Culture

Coloring the black box

July 25, 2014

First performed 40 years ago, in Berkeley, California, the magnitude of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" is still shaking up audiences today. The play - comprised of a collection of poems - tells the stories of seven women who each represent a color of the rainbow and who all have endured the injustices of a racist and sexist culture.
Making its return to The Bahamas for the second time since the 70s, "For Colored Girls" (FCG) is now being performed at The Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts under the directorship of Nicolette Bethel. The play is the second 2014 Ringplay Productions performance since the group began its revitalization efforts at the Dundas.
Bethel, head of the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work at The College of The Bahamas (COB), credits her COB students with providing the inspiration for her to bring the play back.
"I decided to do it (FCG) because I was teaching it, and the students responded so well to it that I thought, 'OK, well maybe we should do it for an audience'. I did it now because of the space. I wanted it to be in that space," said Bethel.
Serving as the christening event for the Dundas' new black box theater, "For Colored Girls" opened on July 18 in the intimate space. Seating approximately 80 persons, the stark theater has proved to be an optimal venue for plays like FCG, whose actors often break the fourth wall.
"We wanted a black box. We wanted theater in the round, and "Colored Girls" was just right for it," said Bethel.
Rated C for subject matter and language, Ringplay has been careful to keep Shange's poems within the walls of the cozy set; still the play has been making waves among Nassau's social circles. According to Bethel, the Bahamian public's reaction has been strong and overwhelmingly positive, particularly when compared with the play's reception in the 1970s.
"Women really, really respond well to this play, and the poor guys who come - they are on the spot the whole time. Shange, when she wrote it, got a huge backlash from the guys, from the men who came to see it. I haven't seen that here," said the director.
Similarly, Michaella Forbes, who delivers an enthralling monologue as Green in "Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff", has observed an impressive trend with the play's male audience members.
"As the days go by it, seems like more men are coming," she said. "At first it was maybe just one in each row, but now you're starting to see two and three, so that's a good thing. So I'm thinking the word's getting out there that it's not only for women, it's for men too. We make the men feel very uncomfortable for a second, but I think they get a lot of out of it when they leave."
Bethel has also seen demand from Bahamian mothers who are keen on bringing their daughters to the play, adding: "What's really interesting is the production is rated C, and we've had a number of inquiries from mothers who want to bring their pre-teen or teenage daughters to see this. But, of course they can't because its rated C and nobody under 18 is allowed. That's been a disappointment for many of these women."
Shange's poems are known for their moving effect on women across the globe; through this year's production, the Dundas has witnessed a poignant response from both actors and attendees.
"There are women who have been moved to tears, who feel that they've had some kind of cathartic experience, who said, 'I saw myself on the stage'," said Bethel. "This happens to the actresses. There was one night that we had a workshop and there were many tears, and one (actor) who I didn't think could even continue. It was that strong."
Hoping to heighten a sense of community through theater, Ringplay invited all members of the public to audition for FCG roles; the result was a cast featuring a range of experience from those making their return to the stage after several decades to theater pros like Claudette "Cookie" Allens. Bethel noted the theater company's difficulty in selecting actors from the large pool of talent; the challenge resulted in a cast of eight, rather than the traditional seven, colors.
The eighth character - Rainbow - is played by marine biology student Aleah Carey, who has found her way back to performing arts after many years. Last appearing in a kindergarten production, Carey can now be found playing the role of the colors' healer.
"From the experience altogether, I got that this is definitely something I'd like to continue. I didn't think I would be so into it, but I absolutely love it," said Carey. "From the play itself, I got that we women, we must be strong. We cannot let these men walk all over us."
The black box production also signaled a return to theater for actor Onike Archer, who described her role in Shange's play as a move that gave her "life". Ending a three-year acting hiatus with "For Colored Girls", she played the color Purple - a woman who expresses herself through dance - and performed the "Sachita" scene.
"I figured [that] this would probably be a good challenge, a stimulating challenge, to get me back up on the stage, so I had to go through the audition process like everybody else...to my surprise, I was selected. I think just getting back into performing, which is mainly my real and true passion, is the reason why I have found myself back in the performance circle after being away for three years," said Archer.
The last performance of "For Colored Girls" will be held at the Dundas tonight at 8 p.m. Those interested in finding out more about the play or other Ringplay Productions are encouraged to call the Dundas at 393-3728 or visit the Dundas' Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thedundas.

read more »

10 Questions

July 25, 2014



read more »

Preserving Nassau's neighborhoods

July 25, 2014

Nastassia Pratt wears many hats. A full-time assistant curator and graphic designer at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), the 29-year-old also makes time to paint, craft model homes and study architecture. The commitments come naturally for Pratt, whose passion lies in studying and recreating the traditional Bahamian homes found in inner-city neighborhoods.
Introduced to painting and architecture during her high school years at St. John's College, Pratt took part in the Royal Bank of Canada FINCO summer art workshop as a 12th grader. Under the supervision of legendary Bahamian artist Max Taylor, she got acquainted with watercolor painting. In the fall, the young artist moved on to pursue architectural studies at The College of The Bahamas; a year later, she transferred to Ryerson University, Toronto.
"I first started painting with watercolor in that workshop. Since then I've pretty much just been developing it. At first I did still-lifes, like the onions and the mangos, but when I really started my studies at Ryerson, I said I need to paint what I'm really passionate about and interested in."
Moving home in 2010 to raise money for her final year of university, Pratt has spent the past three years at the NAGB - an environment which has only served to fuel her enthusiasm for painting and local architecture. It seems the post may have helped her find her niche.
She held her first solo show, Home Sweet Home, in June 2013 at Popopstudios. The exhibition was a hit, and the sales from the event helped to pay off tuition fees from her earlier years at Ryerson. One year later, she hopes to repeat the success with a second show.
Based at the NAGB, Pratt's Nassau Facades opened in June. The exhibition features a series of watercolors showcasing existing homes in the Bain Town area. The paintings are complemented by a selection of Pratt's delicate model homes. For the aspiring architect, combining art and building design comes naturally.
"I think they both kind of play into each other in a way," said Pratt. "My art really informs my design, and I guess what I do in school is pretty much informed by art also."
So far, she's sold four paintings and one model house in the show, which ends on July 30. Fans of her work are justified in their admiration; Pratt has long been dedicated to putting in the work to make each piece special. When she's not at the NAGB, she can be found exploring Over the Hill neighborhoods in search of homes exuding the traditional architecture she finds captivating.
"Working here (at the NAGB), I do quite a bit of research and read quite a lot of books by Dr. Gail Saunders. So, reading the books, it just made sense to do houses, because it's like history and design," said Pratt. "I'm really intrigued by the homes in the older neighborhoods - like Chippingham, Bain Town - and I like to study them to the best of my abilities. I'm trying to make my way through different streets. I've been on Jail Alley and Anderson's, so I'm trying to somehow map it out."
She's only got a few more months to explore before taking a hiatus - the painter will be returning to Ryerson in the fall to complete her bachelor's degree in architectural science. She has hopes of returning in spring 2015 to contribute to the country's "creative fields". Feeling enticed by both painting and architecture, Pratt is still pondering the best method of combining the two areas for her career.
"The only person who I knew of doing anything similar past was Jackson Burnside. He was really the only person who I could have spoken to about this stuff, and he got it immediately," she said of the difficult decision.
Having been dissuaded in her earlier years from pursuing visual arts as full-time career, Pratt's position at the gallery has helped to change her perspective on the feasibility of painting as a profession.
"I was always told, 'Don't be an artist, you'll starve. You'll go hungry.' But seeing and speaking with artists like Max Taylor, Dionne Benjamin-Smith, and seeing how seriously they take their practice - that's their full-time job - and I started to take my practice more seriously. With my first show last year, I was like, 'This is a serious profession that I could take on'. And so far it's been fairly successful."
Looking up to some of The Bahamas' visual arts powerhouses, who include John Cox and NAGB Director Amanda Coulson, Pratt is grateful to have received a warm welcome from the arts community.
"One thing I love about this art community is they're very helpful and open. I'm a developing artist, and I'm still growing," She said. "I just hope that the art community can keep being true to themselves."
To find out more about Pratt, Nassau Facades and her other artwork, visit her Tumblr page at http://nastassiapratt.tumblr.com/. To see Nassau Facades in person before the show ends, visit the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

read more »

