August 29, 2016
The results of months of planning and international cooperation between Austrian students and College of the Bahamas students, along with investment from the International Development Bank (IDB), the plans by the Sustainable Nassau Urban Lab were launched on Friday 29 July, 2016, at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
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August 25, 2016
You’ll hear them before you see them. First the trumpets and tubas, then the tom toms, then the bass drums and, finally, the cowbells and whistles.
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August 23, 2016
The Second Annual Summer Goombay Festival came to a close on Saturday, August 20, and was dubbed by Director of Tourism for Grand Bahama, Betty Bethel -- “a success.”
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August 22, 2016
Residents and visitors alike gathered in West Grand Bahama for the closing of the Goombay Summer Festival.
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August 22, 2016
CAPTAIN Tellis Bethel Sr., author of 'The Lucayan Sea: Birthplace of The Modern Americas', says telling the important story of The Bahamas is one of 21 reasons to name the waters surrounding the country The Lucayan Sea.
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August 19, 2016
In recent years, ceramic art has resurfaced and undoubtedly gained renewed respect internationally within contemporary art. For Bahamian ceramicist Alistair Stevenson, this is an exciting time to be pursuing studies at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in Jingdezhen, China, a world-famous historical capital city of porcelain.
As Stevenson approaches his fourth year of studies, he reflects on moments and decisions over the years that have shaped his academic and creative journey. He first developed an interest in China in 2009 through a course offered by West Virginia University that included a three-week studio experience in Jingdezhen. In 2012 the support of sponsors like The D'Aguilar Art Foundation, and The Charitable Arts Foundation allowed Stevenson to embark on this trip, which solidified his dream of studying in China.
Stevenson began his programme in 2013 at the Nanjing Normal University, Jiangsu Province, China, with a focus on intensive language studies. He remembers it being a very difficult transition but a period that allowed him to fully embrace the culture. "My secret to learning the language was to forget completely everything I knew and like a child, I learned to embrace the new culture with no preconceptions."
A year later, Stevenson moved to Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute, where he pursued his Bachelor's Degree in Ceramic Art as the only international student on the programme. Initially, he was anxious with the language barrier of learning in academic Chinese. Although the first few months were tough, he now sees the value it played in nurturing his cultural appreciation and academic maturity. After developing close relationships, becoming proficient in the language and accustomed to Chinese traditions, he now looks forward to developing his professional practice in China and The Bahamas after his studies.
His adaption to Chinese traditions has translated to the creative methodology and concepts driven in his work. Stevenson has geared much focus on ceramic techniques with an intention to create more refined pieces. "I haven't gotten to where I want to be as yet, but I've learned to be more calm and patient in my approach to the work."
In much of his earlier work, Stevenson had a 'heavy hand' producing sculptural pieces that leaned more toward organic imperfection than refinement. Back then he was more concerned with articulating and experimenting with the natural form. In his "Growth Series," produced in 2013, he used basic shapes and patterns inspired by natural seed-like forms found in trees and corals. Although he sometimes revisits themes of nature and the environment in his work, a distinct shift in style and aesthetics is evident throughout his past two collections.
This year, Stevenson's ceramics moves toward his interest in translating fine art organic forms to man-made designs in an effort to explore the commercial ceramics market. Produced while living in China the work uses the process of mold making on a production scale a method very new to him. "I love mold making. There is the opinion that every element of the work should be made by the hand of the artist, but there are painters who use projectors and for them, these act as a metaphorical mold for their process."
His upcoming show "Pomp and Pageantry" opens at Doongalik Studios on Thursday, August 25th at 6:00 p.m. The work examines the burden of beauty perceived and bestowed by modern society and uses ornate sculptural ceramic jewels to translate its concept of flamboyance. "I have created exaggerated jewelry-like pieces that promote this idea through their showy, boisterous porcelain 'beads' of plain white, celadons, and pre-historic pit-fired finishes."
