local’ sees Caribbeaness according to Glissant as a thin thread woven together from one side of the Caribbean to the other. It is a culture-specific area with an African or East Indian base and a European peak, derived from plantations, insular civilizations, language of compromise, general cultural phenomena of creolization, patterns of encounter and synthesis and the persistence of African presence.
Nationalism and its Construct
This consciousness that was forged had its origins in the Independence struggles. It must be said that those efforts at self actualization represents an exceptionally important period in the cultural life of these territories. That need for a reorientation of the culture found its formal outlets in institutions like National Galleries, Dance, Theaters, Literatures, Music and Festivals. A national consciousness that looked beyond that universalist, global notion of ‘ social harmony’ imported from the metropolis and conceived as the plantation model, to one of struggle defined indigenously, democratically conscious of the historical legacy of the region. The ‘nation’ therefore played an important role as a site or locality /territory to be taken back from the colonizer, that global spread of empire that had determined the cultural formulations from inception. As liberating narrative Patrick Taylor observes the ‘national’ made possible the transformation of the drama of colonization to the history of liberation.
This transition to politically Independent states, the Institutional face of the liberation narrative, came with the expectation of a sustained effort at reorientation of the culture. In Barbados an examination of the institutions and national events whose features should have given a stronger sense of selfhood and identity, nearly fifty years after their creation, reveal a kind of post- independence stasis as the determining feature of our cultural norms. What remains is in fact a vague cultural area polarized by a distancing ‘ afro-saxon’ sensibility to use Lloyd Best’s descriptive term with token gestures of Afrocentricity, the intellectual remains of liberation ideas, and a sort of hysterical north American ‘intervention’ on the already splintered fragile culture. The fact that there is still only a vague sense of national identity, divisive and unruly, is perhaps due to unremarkable production from the cultural areas outlined previously who have allowed no sort of permeation into the society from these critical areas of orientation, a sort of negligence of their socio-cultural responsibility. These areas of cultural production or lack of, will be addressed later in the paper under Institutions, and suggestions will be made of ways to encourage development and sustainability.
In spite of the cultural conditions of the island or perhaps because of it, the past two decades consistent with the changes in the International art world an ‘alternative vision’ of the Caribbean has emerged in the visual arts in which particular forms are seen as essential for inclusion. This approach suggests that the field of scholarship located in anti- imperial and anti- colonial battles has been fought and that those visions and productions have been exhausted or dried up or are deemed to be no longer relevant to our contemporary artistic cultural needs. The contemporary curators responsible for these decisions would have us believe that the ‘national’ should be seen as an outdated afro-Caribbean concern and that the contemporary new media saturation productions offer a more ‘nuanced’ reality of the region.
This conceptual error seems to stem from the linking of ‘national’ with ‘traditional’ and does not take into account the uneven development of the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’ or even for that matter to the ‘contemporary’ in these former colonies. It also denies the evolutionary development of new stories, new ways of thinking, new histories that come out of the same ‘traditional’ areas. I am suggesting that ‘ nationalism’ should therefore not be seen as a national political unit linked to one ethnic group, but rather as an organic being that has been endowed with a uniqueness, a unique individuality which should be acknowledged and cultivated by all in that particular society. This essentially paves the way for a concept of identity that takes into account, and includes the significant historical, cultural changes and developments that have contributed to the ongoing developments in that particular place. This identity is therefore grounded and linked to a specificity of place.
Place as Geographic Location
Doreen Massey states that the concept of place possessing qualities of uniqueness or specificity holds additional promise. A place full of internal conflicts, not fixed but always in a state of change, capable of definitions not coming from outside, but based on linkages from outside can enhance one’s self of identity in this troubled era of time –space compression.
It is a sense of place of its character which can only be constructed by linking that specific place to areas beyond. This then demands a construction of your place, by you the creative inhabitant which carries with it a kind of truth based on the lived experience. The descriptive creative practice that sheds light on this place resonates a kind of authenticity. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges the artists face, how to convey that lived intensity with identity that comes from being inhabited with and by place that concept of insideness, that brings with it an intuitive knowledge of place that goes way beyond surface appearances, in representational forms. Location then becomes a conceptual tool to contextualize the creative efforts. The representation of a place that is constructed on such specific historic principles of colonial expansion, conquest and domination, on such a structure of violence brings an added obligation to reveal essential truths of that place, particularly when significant elements remain embedded within that contemporary culture. If one is indeed trying to present a progressive sense of place it would and should acknowledge those characteristics without being or feeling threatened by them.