Connecting the Caribbean

July 19, 2014

Holly Bynoe chooses her words carefully and deliberately. The soft-spoken co-founder of ARC Magazine doesn't rush herself when she's got something to say. And, when the words do come to her, she has a knack for making the listener feel their significance, especially where art is concerned.
That's why, when she agreed to meet with me during her last visit to Nassau, on the verandah of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), I knew I could learn something about the role art continues to play across the Caribbean and throughout the diaspora.
A native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bynoe moved to Trinidad at 17 to study biochemistry. Unsatisfied with her academic choice, she transferred to Adelphi University in New York, where she found her way to photography through a communications degree. Years later, in addition to her work with ARC, Bynoe has gained respect for her short films, mixed-media works and work as a curator.
"It took me a long time to think about how my life would be valued by myself, trying to figure out what type of experience I would want to have throughout life, and if arts was the best way - and if it could have been valuable, not only as a matter of expressing oneself, but thinking about security, thinking about a community. It could be quite an isolating experience. Thankfully that hasn't been the case," she said.
Editor-in-chief of ARC, Bynoe has managed to weave a large network of artists across the islands and North America via the internationally-distributed publication. Established only three years ago, in 2011, ARC now reaches as far as the U.K.; Bynoe's hope is to get the word out about the region's art and artists.
"I think that people have a certain type of understanding about Caribbean art, and it's been stereotyped. And we have to debunk and remove these preconceived notions that did exist for a reason, and have existed, because we perpetuate it," she said.
Referring to work that has been pigeonholed as 'Caribbean' - often reflecting picturesque landscapes - Bynoe's hope is that ARC provides a space to showcase Caribbean peoples' intellect, cultural understandings and artistic talent.
"In The Bahamas, it's conch shells, sand, pretty paintings of the sun. It becomes really typical. But that's not really what the creative arena here is like...People are thinking; people are being critical; people are being political; people are being unafraid. They're trying to confront internalized issues, so having that platform to support that type of work gives the Caribbean a certain type of currency where we're no longer laissez-faire people who are just drinking rum on the beach. We're actually thinking critically about our experiences. For me, having the ability to move around the Caribbean and expose a public - who might be completely unaware - to the density of work is incredible."
For the past few years, she and ARC co-founder Nadia Huggins have been hard at work doing just that. In her travels throughout the West Indies and North America, Bynoe has not overlooked The Bahamas. The editor has made herself well acquainted with the local visual arts scene, featuring the works of several Bahamian artists on ARC's pages and dropping in at exhibitions and events.
Partnering with COB lecturer and artist Michael Edwards to curate this year's National Exhibition (NE7) at the NAGB, Bynoe's passion and sensitivity to art from the Caribbean diaspora will be channeled under the 2014 theme, which focuses on confronting and questioning modern notions of race, specifically blackness and whiteness.
The exhibition, expected to open November 6, will host works of Bahamian artists and artists of Bahamian descent. Bynoe, in her travels thus far, has been impressed with the size and unity of the local visual arts community.
"There's not a lot of fracturing (in The Bahamas). There's not a lot of decisiveness, not a lot of division. And you have people within the institution who want to work with these artists, so there's an openness to the business to think about the larger way in which the art will appear globally, as well," she said.
Citing a lack of alliance and support as one of the major challenges to artist communities in the region, Bynoe believes the key to changing the perception and awareness of Caribbean art throughout the world lies in collaboration.
"It's like small pond, big fish syndrome, where you have a little bit and you just fight and you breakdown your community, and it becomes something that no longer is a benefit to you. With a neutral platform like ARC there's a little bit of a diffusion with that. People are starting to see the bigger picture of the industry."
Like many Caribbean artists, Bynoe's ultimate goal is social change and progression throughout the nations, which she believes share similar challenges by virtue of a shared history. Fortunately, ARC's strong networking pull has already begun promoting dialogue amongst artists throughout the Caribbean states. Bynoe's hope is that the publication prompts the region's societies to begin to consider and value the power of art as a catalyst for positive societal evolution.
"When you offer an open platform and an open forum to start these discussions, we become self aware; we become valued; we become centered as a community, and we become introspective. With these four things manifesting themselves, you can change your country. You can change your family dynamic. You can change your relationships to people around you. So, essentially, it acts as a tool to navigate through life."

read more »

10 Questions

July 19, 2014



read more »

Thinking outside the beach

July 19, 2014

It's no big secret that so much of what is being marketed and sold in Downtown Nassau comes from countries many of us have never seen. A brief stroll on Prince George Wharf will reveal that many goods that have come from The Bahamas have often been robbed of their full lifespans - starfish drying out in the sun and underdeveloped conch shells are sold as cute trinkets.
This may be fine for visitors who are content with mass-produced T-shirts and rum-riddled drinks on the beach, but many are looking for a more genuine experience. And Bahamians, too, want validation that their country possesses history, culture and beauty beyond its sandy shores.
In 2012 Jaime Lewis took over from artist Jon Murray in working to close the gap in Bahamian cultural awareness. Beginning as Murray's Downtown Art Tours, the company now operates as Islandz Tours and is run by CEO Lewis and VP of Operations Orchid Burnside.
Managing four separate walking tours, Islandz hopes to provide participants with an authentic Bahamian experience - hence its motto, 'Think outside the beach'. Most of its patrons are cruise ship passengers who have a few precious hours to spend in the capital, and Burnside and Lewis have been putting in the work to make each minute count.
The Downtown Art Tour has been rebranded as Gallery Hop, and includes stops at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), Antonius Roberts' Hillside House and a quick break at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation or The Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Gallery. Participants are also given briefings on Downtown Nassau's historic passageways and Love My Bahamas public art murals.
For those looking to soak up the atmosphere with a bite to eat, the Art&Dine tour offers the best of both worlds. An all-inclusive option, explorers can have several of their senses delighted with the Gallery Hop followed by lunch at Hillside House, courtesy of The Distinguished Palate (open Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.).
For Burnside, the best thing about her job is meeting a variety of travelers on any given day. "I change their impression of The Bahamas. A lot of them have these preconceived notions, and they walk away feeling like they got a sense of our country," she said.
The enterprise also offers two alcoholic tours. The first is its Rum Runner's Passage. This walk features six rum tastings, two cocktails, conch fritters, rum-infused chocolates and guava duff spread over four locations. The second option, known as Bites on Booze Avenue - named aptly for Bay Street's 1920s pseudonym, is Islandz only tour that is offered in the evenings. Stopping at three downtown bars, participants are offered three shots of John Watling's rum, three cocktails featuring John Watling's rum and nibbles including mango-glazed fish, sushi, hot wings and conch fritters.
Lewis and Burnside are all about making learning fun - that's why they've got plans in the works for a new tour fit for anyone with a sense of adventure. The Nassau City Seeker is a scavenger hunt that affords those used to independent travel an opportunity to get off the beaten path. Competing for prizes like John Watling's rum, Tortuga rum cakes and Graycliff chocolates, participants will be given a map and an hour and a half to collect as many points as they can.
"I had one woman, for example, who got a free cruise (to New Providence) and she almost didn't take it because she hated Nassau," said Burnside. "And she thought it was just 20 T-shirts for a dollar everywhere, and all these people harassing you, and that the food wasn't that good. But she spent two hours with us, and she was like, 'Now I've seen a different side to your country, to this island, and I would come back again'."
All Islandz Tours walking expeditions range in price from $40-$70 and can accommodate groups of two to 10 persons. Those keen on learning more about Downtown Nassau's hidden gems and anyone interested in joining Islandz as a tour guide are encouraged to contact Lewis or Burnside at info@islandztours.com or visit the site online at islandztours.com.