The show will be on display at Doongalik Studios until Monday, September 19th. There will also be an Artist Talk on Sunday, August 28th, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. discussing the work, Stevenson's collaboration with Creative Nassau and his experiences living and studying in China.
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August 18, 2016
Throughout history from the days of men drawing on cave walls to today’s A-listers tweeting their every move, people have recorded their history and told their story by whatever means were available at the time of the telling.
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August 12, 2016
As we see the world reaching its boiling point politically, socially, and environmentally, it is sometimes difficult to know where to place ourselves as such a small nation with a limited influence in the world.
However, there is a certain strength to be found outside this spotlight: we are not a global powerhouse, but we are guerrillas; we are grassroots, itinerant, we are organically growing and shifting communities. Most importantly, we are accessible, magic even, and we are real, despite the manicured image we constantly perpetuate and reform to sustain our life-blood, the insipid tourism industry.
These grass roots and our rhizomatic network of interconnectedness in the Caribbean region helps us to look at what Edouard Glissant, the late Martiniquais poet and philosopher, refers to as the poetics of relations. Glissant speaks to the rhizomatic, the way that we know and relate to each other and ourselves in this complex and ever-renegotiating region.
This uninhibited, gung-ho approach shows itself in the homegrown art centres in the region, with Popopstudios International Centre for the Visual Arts (ICVA) here in Nassau being a pioneering example.
Fresh Milk in Barbados, Alice Yard in Trinidad, Tembe in Suriname, Beta-Local in Puerto Rico, L'Artocarpe in Guadeloupe, NLS in Jamaica, Ateliers '89 in Aruba, and our beloved Popopstudios ICVA, are all thriving and making great strides in promoting a sense of cohesion, support and inclusivity in their respective art communities. More often than not, spaces like Popop use their limited resources, working within quite modest means, and still prove capable of producing a calibre of work and workspace that is as rigorous as it is vibrant.
To see the potential in these conditions, one can only hope for spaces like this to flourish, as Duke Wells, the Managing Director of Popop shares his hopes for the future. "I would like to see Popop continue to be at the forefront of the art community in The Bahamas by providing an environment that acts both as an incubator for young emerging artists and a creative refuge for our more established artists. We need additional funding so Popop can thrive, not just survive." And thriving it is indeed.
In its 17 years of existence, the studios and gallery quite literally take residence in a historic home, boasting 2 acres of land to accommodate artworks inside gallery spaces along with ample natural areas to support outdoor works. Popop is nestled in the middle of Chippingham, an area known for its history, the studio itself is a stone's throw away from Fort Charlotte and Ardastra Gardens.
The space feels like home for more than just its founder and Creative Director, John Cox. The sense of community has continued to strengthen over the past decade, and Cox is excited to see the space hit new strides this year with its 21-strong community, including creative workers young and old alike. The youngest being the high school and college residency award winners, and the most wizened include none other than our national treasure, Kendal Hanna, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year.
Popop is a breeding ground for diversity with creative practitioners working across a vast and varied spectrum of practices. There are painters - abstract,
contemporary, realist; there are sculpture and installation artists; there are jewelry makers; there are artists working in photography and film. The space has become a sort of microcosm of artistic experimentation with a vibe that challenges and inspires its denizens, be they new arrivals or long-standing members of the Popop family, who have seen its growth over the years and stayed along for the ride for this new trajectory.
Cox shares, "We are at this Shiva-like moment where everything is getting destroyed to be ready for the moment of rebirth." We have always been a region of shifting tides and learning to adapt, so it seems fitting that our art scene follows suit and goes through the peaks and troughs of life as we all learn to find our footing.
Continuing Cox iterates, "I think that we are a part of a regional infrastructure that recognizes similar needs and as a result of that kind of collective recognition of what the creative community needs at the time, it affords us the opportunity to share and learn from each other's experiences, successes, and failures. When you look at all the other regional initiatives that have been underway the last decade, it is interesting to have these parallel experiences and it brings you much more together."