Memory, Trauma and the Longue Durée
Simon Schama suggests that before it can be the repose for the senses, landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up by as much strata of memory as from layers of rock. Location affords belonging, memories, routines, visions, and containment, a bounded space, a space, as Simon Njami reflects on the nature of islands, whose contours are defined by the inhabitants, where one becomes essentially the architect of one’s own confinement. The imagination is then put to work to transcend the historical limitations on the place.
It is generally agreed in the Caribbean that to work with the memory of slavery is to work without witness . It is to examine traces from oral histories, objects, buildings, images and traditions. In certain territories Barbados for example memory of slavery is suppressed in favor of the apparent necessity to transform reality towards an idea of future renewal. But a renewal of what? The visual arts are signs and manifestations to cultural linkages to the history of colonialism and control and as such cultural memory represents a significant inclusion in the range of artistic production. The logic of not wanting to interrogate the colonial past for fear of a resurgence of ‘social disruption’ is one that effectively denies a country its history and memory. When living memory is no longer present what then are the forms of remembrance?
German art historian Detlef Hoffman observes that in the short term the artistic response to horrific events is not a deep one. Artistic production only reaches a significant level, the second level, when feeling about what has been destroyed or eradicated or so traumatized can perhaps be represented. This second level of cultural memory refers to symbolic order, the media institutions and artistic practices by which a shared past is constructed by affected social groups. The artists need some distance, more distance in time and sometimes generational distance. This type of artistic production relates to the concept of the ‘longue duree’ , the long silent motionless character that it possesses. It is conscious of trauma and attempts to open up the discourse between the political and the aesthetic, between history and the text, between engagement and the mission and function of art in these territories no matter how troubling it is. Memory then becomes the catalysis for work that forms an interpretive study of these human experiences sometimes in order to clarify and gives significance to centers of one’s own experience through the lived intensity of place. The resort to memory then can be seen to be a form of resistance to this utopia of a globalized vision that denies the personal memory, and offers a way of re-anchoring ourselves in space and time. Memory then has a redemptive power for the disruptions of globalization and the loss of place with its accompanying feelings of loss, rootlessness and not belonging.
Institutions: Globalization: United States and Caribbean Art.
Finding a place to exhibit artworks was always a major challenge for the Caribbean artist as the need to be ‘international’ is seen as the final seal of success and approval for artists who are coming from that Caribbean space. With globalization and the rise of the ‘internationalization’ of Caribbean art which occurred in the past two decades, an analysis of the systems reveals how the functioning and networks of curatorship and institutional policy have determined the outcomes and the visibility of Caribbean art.
This tendency which could be seen as a cultural shift occurred essentially in the late 80’s and early 90’s which was a period in the Caribbean region where cultural loyalties were being established based on shifting socio- political involvements and available development and funding opportunities. In the English speaking region this was towards the U.S.A. away from Great Britain, whose interests progressively dwindled following decolonization and as I will suggest later in the paper some of the possible reasons why this occurred as it relates to the Arts. The United States therefore initiated these efforts with the first of the “ Caribbean Survey Exhibitions’’ which were essentially the first ‘themed’ exhibition, and the cultural area of Carnival “ Caribbean Festival Arts: Each and every bit of Difference” was the subject of this survey supported by the Smithsonian Institute in 1989.This was essentially a travelling show and possibly set the tone for others to follow.
In the most recent exhibition 2013 “ Caribbean Art Crossroads of the World” in the catalogue section on survey shows, 30 years of exhibitions and collecting, Edward T Sullivan charts the rise and developments of these ‘themed shows’ from that period to the present. The Contemporary Caribbean shows of the last decade and their continual proliferation appears, on examination to be dominated by curators and critics attached to those large institutions who seem to possess what can only be described as a shared knowledge of theory, expertise and curatorial preference as demonstrated by an unrelenting sameness of selection. This privileged- insider position for the most part dictates the funding and sponsoring opportunities. They function as essentially brokers between the institutions and funding agencies and as such determine what gets visibility as defining the region.