read more »

The Dundas gets back in the ring

July 12, 2014

it's come a long way since Lady Dundas' years of training domestic servants and hotel maids on Mackey Street. Transformed by Meta Davis-Cumberbatch from a training center to a performing arts center in the 1960s, the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts is this year facing another kind of evolution.
Ringplay Productions, the theater's management group, has decided to revitalize the space formerly popularized in the 80s and 90s. Led by eight Dundas veterans, Ringplay's objective is to hold monthly performances at the theater; the plan comes after several years of seeing the space used sparsely as a rental facility and for a few weeks during the annual Shakespeare in Paradise season. Declared the 'year of culture' in The Bahamas, it seems only fitting for the group's initiative to begin in 2014.
Philip Burrows, a member of the management team, has been involved with the Dundas for more than three decades and has seen the center in its heyday. Burrows was artistic director of the theater from 1981 to 1997 and led the center's repertory season with former Dundas chairman, the late Winston Saunders.
Over those years, the season ran from January to May annually; it was known as a high time in Bahamian performing arts. The Dundas produced regular shows of distinction over 10-night runs; many participants were members of other established performing groups. The Dundas also served as a community center and a venue for summer schools and fairs. Saunders hoped to use the space as a training facility for aspiring thespians.
In 1997, following Burrows' departure for a teaching position in Canada, the repertory season slowly splintered and the Dundas experienced a significant decline in popularity. It has largely remained a rental venue since. The death of long-time theater manager, Betty Knowles, in March 2014 brought with it a realization that the center was in need of a revival.
Ringplay pushed full steam ahead with the first Dundas production since 1997, "12 Angry Men". The cast featured several acting novices, a handful of actors making their return to the stage after 20 years and a peppering of theater veterans.
Burrows was pleased with the event's turnout, noting the cast's eagerness to carry on through a blackout, which affected several parts of the island on Friday, July 4.
"We had the incredible evening of the Friday night, when the power went out at the beginning of Act 2," he said. "Cell phones illuminated the stage, and the guys didn't miss a beat and finished the performance, and it was a good return."
Another Ringplay project has been redesigning the old rehearsal hall into a black box theater - a feature Burrows believes is useful for small productions and theater in the round.
"It's always been an interesting thing to call this the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts, but only have one theater space on it. Now we're moving closer to it being a center," said Burrows.
The black box theater will host its first Dundas production on July 18 with the opening of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf".
For Ringplay, this is only the beginning. The group hopes to utilize the large Dundas property by expanding its facilities. Future plans, which are dependent on funding, include constructing a small outdoor performance space and additional training and rehearsal rooms.
The Dundas will continue to host Shakespeare in Paradise productions and function as a rental space. This year's Shakespeare selection is Romeo and Juliet with a cultural twist -- a Haitian Romeo and Bahamian Juliet. True Shakespeare aficionados can also get a quick fix on August 5, when the Globe Theatre will perform Hamlet in a one-night show at the Dundas.
Burrows hopes Ringplay's productions will inspire more of the Bahamian public to get involved in theater. Auditions are held openly, and the management team has encouraged anyone interested in acting to try out. Being a community venture, the center also welcomes volunteers who are keen on helping out on set.
"We've always felt that more people should be involved. More training should take place," said Burrows. "We're trying to just let people know that it's not an exclusive little club or anything, so anybody is welcome."
Burrows, feels confident the entire country could benefit from the revitalization of the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts. He hopes the center will attract some of the country's younger citizens, particularly those vulnerable to anti-social behavior.
"I saw a video not too long ago about a group of kids in New York who were pretty much gang bangers and then they got into theater and it was quite a changing experience. And I know it's the kind of thing that people are trying with Urban Renewal, because a lot of these guys are in bands and they're traveling now and they're performing and all this sort of stuff. But not everybody is musically inclined, and we're looking for other avenues and other things to do," he said.
Above all else, Burrows believes the art form itself is something to be treasured. Holding Bahamian playwrights in high esteem, he hopes the country will see the importance in the Dundas' newest movement to present regular opportunities to perform and view performances.
"Theater is a part of life. It's putting life up on the stage and people get a chance to see, and I think it's important for any civilized society to have something like that on an ongoing basis and someplace for people to see themselves onstage, to see their lives, to see what they look like on stage," he said.

read more »

Telling tales

July 12, 2014

Friday nights have been getting a little more stimulating than the average happy hour, thanks to Sonia Farmer and Orchid Burnside's printing blunders.
Since January, the duo has been inviting short story writers to share their works at the Illiterati Story Slam at Doongalik Studios. Held the last Friday of every month, the story slams offer the country's wordsmiths the chance to read stories of 10 minutes or less to an intimate group.
Farmer, the founder and owner of Poinciana Paper Press, and Burnside, vice president of operations at Islandz Tours, both attended college in New York State, where they had the chance to visit The Moth, a center for serious storytellers to share their works with avid audiences.
Working together at Farmer's printing press, both women found the idea of starting a story slam in The Bahamas appealing.
"Sonia and I were thinking about other things associated to that field of literature and what we could do to help build that community. I came up with the idea of doing a story slam because we both used to go to The Moth stories in New York," said Burnside. "We thought that since
Bahamians are natural-born storytellers, we could naturally have this community of great stories and anthology of great stories, but we needed a forum to expose that."
The name of the series came to Burnside during a particularly bumbling evening at the press.
"That was a press joke," said Burnside. "We had set the type [to print by hand], and we made a mistake. We had been talking about the Illuminati - I think this was right after Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl and all of this stuff came out about the Illuminati, so we were talking about that - and then we printed this thing and it was totally wrong. So I said 'Bump the Illuminati. We're the Illiterati'."
Each month, Burnside and Farmer choose a theme for the writers to work around; past topics have included 'Puppy Love', for stories about first crushes, and 'Mudda Sik', for stories about mothers. In keeping with national celebrations, this month's theme is 'Cutting Ties' and will focus on stories about independence.
Writers are free to interpret themes free of preconceived notions; both founders have noted that what makes the events interesting is often the surprise of how some participants make sense of different topics.
"For Mother's Day I anticipated a lot of funny stories, because the story about my mom was funny," said Burnside. "But people had a lot of very raw and hurt feelings towards their mothers, and that was sort of surprising and still touching in a way, and people just needed that place to share."
The monthly events feature prizes for the evening's best story. Each winning story is then entered into the Grand Slam, a competition for the best story told over the course of the year. Held in November, the winner of the Grand Slam will be offered the opportunity to have the winning work published by Poinciana Paper Press.
For people who haven't been published, the story slam can serve as a medium to share pieces with the public. For Farmer, sharing stories has always been something she's been dedicated to.
"I wanted to create a space where storytelling can thrive -- a formal space -- because we hear all the time Bahamians are natural storytellers," said Farmer. "You go to parties and Bahamians are always telling stories. Starting Poinciana Paper Press, I wanted to create a space where writers can share fiction, poetry, anything in between -- some sort of stories that add to our conversation about culture."
She hopes to use her press and the story slam to "promote a book culture" in the country.
"I don't know if we value literature, let along literacy, in this country well enough at all. And we don't have much of a space where we are encouraged to share our stories or things that happen to us or anything creative that we make up. And so I wanted the press to be a kind of place where we can do that, and by extension the story slam operates in that same space," said Farmer.
Both she and Burnside emphasize the necessity to engage with the audience, making the storytelling an interactive experience for both writers and listeners.
"I hope it continues to grow. I hope that more people who want to come out to perform, really give it their all and prep. My hope is that it keeps growing and that more and more people are touched by it and feel like they can share their stories too," said Farmer. "We're trying to facilitate the storytelling culture and make it important again in our culture, because it's important socially without Bahamians even realizing it. But I think -- formally we're putting people on the spot -- I don't think we value that or recognize how it can help us as a society."
Those interested in sharing at the Illiterati Story Slam are encouraged to visit the story slam's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/illiteratibs or email illiteratibahamas@gmail.com. The Illiterati Story Slams take place at 7 p.m., and each evening, there are 12 slots available for readers to sign up. Admission is free for all, and each reader is offered a free drink for the writer's contribution.