Though we often feel so tied up in our national narratives, there are points where we become more cognizant of our Caribbean pride. We all share common histories shaped by a particular moment connected to colonisation and these shared experiences help us to explore affinities and likeness, leading to awareness. We are a Caribbean family, and our art communities hold much more of a sense of kinship than people might realise.
We are a country and region that can often make ourselves hard to love, but it is the faith of those who refuse to allow us to wallow in our sense of self-dissatisfaction that helps give us hope, as Cox says: "I do believe in the region. I know it can be burdensome, it can be seen as a shackle to some, or something that boxes you in, but I also think it can give you an opportunity to find a unique voice, because the Caribbean is a unique space that's under-negotiated, and people don't quite understand the complexity of it. I feel like the world gets the CliffsNotes for the Caribbean, even though we celebrate the extended versions for North America and Europe. I kinda feel like it is time for us to get the extended version of 'us' and these grassroots institutions are at the root of that."
Back in the '70s, the artist Daniel Buren infamously challenged the deified and romanticised notion of the studio - the place where art was toiled over by the lonely, tortured artist, before being plucked up from its place of birth and growth and into the seemingly clinical white cube style gallery. Buren made a proclamation for doing away with the studio and, at the time and in Western art society, it made sense to produce more site-specific, space-specific work.
However, in looking at the loving and challenging nature of Popop, the way that its studio community builds up and helps to critically inform each other away from the limiting and perhaps inappropriate ideals and laws of more classically western-style art institutions; the studios at Popop are not spaces to simply make work and build a practice in a solitary manner.
The spaces at Popop are a think-tank and vehicle for producing, informing, and shaping the Bahamian art ecology, helping us to make sense of it, and providing an exciting space for free thought and experimentation.
The studios are the gallery, the gallery is a studio, and the studios and grounds are home.
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August 12, 2016
Emerging Bahamian artist Angelika Wallace-Whitfield continues her summer tradition of returning to Nassau to work and create art as a means to assist in funding her academic pursuits. Currently enrolled in the BA (Hons) History & Philosophy of Art programme at The University of Kent in Canterbury, England, she plans to graduate next year and go on to pursue her postgraduate studies.
Once completing a doctorate, Wallace-Whitfield hopes to teach at The College of The Bahamas. Her love for art and teaching prompted her decision to join The School of Arts at Kent, which has a global reputation for innovation in teaching, research and a History of Art programme ranked 8th in England.
She has enjoyed the programme's interdisciplinary learning experiences and considered her field trip to the Venice Biennial's 56th International Art Exhibition to be one she will never forget. The event is one of the most prestigious international contemporary art exhibitions in the world, attracting artists, collectors, and art enthusiasts alike. For Wallace-Whitfield, this was indeed a unique opportunity to visit Italy and view works produced by 136 artists representing 53 countries, including Bahamian artist Lavar Munroe who, with the support of the NAGB, exhibited works in the Central Pavilion under 'All the World's Futures'. "The entire experience was amazing, but it was especially awesome to see Lavar Munroe's work like "Pinocchio's Half Sister" in that setting."
Although The University of Kent offers a plethora of study and work abroad opportunities, Wallace-Whitfield always looks forward to returning home during her breaks. "I come home every summer because I have to work to financially support myself through the next academic year. I want to continue to be a part of this ever-flourishing art community here in Nassau." This summer she spent most days between her studio creating new work and The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) assisting with their summer camp. Wallace-Whitfield has always been committed to the Bahamian art community in her former roles as a curator at The D'Aguilar Art Foundation and a gallery assistant at NAGB, but foremost as a practicing artist.
For the past two summers, Wallace-Whitfield has exhibited new works not solely to fund her studies, but as any artist to share her creative journey. In 2014, her solo show 'Moments and Movements' was concerned with the abstract gesture and focused on the notion of animal instincts to communicate a transition period in her life. In the 2015 group show 'Flourish,' her work demonstrated gratitude for those who supported her and she used the poinciana tree has a figurative reference to draw comparisons with the tree's role in nature to that of the role donors play in the local art community.