These groups of individuals are themselves trans-cultural global operators whose location is from a place which can only be called ‘from above’ given their elevated status and is observed as coming from ‘the north’, interpret local Caribbean cultures according to themselves and consequently others. They therefore create and contribute to the disseminating practice of what is remembered as cultural definitions of the places covered in these exhibitions, giving them descriptions essentially decided from outside the region. This is effectively achieved and constructed by a form of saturation of the field of production by what is deemed contemporary effectively eradicating, or attempting to, any semblance of a ‘past’ Caribbean which is still actually presently unfolding. These areas includes thematic renderings of creolization, migration, diaspora, digitally driven communication, installation and performance and excludes other areas that are seen as traditionally orientated, painting and sculpture for example. With painting and sculpture, they seem to have ascribed the qualities of possessing an assumed backwardness based entirely on the media that must presumably be overcome in order to qualify for entry into the ranks of the contemporary.
In addition to the medium the themes themselves impose limitations. In an insightful essay on African Diasporic Art History, the following observation was made by Krista Thompson which suggested that some parties in hailing creolization and cultural blending may in fact be hostile to the idea of African diasporic cultures. In the broader theoretical claiming of diaspora the term becomes less associated with place, Africa, and more with a process of becoming.
Non acknowledgement of place therefore presents a number of obstacles to cultural development especially in societies where the African diasporic presence and perspective is subsumed into a category of non importance as it relates to the cultural norms and where cultural origins and formulations of society deny or ignore significant, constituent components of that same history.
This form of ‘Internationalism’, seen from the region, is predominately driven by a north American perspective where funding is supported by institutions linked to universities or colleges and museums whose emphasis claim to represent a Caribbean diaspora hence the wide catchment areas of these themed exhibitions. The very real possibility of collapsing the Caribbean into this new world space in actual fact leaves the physical, actual Caribbean behind or out of the question of relevance. Does a physical Caribbean exist as a tangible lived place? Is it of interest to anyone? Does its history, memory and the daily grind of the imaginary and by extension its future have a place in the story of Caribbean Art?
These particular concepts of the global Caribbean which have been applied to contemporary art I believe run the risk of over determining the Caribbean, as they operate entirely in the realms of theory and abstraction neglecting both concrete events and processes that are occurring in the present. The result is a reduction of the reality of life and the overshadowing of the daily engagements ‘on the ground,’ while ignoring the possibility of developing narratives at the source and site of continued contestation. This is a significant omission in Caribbean art.
The fact that some institutions in the Caribbean region seem to be encouraging the production of work to meet market needs in the forms of this outward\international looking audience means to some extent that younger artists are in danger of denying their lived realities in order to find acceptance in this more globalized space. It is also possible to consider that lived realities are possibly now being constructed in this virtual space and the actual physical space does not represent a significant reality in any form. This formulation however does not factor in sufficiently the economic dimension to the production that drives this form of creativity which is still enacted at the ‘local’. There is still a general understanding that without resources, infrastructure, funding, a certain ease of travel, access to technological systems, easy involvement and access to this virtual world the production possibilities could and will be compromised or limited to available infrastructure. This then introduces and renders an unsustainable element to the production because it is predicated ultimately on an economic assumption of stability at the site of production. The idea of economic stability for the inhabitants of the region has always been a contested notion.
With this avenue of visibility secured the acceptance factor now becomes an issue, and another dynamic unfolds. What is happening in fact in these societies is the changing face to adapt to a situation of dominant and dominated. These themed shows essentially occupy a peripheral place in the global art markets if and when they make their appearances they are essentially, tacked on to ‘bigger ideas’ coming from those centers, filling the appropriate category for Caribbean art relegated to interloper status on the international circuit, the aura of provincialism clinging to the entries, as borne out by the lack of positive reviews or international dealerships coming out of the shows, if and when they are acknowledged, in the [inter]national press..
This paradoxical situation of wanting to belong and being dissatisfied at the level of belonging can be traced to the degree of control determined by Institutional involvement and management in the region. How much autonomy does the region have when presenting itself? What are the policies that determine involvement? Who are the facilitators? How do we represent ourselves? All of these questions are tied to a great extent to local institutional policy and decision.
The very agents who help to generate production in the region through institutions, and the roles they have played and continue to play, in shaping and developing artistic production have to be considered ready for re- evaluation if we are to remain optimistic about artistic sustainability.
The Institutions: Globalization: United Kingdom and Caribbean Art.
Stuart Hall states that in culture, the polarizing tendencies-present everywhere in that highly contradictory formation called ‘globalization’, between the pull towards fundamentalism, ethnic and religious particularism on the one hand and the homogenizing, evangelizing assimilations on the other, have left the ground in between more embattled. On the other hand, the black diaspora arts stand in a more engaged position in relation to contemporary art practice, in part because the art world has been obliged to become more ‘global’, though some parts of the globe remain, in this respect, more ‘global’ than others.