read more »

Baha Mar presents first ever artists-in-residence

July 05, 2014

For John Cox, creative arts director at Baha Mar, giving young Bahamian artists a leg up has always been high on the agenda. For five years, Cox's Popopstudios has been offering summer residencies to up-and-coming Bahamian artists. Now head of the art department at the country's soon-coming second mega resort, he's extending the same opportunity to those interested in contributing to Baha Mar's cultural agenda.
Piaget Moss and Veronica Dorsett, both of Freeport, are the resort's very first artists-in-residence. The graduates of The College of The Bahamas (COB) are nearing the middle of their residency, which culminates on July 31 with a show of their works at the Melia resort.
Twenty-year-old Moss, a mixed and digital-media artist, credits her mum with nudging her into the field. Two years ago, she sat in the dean's office at COB, having qualified for a full scholarship with no idea what to major in.
"The dean kept questioning me and she kept asking me, 'You have a full scholarship. Why don't you know what you want to do?' and I just said, 'Well I don't know'. I was so confused at that point, and my mom just said, 'You know what, just put art on the paper'."
Today Moss has no regrets. The former student of artist Heino Schmid at COB has been featured in internationally-distributed ARC Magazine. She caught Cox's eye during Baha Mar's art team's "curatorial phase". With a private studio and office space, the resort's art team sought to get the ball rolling on a residency program to help fill an existing gallery space in the Melia. Moss' work and "method of working" made her stand out as a candidate for the residency. She was invited onboard as an artist-in-residence in May.
"She's really ambitious," said Cox. "I think she's really uninhibited; she's very forward and confident. I like her method of working. It's kind of an unusual way that she works. Locally we don't see a lot of people who do a lot of collage and photo transfer and that kind of thing."
Offered the chance to work alone or with a partner, Moss opted to invite Dorsett onboard. Having met at COB, Moss was familiar with Dorsett's capabilities and passion for visual arts; she invited her to contribute to the collaborate effort.
Like Moss, Dorsett's start in the visual arts kicked off through her family. Currently a mixed-media artist, she started drawing in her mid-teens with a gift for her sister; when her skills became apparent, she decided to pursue art at COB.
Moving back and forth between New Providence and Grand Bahama, Dorsett's career in the arts hasn't gotten off to an easy start. Like many young Bahamian artists, she's had to build a "shell" to local criticism of her career choice.
"You know, you can probably ask any young artist like myself and they'll probably give you the same answer. We've all experienced that exact moment of 'Well, what are you going to do?' and 'Where is that going to get you in life?' and 'How is that going to help you get yourself further in The Bahamas?' So I think we've kind of all learned to build up a shell to it."
The artist has been featured by ARC online and has gotten her name out in the Caribbean through a 2013 residency and exhibition in Aruba. She's looking forward to the fall, when she plans to be in Canada pursuing her bachelor's degree at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. In Canada, she said, "people respond completely differently as if that's (art) a possible career choice". Speaking on behalf of her Bahamian counterparts, Dorsett said: "We feel like art is needed and people need to see the importance of art and an artist more than sending 70 people off to be accountants, versus that one person who's going to come back and be an artist."
Before she leaves, however, she's got big fish to fry at home. The end-of-July Glass Bridge exhibition is going to be filled with Moss and Dorsett's collaborative pieces, and the artists have just under four weeks to complete everything. Moss chose the show's theme, 'Buildings are people too'.
Taking the phrase 'hands on' to a new level, Moss' inspiration came from her encounters with the resort's construction staff onsite. Having a basic level of Mandarin from a course she took at COB, Moss began striking up conversations with the builders. The theme, she said, came from her "fascination with the workers".
"I sort of went from viewing them as a body of construction workers who are just here to build a building to these people with lives and with histories that are the driving force of the Baha Mar project," she said.
Moss hopes the show will help visitors "be aware that there is quite literally life involved in this project".
Both artists enjoy working with scrap materials found onsite to build their vision of what Dorsett describes as "documenting Baha Mar in its baby stages".
The Baha Mar residency program is expected to continue in future years in what Cox calls a "sliding framework". Future residencies, according to Cox, will last anywhere from one to six months. The program will invite both international and local artists, who will all be expected to give back to the Bahamian community through workshops and artist talks as well as by creating merchandise to be sold at Baha Mar.
The artists-in-residence will, at the end of this year's program, be expected to donate a work to the Baha Mar collection. This move is hoped to bring them further exposure in what Cox predicts will become a "very prestigious collection".
In the long-term, Dorsett and Moss both look forward to pursuing further residencies across the pond, in Amsterdam and Germany, respectively. For now, the young artists-in-residence are embracing their time at Baha Mar.
Moss said: "I think one of the most beautiful things for me is to come across legends and people like Kendal Hanna, who people know and people love and people cherish his work. And every day I get to sit down at the table and have tea with this man and talk about whatever."
Dorsett has expressed her gratitude for past generations for paving the way. "I feel like thanks to people like John Cox and Heino Schmid and Sue Bennett-Williams and all of the older artists that are creating opportunities for young artists like myself - opportunities that they didn't have when they were our age. I think that they're ensuring that the doorways open up for more young artists like myself," she said.

read more »

The carnival pt 3: Show me the money

July 05, 2014

If the recent demands for a Freedom of Information Act are any indication, many Bahamians want answers to their questions - and good ones. This is especially so when the subject matter involves the public purse.
Since April 1, 2014, the day the prime minister disclosed the government's intention to provide the carnival with $9 million in funding for the event, the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) has touted the Bahamas Carnival as a solution to the country's unstable economy.
The government's expenditure on the event has prompted backlash. Since then, Major has clarified that the BNFC expects a significant portion of the $9 million to come from sponsorships "of probably around $5, $6 million". Still, many members of the public have expressed their unease and displeasure at the amount of public funding given to the Bahamas Carnival and the government's reliance on future revenue.

Much ado about numbers
Since the PM's announcement, claims have been made that the event will result in both a projected loss of $4 million and a positive economic spinoff of $27 million. Paul Major, chairman of the BNFC, has noted that the carnival should begin making a profit in its second year.
On Wednesday, June 17, Christie announced in the House of Assembly that the operating costs of the carnival would be $9 million, with revenue of $7.5 million and a shortfall of $1.5 million. He went on to repeat that there will be an economic impact of $27 million in the first year.
It is no wonder the public is confused. The lack of clear communication on the issue has left many asking the same questions, resulting in exasperation on both sides of the debate. Popular musician Kirkland "KB" Bodie and author and Creative Nassau team member Patricia Glinton-Meicholas have both asked the commission and government for solid proof of the carnival's economic benefits.
Major has expressed frustration at the situation, saying "I've tried to make the point on many talk shows that you do not measure an economic stimulus in terms of a P 'n' L (profit and loss) - which is a standard accounting statement. A stimulus isn't treated that way".