Wallace-Whitfield's current solo show, 'Through The Screen Door,' was conceived on Popopstudios' doorstep, during metaphorical talks on love, life, and human interactions.
"We spoke of allowing people onto our porch, but continuously leaving the screen door closed, as a protective mechanism. In the physical sense, Popop's screen door encompasses an obscure sacredness: a space of liberation to be and to create, without judgment or objection. Visuals within the show are all informed by the permanent and transitory visuals found in and around Popop, as a home for so many creative souls. Popop has an intrinsic belonging to the community. The works are a collaged response to the space and the interactions that happen within the space. Walking through the property, artworks and referents are left by the many that move through the space. Because of the community's influence upon the work, I wanted the work to remain gestural; brushstrokes as indexical evidence of the artist's presence."
'Through the Screen Door' opened on Friday, August 12th at Popopstudios ICVA and featured a performance by Bahamian musician KEEYA. The show will run for two weeks.
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August 12, 2016
Nassau will come alive with the sound of music this month when 13 choirs from eight different countries gather on August 21st – 31st for the America Cantat 8 Bahamas International Choral Festival.
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August 10, 2016
An estimated 100 business and political luminaries in Prince George’s County, Maryland, attended “An Evening in The Bahamas” cocktail reception on Monday, August 8, 2016, at the Fort Washington, Maryland, home of Ms. Paulette Zonicle, Bahamas Consul General to Washington, D.C.
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August 10, 2016
AS their country celebrated 54 years of Independence on Saturday, Jamaicans residing in Grand Bahama commemorated the anniversary with a "Jamaican style" worship service yesterday morning at the New Life Worship Centre on Coral Road.
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August 09, 2016
In observance of Annual Fox Hill Day celebrations, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie and members of the Cabinet visited churches in Fox Hill – St. Paul’s Baptist Church, St. Mark’s Native Baptist Church, Mt. Carey Union Baptist Church, and Macedonia Baptist Church, where they enjoyed some of the day’s light moments -- choral singing by children, a song rendition at St. Paul’s Baptist Church by Social Services Minister the Hon. Melanie Griffin, ‘Join-in-the-dance’ fun and merriment – and glasses of cool limeade ('switcha').
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August 09, 2016
Minister of Foreign Affairs & Immigration the Hon. Fred Mitchell participates every year in Glenda’s Road Race in Bimini.
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August 08, 2016
AS their country prepares to celebrate 54 years of Independence on Saturday, Jamaicans residing in Grand Bahama will commemorate the anniversary with a "Jamaican style" worship service on Sunday.
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August 05, 2016
By 2050 the world sea levels are expected to rise a staggering amount, leaving low-lying areas like our archipelago nation to question our future existence and the way we live on this planet, not to mention the millions of people who could be displaced by this gradual flooding.
Global environmental pressures are reaching a steady climax, and we are faced with having to change the ways we live to secure a more sustainable future, not just environmentally, but economically as well. A labor of love that began with talks in 2011 and formal research and investigation in 2013, the contributors to 'A Sustainable Future for Exuma' project - a collaborative effort between the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and The Bahamas National Trust in part - stress that the project is by no means a finished body of work. However, it is to live on in the initial community engagements started years ago. A living thing, seemingly organic in its production, 'A Sustainable Future For Exuma' will hopefully continue to live on and inspire and change the way we think of taking care of ourselves and our beloved Bahamas. The project, in exhibition format, will be open for view at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas starting on Tuesday, August 9th and run through October 2016.
Culture and collaboration are at the heart of this project, and two of the members of this extensive dream-team were kind enough to share their experience. Mariano Gomez Luque (Research Associate and Curator) and Robert Daurio (Research Associate, Project Manager and Coordinator, and Curator) have both expressed not just their sheer enjoyment at participating in this Sustainable Exuma project, but the satisfaction and complexity of working with a team of over 200 people - and especially the residents of the Exumas who they worked so closely with.