The institutional involvement of the Caribbean with Britain, that started in the colonial period essentially the post war years, has continued to the present and charts the socio-cultural involvement through the Arts from dependent territories through to Independent states. Institutional structures were initiated through the British Council, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Commonwealth Institute and continuity therefore was determined by collaborations. The local infrastructural educational component and the international opportunities for exposure were some of the ways the region benefited from the arrangements. The reciprocal benefits to Britain can be assumed to be in the areas of showing the absorption of multicultural influences in the society, a consequence of the colonial involvement. In 1948 what was originally the Commonwealth of Nations under the colonial British crown was reconfigured as the Commonwealth of Independent Nation. Amongst its mandate was to create cultural, educational and economic exchanges and the Commonwealth Institute became an important venue.
Initially, this commonwealth generation of artists, those who went to Britain, had some measure of support and recognition. The varying outcome for most of the artists is testimony to the uncertain value of their acceptance as part of a British Art avant-garde in the 60’s, ‘reputations’ even now still being debated. Jean Fisher in her thought provoking essay on the Exhibition in 1989 ‘The Other Story’ , a survey Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery curated by Rasheed Araeen , suggests other reasons for this falling off of interest. One main reason was that by 1973 the British Government had lost its enthusiasm for the Commonwealth as an economic and cultural market and joined the European Community. At the same time it was increasing political associations with the U.S.A, and the Caribbean was dropped off the cultural list of important areas.
The Commonwealth Institute continued along with reduced activities in spite of these difficulties of funding and support and one of the first major International Art events for the region coming out of Britain was the exhibition “1492 -1992 a new look at Caribbean Art” which was sponsored and facilitated by and with the assistance of the Commonwealth Institute.
This event still has a particular significance for me in both personal and professional terms as I was a participating artist representing Barbados in this exhibition and it was also the year I relocated to Barbados after being a London based artist for two decades. This was the first Exhibition of work from the region to Europe to reflect on post colonial legacies with a global audiences, and it was really conceptualized as an event to ‘celebrate’ the bicentennial of Columbus’ arrival in the new world. This resulted in a number of contested situations in the region that challenged this ‘celebratory’ position of the Exhibition, and there were deliberately staged alternative exhibitions that suggested other stories of his arrival in the region for example [Haiti/500 Years ] Although well intended, and global in its reach, the disappointments that did occur at the site of this ‘International’ exhibition again showed how there was a[dis]connection between local and global expectations for Caribbean Arts.
It has been noticed that the last decade, at the turn of the century, has brought about an important shift which came with the emergence of black British artists born in Britain with the same Commonwealth Caribbean genealogy. Unlike the commonwealth generation of artists, they have insisted in getting their voices heard and articulating their relevance to British society through Art and Education, possibly because there was ‘nowhere to return to’ the option opened to, offered and taken by some commonwealth artists of the previous generation. This is indeed a considerable achievement given the relative economic disadvantages and socio-political hostilities directed at this group of British citizens during this period.
They in turn have demonstrated an acknowledgement of past legacies and have moved to forging links with the Caribbean by setting up initiatives for bringing educational and exhibition possibilities to the region through this shared historical connection of Black Diaspora Visual Arts. The International Curators Forum, an open conceptual network was designed to meet the needs of emerging issues of curatorial practice of key events in the International circuit, and they have extended this interest to areas that were previous colonies. In essence it is this British Commonwealth connection, the history that links Britain to its former colonies that presents the possibility of connectivity at the critical site of cultural convergence. It is through institutions like this, in my view, that sustainability can be considered through the creative linking of resources and educational opportunities which are bilateral, collaborative and discursive in approach.
The Local /Global Alliance: The Idea of the Commonwealth as a site of regeneration.
What I would now like to propose is the notion of the ‘commonwealth’ as a site of hope, a cultural institution if you like, but in fact it is more “The ideals of a Commonwealth’’ in the sense of mutual exchanges based on a recognition of personal shared identities through the entanglements of a colonial legacy, the complicated history of local, global Imperialists entanglements. This acknowledgement I believe is crucial in the English speaking Caribbean and Barbados in particular.
In a very interesting and thought provoking essay on the legacies of colonialism Ruth Craggs concludes her extensive investigations by suggesting that a Commonwealth which insists on its modernity and its break from the past, yet continues to unquestioningly utilize ideas which originated in the Imperial discourse and practice will struggle to overcome the deep inequalities and problematic relationship on which these ideas are based. In summary a Commonwealth open but critical of its Imperial heritage can be more successful in its stated aims of reducing economic and political inequality.