The trickle
Despite the seemingly continuous and confusing barrage of sums that comes up when the carnival is mentioned, Major continues to emphasize the carnival's impact as a financial impetus with what he and Roscoe Dames, technical consultant to the BNFC, term the "trickle-down effect".
The BNFC hopes that the carnival will bring together the people and groups it knows as "stakeholders" (those who stand to profit from the carnival, including airlines, taxi drivers and restaurant personnel) and entrepreneurs (the owners of road fever companies and carnival village stalls and suppliers of costume materials). According to Dames, this is so that the "layers of economic reach" affect self-employed Bahamians across the country.
Dames swears by the personal story of a woman in St. Lucia. "She makes U.S. $40,000 in a week selling grilled chicken on the side of the road," he said. According to Dames, this woman, whose children return home to help her set up a series of stalls during carnival time, is able to sustain herself for the year on her earnings. The consultant hopes to see that example relived many times over in The Bahamas.

The Family Islands' cash cow
A focal point of the BNFC is the Family Islands, which the commission hopes will benefit from both the collaboration between Road Fever companies and costume makers and the carnival's ecommerce website.
Family Island residents who participate in the carnival's business ventures are invited to sell their wares - which include bath salts from Bahamian salt ponds, straw products and other local goods - year-round on the ecommerce site.
The situation presents a slight hurdle: many Family Island residents do not have access to the Internet or computers. When asked whether the commission anticipated problems with a lack of technology in the out islands, Dames confirmed that it was an issue to be sorted out. According to the consultant, the commission plans to employ the services of a "small business administrator" as a liaison responsible for "products, the procurement and liaising with manufacturers of their products".
He hopes that the opportunity to sell products online will "bring people up that may be kind of lagging behind" with regard to modern technology and online marketing.
The use of indigenous materials
In addition to this glitch, the true economic benefit posed to residents of the Family Islands by Road Fever companies remains questionable. In an early interview with Dames, he maintained that the Bahamas Carnival costumes would be comprised of 30 percent indigenous materials. "So the layers of economic reach (are) not really just centered around visitors just coming to The Bahamas but the formation of the companies that will participate in the festival that produce the costumes that are 30 percent Bahamian-made products," he said.
However, responding to a later question on the share Family Island residents stand to receive from each costume's final sale, representatives from the commission threw the use of indigenous materials into doubt.
The representatives said: "We are encouraging designers to use 30 percent or more of local material which means that the purchase of these materials will provide them with an income from the products/labor." The statement implies that carnival companies have the discretion to choose whether their costumes will utilize Bahamian materials at all.
Payment for raw materials
Like most products sold today, Bahamas Carnival costumes will be sold to consumers at a marked-up price to cover the cost of production and to ensure that carnival companies make a profit. Major confirmed that prices for materials supplied by Family Island residents would be finalized ahead of the costumes' production.
"We will negotiate purchase prices with FI (Family Island) suppliers and they will be paid for materials supplied, and that's the end of it. That is how it works for all manufactures," he said.
This means that if a costume costs $100 to manufacture, and 30% of that costume is made of indigenous materials, a Family Island raw material supplier will receive $30 from that costume. The amount given to the supplier will not vary if the costume is then sold onto consumers at a significantly marked up price.
When questioned as to the price of basic straw plait, a Bahamas Carnival business seminar representative said that a yard of basic plait sells for approximately $1.
Nicole Burrows, an economist and regular columnist of The Nassau Guardian has recommended Family Island suppliers take further measures to protect their interests.
She would also support the establishment of a minimum price threshold for the supply of raw materials like coconut 'leather', shells, sisal and straw plait to carnival companies. Burrows recommends that the Family Island suppliers "band together as a co-op of sorts" and establish such a threshold that would cover their labor and shipping costs as well as ensure that they too make a profit from the carnival. She has recommended the employment of a "strong spokesperson or negotiator to represent them on this".

Too many questions, not enough answers
Even though the BNFC has promised to do "its utmost to try and educate the Bahamian public", the public still has an abundance of questions that ought to be addressed. Nicolette Bethel, head of the department, psychology, sociology and social work at The College of The Bahamas, asked for clarification on several matters including:
o

What happens if the festival in 2015 loses money, or does not do more than break even? Where will the investment come from for the 2016 festival?
o

What measurable outcomes have been identified, if any, to judge the success of the festival? What measures are being put in place to quantify the economic returns predicted?
o

How is the festival intended to benefit the creative industries in The Bahamas (rather than simply to fill hotel rooms)? Which creative industries are specifically targeted for primary benefits, and which for secondary benefits?
Though the dialogue is expected to continue until May 2 next year, many in the public hope the BNFC is prepared to provide definitive answers and welcome a constructive two-way exchange.

read more »

Popopstudios presents this year's Junior Residency Prize winners

June 28, 2014

In a country dominated by the financial, legal and hospitality professions, Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts is a welcome refuge for young Bahamians pursuing their ambitions of contributing to the visual arts community.
The independent studio and gallery, led by founder and Director John Cox, has been instrumental in the studies and careers of young artists through its annual junior residency program. Now in its fifth year, the Popop Junior Residency Prize is awarded to art students who show potential through their work, but who could also benefit from the program's exposure, according to Heino Schmid, Popopstudios' creative director. Funded by the D'Aguilar Art Foundation and Antonius Roberts, the junior residency is offered free of charge to prize winners; its objective is to help young artists develop sustainable practices.
The focus is no different for the 2014 prize winners. At varying levels in their studies, Ivanna Gaitor, Samantha Treco and Jodie Minnis are all under 25 - a requirement to be considered for the program - and look to the residency for guidance in developing their skills and artistic progression.
Originally from Abaco, Gaitor found out about the program through her studies at The College of The Bahamas (COB) - a popular portal for many of Popop's past junior residents. Gaitor specializes in geometric shapes and lines and takes inspiration from American artist Sol LeWitt; she has plans to study advertising at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Keen on exploring different art forms, Gaitor hopes the residency will give her the chance to do so.
"It's the perfect opportunity for me to delve into the things that we're going to be exposed to on the Schooner Bay trip and also to what we'll be exposed to on the New York trip, with visiting different galleries and, too, just being in an environment surrounded by different artists that would be able to give me advice and critiques during the process," she said.
The excursions she refers to are not your average summer vacations, and, like the junior residency itself, the trips are free for the prize winners. Described as a 'spiritual experience', the annual trip to Schooner Bay is by invitation of Antonius Roberts, the Schooner Bay artist-in-resident. While this year's junior residents aren't sure what to expect, past participants have been encouraged to develop their vision and skill set through collaborative work. Traditionally, while there, the artists collectively produce an artwork outside on the natural landscape.
"It's more cool, calm, collected," said Gaitor of the trip. "We'll be spending two full days there and what we do during our stay is we find materials and we have to come up with an art project at the end of our stay..."
The trek to the Big Apple is a bit more straightforward, particularly for Treco, a junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. An abstract artist, Treco's focus has shifted significantly from her roots in painting portraits, a move she says was inspired by FIT Professor Cynthia Gallagher.
"I went into abstract painting and it was a way of letting go and letting things happen, like control and non-control. And I've kind of incorporated that into portraits as well. Things happen in your life that you have control over and that you don't have control over, so what I'm doing is trying to relate the two things."
Hoping to find work as a curator in New York after her studies, Treco has long-term plans to return to The Bahamas as an art teacher. She found out about Popop's Junior Residency Prize through Schmid, her former professor at COB. She credits the junior residency with helping her find her feet in her studies.
"Since I went on the New York trip before with past residents, that's how I ended up going to school in New York now," she said. "I wasn't even a resident going with that group and I was in my second year at COB in the fall semester and I was like, 'I need to get out of here. I should go to New York because there's so many things to see', so that's how I ended up there now."
The trip up north has traditionally focused on museum visits and lasts anywhere from one week to 10 days.
"You're going from nature to the heart of concrete - concrete city," said Minnis of the junior residency trips. "...This will be my first time actually going to New York for a long period of time, so I just expect to be inspired. I expect to learn more about myself and my practice by looking at other people's work and their practices."
A second-year art student at COB, Minnis' focus is primarily on charcoal figure drawing, stating that she enjoys "the relationship between three-dimensional stuff on a two-dimensional plane". With a long-term goal of becoming a curator, Minnis currently works as Antonius Roberts' assistant at The Central Bank of The Bahamas. The artist looks forward to curating an October exhibition at The College of The Bahamas, which will feature her works among those of other students.
Minnis credits artist Alan Wallace with giving her the inspiration she needed to pursue her dreams.
"I asked him if he only was an artist, like if he had a side job or anything, and he was like, 'No. I just paint'. And I couldn't believe that because I was told, 'Well you can't make money in art', you know? So, he was my greatest inspiration. He pushed me into the water to say 'Go after it. If that's your passion, then go after it."
The three artists look forward to showing their works at upcoming Popopstudios shows. Popopstudios Junior Residencies generally last three months from the beginning of June to the end of August. Those interested in finding out more about Popop or its junior residency award are encouraged to visit Popopstudios.com.