Gomez Luque explains that the project, borne of a request put forth by the government to participate as part of the development of a land use plan for the nation, used the Exumas as a case study in family island life, and that the project itself was multifaceted. 'A Sustainable Future for Exuma' exists at an intersection of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and urban design, with an ethnographic or people-centered approach. They went out 'in the field', as the terminology goes, and quickly learned that open dialogue amongst residents soon proved to be dominated by big characters, and opted for a more intimate one-on-one approach.
Daurio shared how the field research and engagement with Exuman locals proved meaningful on a personal level, "It was just fantastic being able sit down with people and hear things that you're not going to be able to read in a textbook or pick up from the internet, to experience the knowledge that people have gained from generations and generations of living in a place."
Oral tradition is deeply ingrained into the weaving of Bahamian history and culture, and to have so many of these stories and local knowledge archived and documented - as can be seen when first entering the exhibition amongst the paired field-notes, index cards and illustrations - is inexplicably important to creative and historical causes alike all over the country.
Clearly, dealing with so many different people provides a certain level of difficulty in managing the project, but this isn't just your average academic venture, as he says, "What is important is that it isn't a typical academic project, it isn't something you develop within the bubble of the university exclusively. It was experimental in the sense that we tried to open that dialogue up and go beyond the bubble and incorporate so many other people in the process. It can make things more messy and complex but ultimately more rewarding and the knowledge, if there is any knowledge out of the project, is collectively produced."
It is clear from the enthusiasm of all involved that the project is something near and dear to everyone's hearts, and the sense that every participant feels completely invested in the possibilities coming out of the project is palpable.
The 'toolbox' of ideas and strategies for sustainable everyday life in The Bahamas as presented in the exhibition is far from complete. "We did not want to convey the sense that the exhibition was a finished project -even if the project formally is coming to an end -the most important aspect of it is the afterlife. What is going to happen with it after it is done and we will see how successful we were in giving these tools to people to use them."
Gomez Luque shares with tentative hopefulness. It is not just something close to him but also serves as a reminder of those in the project who will not be able to share in its afterlife as they embark upon their own. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Jose Maria Ortiz Cotro, one of Harvard University's research associates who worked tirelessly along with the rest of the team who sadly passed away earlier this year.
It goes without saying that there have been some particularly moving and difficult challenges along the way. However, it was not all doom and gloom during the hard times as Daurio enlightens us of the particular instance involving the 12 chicken coops installed in schools and around the Exumas. Apparently, one chicken went mysteriously unaccounted for, but the remaining chickens are dutifully laying eggs already, which is proving quite exciting for locals and project members alike.
The project is segmented into several sections, including energy, agriculture, water production, socio-cultural traditions, and food production to name a few. The sections could go on and on, but thankfully the curators have presented the information in a concise and accessible manner, reflecting the inclusiveness of the project with the Bahamian public, and it is everyone's hope that the project does not just exist in theory but starts to take root around the islands.
Daurio shares his hopes that "Because the National Development Plan is taking place right now it would be exciting to have them take on what we have been developing. They have spoken about using our method of actually going out in the field and speaking with people as opposed to dry surveys, so that's quite an incredible thing for me. It is a challenge not just for The Bahamas but for many places that are going through really big environmental challenges,' It Is important to think about the generations after us and what kind of world we want to leave for them. I think that many people have great hopes for the future, but it is about getting policy makers, politicians and companies on board with those ideas and their help." With the information being presented with clarity as well as such a sleek design, we can all hope that they get on board too.
Writer and activist Rebecca Solnit is one of the many authors featured in the cozy reading nook installed in the Northern wing of the gallery. Her iconic 'Field Guide To Getting Lost' sits amongst other worthy authors on the shelf. To quote this lauded work, she speaks of how "The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost." It is clear to see from this exhibit that 'A Sustainable Future For Exuma' elucidates that blue and reminds us of what is truly important - community, collaboration, and living sustainably for our future generations. The blue we regain and come to know here isn't just the blue of those things lost, but the blue of the waters of the Exumas that is featured throughout the design, reminding us of the extreme importance of our duty to preserve this beauty we are so lucky to have.