These ideas which argue for bringing the Commonwealth as an idea or an area of cultural involvement into critical view, fostered through sites and schemes such as Exhibition spaces and financial support for scholarship would promote an understanding of the networks that continue to link Britain to its former colonies creating what could possibly be seen as a creative bridge between the local and the global.
This area of reflection on ideas and analysis, particular descriptions of shared experiences can create a site of shared heritage which I believe is an avenue to consider for growth and sustainability as both sides of the story will have to be articulated with regard to their present positions.
In conclusion, funding and sponsorship which looks at a shared responsibility, as opposed to one which dictates the terms of engagement based on narrow concepts of ‘inclusion,’ which in essence means that the region should try to ‘catch up’ into an established mainstream, therefore holds out to my mind more hope for Arts communities in the Caribbean.
An Esthetics of Place or Visual Arts as Post Colonial Response
Octavio Paz states that Art cannot be reduced to the land, the peoples and the time that produces it never the less it is inseparable from them. It escapes history, but is marked by it. Place then sets the frame of reference for the analysis, and location matters, because the drama of colonization took place somewhere.
Painting exists generally in these post modern times in a constant curious relationship between its present situation deemed passé, or moribund and its past heritage of traditional importance. Did it ever have credibility in the Caribbean as an artistic form? Its continual presence allows us however to review the various ways of viewing the ‘past’ in the region and by virtue of the short period of modern developments in the visual arts, it can therefore function first and foremost as a reflective field.
Why are they still painting when all around technology seems to have determined the means of artistic communication? This simple answer is that this direct way of constructing forms of representation speaks to an engagement, a bodily engagement, a ritual that has its roots in a particular place and time. It also acknowledges the accumulation of related experiences through a sustained involvement with the medium. The works therefore suggest how this artistic production located within local histories and memories helps us deconstruct particular readings of history, and how historical content can be the catalyst used to inform artistic creations. This reinterpretation or [re]presentation heightens our awareness and sensitivities and leads us to the formation of new realities.
Images of Place: Transformations of History and Culture
The chattel house and the colonial plantation figure, two iconic images of the colonial past and the present, are separated by a gulf of historical details. These details of personal observation, art historical references, and collective images of cultural domestic details, serve as an anchor to these two polarities. The narrative therefore is one of separate existences in the same place although a shared history links them. The fact that they are presented together in one piece creates a stark graphic image of social separation, a separation the artist insists is still present and leaves the field open to speculation of each areas consciousness of the other’s existence.
These works although painted in the early 90’s still carry a strong cultural emotional charge, as they still refer to an actual, present landscape activity. Formally they also carry a dual aesthetic quality that of figuration and abstraction, without loss of clarity of the symbolic idea. Workers are completely integrated into the body of the works so as to make them almost indistinguishable from the land .The workers of the land becoming or transformed into the land. A potent series of paintings which to my mind gives layers of meaning to the expression ‘shaping the land’ or ‘sons and daughters of the soil’ and the notion that identity is intricately intertwined with the land and its history.
HISTORY and MEMORY : KELLMAN
The iconic image of the East Coast of Barbados, consumed by visitors and locals alike presents an image as a form of engagement with the history of local visual interpretations of the island. This is then deconstructed to allow an engagement with perceptions of the island. Outsider views of ‘tropical paradise’, are transformed into ‘ insider’ personal memories and reflections of the land and sea and associations of the Black Atlantic. By working with the two ideas simultaneously the past is unfolded into the present and offers a reinterpretation of a ‘past’ determined iconography while providing a visual gateway to other forms of representations of the history of the place .The pleasure paradise is then deconstructed to gesture to the alternate reading of the Atlantic as a reminder of the middle passage to these shores, the cultural memory of death carried in these waters.
From the Mud and Flowers Series
Reflections of presences that have shaped the land through the material remains as a form of remembrance, the land as a form of embodiment of cultural memory. These fields are essentially graveyards to the previously enslaved population, the negro yards, their material remains transformed into Mud. Memory here is being described as that fluid negotiation between the desires of the present and legacies of the past. An attempt to represent the island that is neither the interpretation of an imposed colonial model or archetype nor a false category of a mythic nostalgic past, but rather an expression that allows memory to re- anchor and therefore hopefully to create a sense of belonging, bringing peace at sites of contestation.
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