read more »

The carnival pt 2: The line we're jumping into

June 28, 2014

There is a heated dialogue going on between the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) and carnival skeptics. Since the prime minister's April announcement of the government's intention to provide the carnival with $9 million in support, the event has incited a public debate - often facilitated by publicized letters.
As with all debates, there are a number of advantages to this: the exchange helps to point out weaknesses in the arguments of those opposed and in favor, spectators may gain deeper understandings of the topics in dispute and the dialogue promotes further consideration of issues in contention that might otherwise have been overlooked.
There are several aspects of the carnival that have offended the fervently opposed, among them:
o The alien nature of the carnival - it being an event Bahamians have never laid claim to as our own;
o The 'diluting' effect the carnival may have on traditionally Bahamian events;
o The amount of funding given to the event, in the face of existing national festivals, which receive little government financial assistance.
It's all in the name
Despite heavy protest from outspoken Bahamians, the BNFC has defended its use of the name carnival, which Paul Major, chairman of the BNFC, believes is essential to gain "instant traction", that is, instant international marketing appeal.
The move has drawn criticism from as far as the U.K., with Stephen Spark, from Soca News Magazine voicing his opinion on the use of carnival as a marketing tool. Spark, in a letter published in the e-newsletter, Bahamian Art & Culture, argued that the carnival is "way more important than that (referring to a marketing tool)".
"To reduce such an extraordinarily complex and multi-layered combination of celebration, rebellion, artistry and creativity...to a 'cultural product' that's just a marketing vehicle, a means of boosting GDP, shows a spectacular lack of understanding and imagination," he said.
Major has dismissed Spark's statement as unimportant, saying that he has heard that carnival originated in "a thousand places, if not one".
"And really what's the relevance in the 21st century? The bottom line is, we're trying to put on a cultural event highlighting and showcasing Bahamian talent and art through the vehicle of a carnival," he said.
Meanwhile, artists Dionne Benjamin-Smith and Stan Burnside as well as author Patricia Glinton-Meicholas have questioned the commission's refusal to consider a title merging a traditional festival with its newer counterpart. Benjamin-Smith has suggested calling the event "Junkanoo Carnival" or "Junkanoo Festival".
"That would be a more authentic grounding from which to start and a beginning to a reconciliation between both sides of the discussion," she said.
An issue of import
In the face of concerns that the commission has been liaising with Trinidadian carnival experts to 'import' the Trinidadian carnival to The Bahamas, the BNFC has vehemently denied intentions to copy or bring the Trinidadian carnival to the country. Major distinguished the Bahamas Carnival from the largely disappointing carnivals of Mauritius, Seychelles and Nigeria, saying that those nations 'lifted' the Trinidadian carnival to their countries.
"We went down there (to Trinidad) to see them in December, I think it was, and they wanted to wholesale come here, lift their carnival, bring their groups and we just buy into that. We said 'No, no, no, no. That (is not) what we (came) for."
Major maintains that the trip and ongoing consultations have been for the purpose of enabling the BNFC to understand logistical details. "We don't want to lift carnival. We've got a consultant just to make sure that we understand all the security aspects, other logistical aspects...but we know how to judge a parade. We've done it for 200 years. We know how to build costumes."
Competition or complement?
Burnside has expressed worry about the carnival's impact on the sustainability of Junkanoo, saying the Junkanoo artists' involvement with the carnival could have a negative impact on their ability to produce works for Junkanoo. This falls in line with other concerns over the May 2015 festival 'diluting' traditional cultural celebrations.
"Junkanoo is a year-round endeavor for the serious Junkanoo groups, and I include everybody in 'serious Junkanoo groups'...If they're not in the shacks producing the works, they are thinking about what it is they're going to do in the shacks. So, because it's a year-round activity, if you take these Junkanoo artists and you give them another festival to produce for and create costumes for the thousands of people you say are coming to this new festival, then that takes away from what they would do for the Junkanoo festival, and so after this new festival will they return to Junkanoo to produce the art form knowing that there's nothing in place for them to get a commercial return?"
He is not the only one concerned about the Boxing Day and New Year's Eve festival. Glinton-Meicholas, Burnside and singer Kirkland "KB" Bodie have expressed disappointment at the government's failure to promote Junkanoo at the level it has pledged to advertise Bahamas Carnival abroad.
"I was happy when government declared 2014 the 'Year of Culture'," said Glinton-Meicholas. "...What do we get? Bahamas Carnival - a knock-off of the now hundreds of carnivals worldwide, based on traditions that are not ours. Junkanoo has all the right fundamentals to make it the cornerstone of an authentic festival. While Ministry of Tourism has often taken Junkanoo groups on their promotional junkets and used them for local color, it has never promoted a Junkanoo festival."
The BNFC has countered, saying that the carnival is a vehicle to market Junkanoo. Paul Major has thrown support behind the festival's authenticity, saying "There's no way a Bahamas Carnival could be foreign, by definition...we're going to give them (existing national festivals) new life under this broad umbrella of this cultural initiative, where, like I said, everything from art to Junkanoo to music to cuisine to souvenirs will be showcased and sold".
In contrast to challengers, Major does not believe Junkanoo alone has the marketing appeal to draw international visitors. In his opinion, the event, which he described as a "spectator sport", does not have the economic viability of a carnival.
"If you put $10 trillion into Junkanoo what (will) you have? A bigger group?...It's a spectator sport that - I love it, I go every year - but I'm telling you, (there is) not (any) economic model in there that anybody should be trying to pursue. It's just that simple. But we are going to promote Junkanoo because the craft has value. It will never be exploited in its present form."
This, Burnside believes, is the reason why the hearts of many Junkanoo artists "are broken".
"...Those individuals, their hearts are broken by the fact that it seems that the commission is recommending that a different name has to be used to generate attendees to the festival, that Junkanoo is not good enough and they're (the BNFC) not willing to take the time to market Junkanoo so it will be good enough."
Still, some younger artists, like singer Bodine, believe the event is a chance for The Bahamas to draw attention to its many talents. "...I would say that it is one of the better opportunities, if not the best opportunity, for an aspiring artist or for an established artist to produce and promote music and have it played on an international scale," she said.
The moot's results
Despite the continuing debate, many feel their questions remain answered
"A number of readers and colleagues have shared their disappointment with me regarding the manner in which the commission has responded to the public's questioning of their choices and decisions regarding Bahamas Carnival," said Benjamin-Smith.
Burnside feels "There should be some link with the commission and the Junkanoo community to work with the festival that has been developed naturally out of the spirit and the experience of the Bahamian people..."
Major has promised that the BNFC will "be doing its utmost to try and educate the Bahamian public on what our objectives are and how we feel it will benefit them if not in the first year then in years to come and that's our commitment. That's our mandate and we're trying to fulfill it as best as we can".
Next week the discussion on the Bahamas Carnival continues with an overview of its expected economic impact.