As a young nation wanting to come into our adulthood, perhaps these are some of the tools to help us learn to look after ourselves, to take care of ourselves as well as our neighbors. Looking after our country is not just a selfish endeavor, we are all global citizens and indebted to living in as altruistic a manner as possible, learning to thrive together.
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August 05, 2016
Exuma-blue waters, white sandy beaches and ruins overlooking magnificent views: Exuma has become the new place to vacation in The Bahamas, but Georgetown has had that honor since the 20th Century: it was the chic place to be. Offering a beach on the Tropic of Cancer that can compete with any in the world, Exuma is now the home of an all-inclusive Sandals resort that replaced the former four-star Four Seasons Emerald Bay that was beleaguered by labour problems and closed when it was unable to function at its customary high standards of excellence. Chat and Chill along with many small businesses offer entertainment and great food. Tourists look for local culture, not international packaged culture for mass consumption.
Exuma is a gem of unique culture. It is at once the home of the ruins of the plantation where the enslaved Pompey was meant to have risked his life to rebel; along with some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and a rich cultural suitcase of cays and rocks, Exuma is if nothing, truly exquisite.
The cays also boast some of the most infamous places in The Bahamas. Exuma saw one rise to fame with the late 1970s early 1980s drug trafficking boom. Norman's Cay became synonymous with drugs and guns, and the government was revealed to have intimate relations with drug dealers as the notes from the Commission of Enquiry would later reveal, and as NBC News charged. The Bahamas, as history would attest, was a hotbed of illegal activity. The numerous seaplanes and sunken boats attest to this. These also lent a particular bent to the stories of Exuma. Sadly, many of these drug-era relics have now been removed. The tales of drug lords on Norman's Cay are far less complete without the tangible part of history.
The Rolle plantation is a site well worth visiting. The escaped enslaved, Pompey, speaks directly to the theory that slavery was more gentle in The Bahamas, and therefore slaves did not resist nor did they rebel. Pompey was one of those slaves who did both and led an important revolt on that island. He was later flogged.
We think little of the traumatic culture and the culture of violence inherited from the scars of slavery because, again according to many, it was simply too far away. The importance of tangible heritage to be able to reconcile the past with the present becomes clear. Exuma holds a great deal of tangible heritage, from the Bowe plantation to the Pompey statue and the Rolle plantation.
Though better maintained than the historical sites on San Salvador, the history of Exuma is also under threat of erasure. The culture is rich in piracy and exploitation, but it has turned slowly to land theft and direct foreign ownership. The Exumas, made up of mainland Exuma, George Town and Little Exuma along with the cays, has incredible rocks that span from North to South. Many of these cays were already under private ownership before the Bahamas becoming an independent country in 1973. Some were gifts by the Royals to other members of the royal family and some purchased by wealthy individuals for their private pleasure. This is once again becoming a serious matter of concern on the Exumas as cays are swallowed up by wealthy land speculators and all-inclusive developments that seek to create a four-star Paradise out of natural Paradise.
The government is thrilled to sell, as are realtors. Sadly, this changes the geography of the space and erases culture. As islands become private, Bahamians are marginalized, or they simply die out, and citizens can never revisit those now private enclaves.
As the cays disappear into a plethora of No Trespassing signs posted at the low water mark, it seems that Bahamian culture is challenged. These islands and rocks are the home of native plants that hold so many remedies and the livelihoods of great parts of communities.
The industry that we so often boast about as a cultural fixture is straw work. However, a great deal of the 'Top" is located on these now private cays and as they
become off limits to the folk, then the tradition they hold is lost. If straw is unavailable, then a great part of Bahamian cultural production is destroyed. As development increases, the built environment removes Thatch and Top, therefore, these steadfast remnants that require a certain amount of cultural leadership to hone one's skills in the art of straw plaiting; including the elders who can instruct in these arts and access the raw materials are the only things that will ensure that this industry survives.