read more »

Wise beyond her years

June 21, 2014

in a close-knit community where many of its members are bold, some are funny and a few might even be described as brazen, meeting Angelika Wallace-Whitfield is refreshing. While I explored the modest garden of the D'Aguilar Art Foundation, her voice broke the silence and invited me in.
Face to face she is reserved, and I know she's young, but as soon as she began to answer my questions, I forgot that she is many years the junior of most of the country's artists.
She showed me to the gallery where her works still hang from her second show, held two weeks ago, and I was impressed.
Others have been blown away by Wallace-Whitfield's talent too. In addition to the D'Aguilar Art Foundation, her work has been displayed at Doongalik Studios and the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). This is surprising when the 20-year-old reveals that, aside from studying art at The College of The Bahamas, she has received no higher education in the field.
She began finding her way around a paintbrush when she was four, in Sue Bennett-Williams' after-school lessons.
"Art was something I always had done," she said. "I was in Sue Bennett-Williams' classes since I was four, so after-school classes. But I was always a principal's list, honor roll student. So after graduating high school I went and did pre-med in Florida for a year, and I figured out that wasn't for me.
"Although I was book smart, I wasn't motivated. I wasn't passionate. So I came back and started at COB."
Many are glad she did. Her show, an effort to raise funds to further her education in the U.K., was a success by most measures. Of the 35 works displayed at the show, five remain unsold.
"Well, this show, I didn't confine myself to a theme because...it was a fundraiser, so I wanted something for everyone - something that everyone can relate to. So there was no theme."
The artist is known for her mixed media paintings, which often marry feminine figures with animals. Her "Animalistic" series features the heads of animals like octopi, lions and elephants on female bodies.
"Well, the elephant started from a series on National Geographic that I watched about elephant mothers and how they sacrifice so much for their young, and being raised by a single mother, that really hit home with me," said Wallace-Whitfield.
"And just being really interested in feminism and women's studies, I started researching more animals, specifically female animals. I went on to do lions because the lioness protects the group. She brings the food. She takes care of the babies."
The painter has earned her achievements. Volunteering with the NAGB for a year opened the door to several contacts in the arts community. It was there that she first met Saskia Shutte-D'Aguilar, director of the D'Aguilar Art Foundation.
"I was doing a lot of volunteering at the National Art Gallery so my name just kept coming up and I think that's one thing that got me the job that's beyond my education, not my years - because I showed the motivation," said Wallace-Whitfield.

Growth and youth
Not your average office job, Wallace-Whitfield's work has two facets and several perks. Her "nine-to-five" post at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation keeps her busy; accompanying run-of-the-mill administrative duties are the contacts she makes on a regular basis.
"I'm constantly surrounded by different art pieces and people that inspire me. There's always out-of-the-box conversation going on," she said.
Wallace-Whitfield credits her painting work, her evening job, with providing constant motivation and a "release" for her inspiration.
It's not all a bowl of cherries, though. The most difficult part of the curator's work is being young.
"The people that would have worked before me would have had a lot more education than me, and [are] also older than me, and I think that has been the greatest challenge for people to take you seriously. But once you get over that first barrier, then you're okay," she said.
Being a woman has also presented some unexpected hurdles for the artist, who said she has had to deal with "inappropriate comments" by others in the industry and in the Bahamian community, in general.
Overall, her experience as a curator may soon be the envy of many of her peers at the University of Kent, where she's been accepted to study the history and philosophy of art and culture. The painter, who originally planned to attend the University of the Arts London, is excited to have been offered a place at her first choice. That's a good thing, too, since she plans to be there a while. When asked where she wants to be in the next five years, Wallace-Whitfield responded: "In school is where I'll probably be, because I want to at least get my masters...by then it will be either my masters or thinking about a Ph.D."
Though she's come a long way, her momentum is only picking up. The artist's well-earned successes have resulted in a fierce tenacity. Reflecting on her younger years, Wallace-Whitfield said: "I wish I had more confidence in myself when I first started. I wish I knew what I was capable of when I first started. I doubted myself a lot and I think that caused me to lose a couple opportunities along the way...But, I think every curve that I've been thrown has been a learning curve, and I'm grateful I learned it at the time."
As for what happens at home while she's in the U.K., the curator has confidence in the local arts community. Describing it as "ahead of the game" in the Caribbean region, she has hopes for a re-coupling of the arts and culture, citing the unification as a viable tourist attraction.
"I think right now it's a great time to be an artist in The Bahamas, because us young artists have had a good foundation laid to us and we have a lot of people willing to open up doors for us," said Wallace-Whitfield.
"And we have all these...art hubs and more are coming, so I think if we just keep developing on the path that we're going, we'll be good."

read more »

The carnival, pt. 1: An overview

June 21, 2014

It goes by many names: "bacchanal", "mas". And lately here in The Bahamas it has been called: "the brainchild of the prime minister", "an economic stimulus", "a copycat event", "a threat to Junkanoo". Carnival is its formal title and it will be here on May 2, 2015, whether we like it or not.
The idea was sprouted by Prime Minister Perry Christie in October 2013, and it has quickly snowballed into an issue of debate between those in favor and opposed. Those with no opinion, who appear to be the majority of Bahamians, are often surprised to hear that the country will be hosting a carnival.
Predicted by event organizers to attract approximately 10,000 people and to spur a seasonally sleepy economy into a time of prosperity for Bahamians across the country, it seems surprising that so many know little or nothing at all about the festival.
The who and when
The Bahamas Carnival is managed by the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) - a body appointed by the government. Members include hoteliers, financial experts and Junkanoo enthusiasts. They are led by former banker Paul Major, the BNFC's chairman.
Planned to be a weeklong festival, the carnival's ice will be broken in the preceding weeks with a series of events and activities. Historically a slow period for the hospitality industry, it is hoped the carnival and the events leading up to it will provide a hefty boost to the economy in early May. Major thinks timing is everything.
"All the tourists, all the snowbirds go back home April. Early, mid-April they fly back north. Atlantis [is] empty. Everybody [is] empty. The unions [are] kicking up because people are on short days and short weeks, so that's why we picked the post-Lenten season because hotels are in low season," he said.
The what
Comprised of four main events: the Road Fever, Midnight Rush, Junkamania and the All-Star Concert, the carnival is expected to appeal to both tourists and Bahamians, according to Roscoe Dames, the BNFC's technical consultant.
"We can't really say the percentage of visitors over Bahamians, but we would like to have a 50-50 mix of Bahamian participation as well as visitors," he said. "Part of the economic impact is to fill the hotels and for Bahamians to make money owning the companies and being a part of it."
Costumes and companies
The companies he refered to are those involved in the Midnight Rush and Road Fever, which are the types of events that come to mind when most people think of carnival. Identified by masquerading groups in brightly colored costumes, these parades are largely participatory events, meaning that anyone interested in being part of them can join by purchasing a costume from one of the Road Fever companies.
In effort to set itself apart from other carnivals, and in an attempt to bring economic sustainability to the Family Islands, the commission has mandated that 30 percent of all Bahamas Carnival costumes be composed of indigenous Bahamian materials. According to Dames, this means materials like sisal, shells, plaited straw, burlap and sponge.
"Our goal is to include as many indigenous Bahamian-made products... They're not imported products," he said.
"You have to literally buy them here in The Bahamas. That means if the cost is $100 to make a costume, $30 of that was spent with local suppliers and not fellows who are bringing stuff in from China; no, the girl in Inagua and Acklins and Abaco, we are sourcing that stuff now."
Companies are being formed by Bahamians from all walks of life, who are required to attend the BNFC's carnival business seminars for training. The applicants hope to benefit from the carnival's economic stimulation as the official vendors of costumes. They will be responsible for sourcing materials, designing, making and selling costumes, which can be bought online on the forthcoming Bahamas Carnival website. Dames thinks the response thus far from potential entrepreneurs has been overwhelming.
"We're probably at 50 to 75 percent over what we anticipated... It speaks to people understanding the economic part of it. They want to get involved. They also understand what it means to have a group because they would have been in one in other festivals," he said.
The where
Described by Major as an "iconic stage", the Bahamas Carnival village will be based in the area comprised of Fort Charlotte, Clifford Park, Arawak Cay and the Botanical Gardens. The commission plans to use the area, which will be open day and night, for most of the carnival's events, excluding the Street Fever. The village will feature several "staging areas" and it is in this location that Bahamians will be given the chance to sell goods like food, souvenirs and homemade gifts.
Choosing an appropriate venue for the village is another of the commission's efforts to distinguish the Bahamas Carnival from the competition.
"These guys just came from New Orleans' Mardi Gras. That's their carnival. You know where they have it? On a horse track... In Trinidad, they do it in the Savannah, which is a track, again, or a cricket field, or whatever," said Major.
"Nothing special, just a venue set in the middle of a crowded, dirty city. Now, compare that with the iconic stage we plan to produce out on Clifford Park... What are they seeing in the background? The Atlantic Ocean, the lighthouse, the mega-cruise ships, Atlantis and south, to some degree, Baha Mar."
The why
Why? This is the question asked by many, often backed with concern or indignation for what has been interpreted as a snub of national celebrations like Junkanoo and the Rake 'n' Scrape Festival.
Musician Kirkland "KB" Bodie has been outspoken with his views concerning, among many things, the financial support given to the carnival compared to that given to existing national festivals like Junkanoo and the Cat Island Rake 'n' Scrape Festival.
Pam Burnside, the co-founder of Creative Nassau and widow of Jackson Burnside III, has described the event as a "Mardi Gras debacle".
Artist Dionne Benjamin-Smith has criticized the commission for adopting a "defensive" tone. She wrote: "Instead of welcoming discussion, the door of exchange and dialogue seems to have been politely closed in our faces. Although subtle, the tone of each response has been viewed as sarcastic in places, condescending and biting, even petulant at the notion of being questioned."
Stan Burnside, artist, brother of the late Jackson Burnside III and a founding member of One Family Junkanoo group, has questioned the use of the name "carnival" and its impact on what he describes as the "fragility" of Junkanoo.
To be sure, the carnival is something most Bahamians should be aware of, if not for its predicted economic impact then for its significance in terms of historically Bahamian festivals and celebrations.
o Next week the discussion on the Bahamas Carnival continues with an overview of its critiques and declared merits.