Of course, there will be newer ways to create straw works, but the old ways will be eradicated. It is very much like historical artifacts being used to demonstrate the existence of a people before the present; if these are destroyed, buried by development, removed and burnt, or simply sold to the lowest bidder, they will never be accessible to Bahamians again.
Life on Exuma may be slower than on New Providence, but that is as it should be. There is no need for every island to have the same level of development. In discussions with locals, it became clear that many felt somewhat cut off from the tourist market. They have been, according to them, removed by the resorts that cater to every need of the visitor. Perhaps this is something that needs exploration! If resorts offer everything that tourists need, then why would they bother to leave the resort? How do locals - craft persons- benefit from them being beyond their reach?
From Farmer's Cay to the infamous Staniel Cay the islands are beautiful. Thunderball Grotto is a part of the tangible past. However, how many folks know about it? How many Bahamians will ever see it, or, for that matter, see 'Thunderball'?
The focus now is on swimming with the pigs, with the Stingrays and the powerboat adventure thrill.
As a child, the Exumas were perhaps as exclusive, but owning a boat seemed far easier than it is today. As this changes so does Bahamians relationship with the water. Already an extremely tenuous connection as many Bahamians do not swim and are quite afraid of the water, the disappearance of affordable access points makes the bond delicate. The ecology of culture and the ecology of place are irrevocably altered.
As has often been argued, we need a different development model. Tourism cannot carry the entire country, nor should it remove entire cays, rocks, and islands from our collective experience. In the Exumas, an increasing number of privately owned, high-end resorts are buying islands while claiming to be offering Bahamians employment.
How many people on Exuma have the education required to serve in a high-end resort? An IDB study in 2015 demonstrated that there was a shameful lack of soft skills required by high-end resorts on these islands. As the culture further shifts to support this model - away from self-reliance, fishing, and farming - the bigger the need for robust education that is tragically absent on most islands.
In fact, most islanders who wish to educate their children well are required to leave their homes and move to Nassau or abroad. Migration is a serious threat to Bahamian culture. Furthermore, those trained and educated minds who are forced to leave, often, do not return. This is a serious brain drain that threatens the country and its economy, and also results in the erasure of culture and identity. When people leave, their identity leaves with them and the culture obviously suffers.
As with many of the cays in the Bahamian family of islands, the depopulation is obvious. The return of older folks from Nassau coupled with primary school aged children that inhabit these spaces mean that there are fewer hands to wait tables, work the front desk, tend bars, manage operations and oversee entertainment in these resorts that promise Bahamians jobs.
Some of the plantation ruins left on Exuma speak to a heritage from slavery that is desired by tourists and visitors. Visitors post about it all the time. Sadly, they also post about removing parts of the Bahamian past to their homes in far off lands. More tragically, as we sell these pieces of history off, we lose the ability to create cultural stops in a world increasingly driven by investigating the history of destinations.
We also need people to speak about the history, folklore and long-standing traditions. When high school students can berate Bahamian tour guides for their lack of information and cultural understanding of the heritage sites they are meant to be promoting, we know that we have lost our way on the road to developing cultural tourism.
If we do not teach History or a good job of teaching Social Studies, we 'deculturate' our people and compromise the culture we so often boast about promoting. Can we still talk about hip-hopping through the Bahamas or will this be the exclusive preserve for foreign visitors and Disney tourists?
The culture is rich. However, it is deeply threatened by migration, emigration, and development as well as brain drain and the privatization of land. Lifestyles on Exuma may not appear to be changing, but the culture certainly is. The more empty houses that stand on these cays, barring local access to heritage sites, the less likely the nation is to succeed, and the more likely Bahamian culture is to be transformed into something other than what it is.
What would make this sustainable? How do Sustainable Exuma and the National Development Plan address these concerns?
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