read more »

Shibori: an ancient art now revamped and revisited

February 01, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) -- From tablecloths to duvet covers, iPhone cases to wallpaper and startling calf-skin wall hangings, the ancient Japanese resist-dying technique of shibori has gone mainstream. Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Eileen Fisher, Levi's and innumerable fiber artists are breathing new life into the craft.
"The stillness and beauty of it really centers me," said Oriana DiNella, who recently launched her own Web-based shibori line, including linen tableware, pillows and throws -- and large leather wall hangings -- all made to order and hand-dyed in organic indigo.
"It feels like a rebellion against the fashion movement, where everything seems so fast and disposable,"the New York-based designer explained.
Shibori is slow. It takes time, and has been around since about the 8th century.
The word comes from the Japanese shiboru, meaning "to wring, squeeze or press."The technique involves twisting, tying, crumpling, stitching or folding fabric -- usually silk or cotton -- in various ways, transforming the two-dimensional material into a sculptural, three-dimensional form. This sculptural shape is then traditionally dyed, originally using indigo, although a huge variety of colors and dyes are now used. Sometimes, the same fabric is then twisted in some other way and then dyed again. When the wrappings are removed, the folds and creases where the fabric resisted the dye form distinctive crinkled textures and patterns.A sort of "memory on cloth," Shibori also encompasses Issey Miyake's revolutionary pleated clothing, fulling and felting, and other methods of transforming natural fabrics into 3-D shapes.
The work of Hiroyuki Murase exemplifies both the 3-D possibilities of shibori and the bridge between traditional and new. Murase grew up in Arimatsu, Japan, where shibori has been done using traditional techniques for 400 years. Today, his array of Luminaires lampshades and haute couture fabrics, designed for the likes of Christian Dior, are the cutting edge of modern shibori.
Murase's family company, Suzusan, was founded there a century ago and has designed shibori fabrics for Miyake and other designers. Murase founded and is creative director at a separate company by the same name, Suzusan, in Dusseldorf, Germany.
But shibori is still most widely thought of as a sort of tie-dyeing.
Today's incarnations are as different from their early Japanese predecessors as they are from the wild, tiedyed pieces that became emblematic of the '60s and '70s.
There's a sense of timelessness and calm to the modern shibori pieces, and also a renewed focus on workmanship and functionality.
"I love the bleeds, the fluidity of it. I love how the light shades of indigo can be so pale and watery and the navies can be such a deep, deep blue," DiNella said.
Brooklyn designer Rebecca Atwood uses modern fiber-reactive dyes for her Blauvelt Collection, which includes pillows and pouches. And home-design purveyor Eskayel is creating the look of shibori patterns using ink, water and watercolors, followed by digital printing techniques.
"We have wallpaper, rugs, fabric, pillows, baskets, iPhone cases, stationery, prints and wall hangings. Oh, and poufs," said founder and creative director Shanan Campanero, when asked about the company'sshiboriinspired offerings.
Compared to the tie-dyes of a generation ago, she said, today's shibori-inspired works feature patterns that are more careful, deliberate and traditional.
Vera Wang's collection is centered on bedding, while Ralph Lauren's features swim trunks and clothing. Levi's has even come out with shibori-inspired jeans. But while mass-produced items lack the nuanced appeal of handcrafted works, they bring a surprising touch of texture and pizazz to the familiar.
For those inclined to take on do-it-yourself projects, shibori has never been more accessible. It can be done easily at home using minimal equipment.
Urban Outfitters sells its own shibori kits, and lessons are widely available online, from basic for beginners to truly advanced. Martha Stewart Living features a project on its website using a standard pressure cooker to make elegant shibori at home.
Serious shibori artists and workshops across the country and internationally can be found through the Berkeley-based World Shibori Network. With a membership of dedicated artisans in Japan and around the globe, it was founded in the 1990s because of fears that the traditional craft would disappear.
Despite widespread interest in shibori in the West, "we are still concerned with its survival in Japan," explained Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, the organization's president and co-founder.
Wada, author of "Shibori"and "Memory on Cloth" (both published by Kodansha), has taught and written about shibori for over 30 years, cofounded Berkeley's Kasuri Dyeworks in 1975, and helped introduce shibori to the United States. Now, her focus is ensuring its survival in Japan. "There used to be thousands and thousands of artists working on this. Now there are not so many people doing it using traditional techniques," said Wada.
She said iPhone covers and poufs made using digital techniques, far from being silly novelties, are crucial to the future of shibori, which holds little appeal to most young Japanese.
"Adapting shibori to something contemporary is the key to its survival," she said. "When the big designers come out with it and young artists take it in new directions, then more people here and in Japan start to pay attention."

read more »

Promoting creativity

January 18, 2014

The Bahamas needs to concentrate on promoting and building the country and its people from the "inside out" by showcasing its rich arts and cultural heritage, said Pamela Burnside, manger of Doongalik Studios and wife of the late cultural icon Jackson Burnside.
Burnside said the spotlight needs to shine on the "better" parts of what is going on in The Bahamas, "instead of giving prime news coverage to the criminals."
"We just need to be ourselves, 'be who you is and not who you ain't, cos if you ain't who you is, you is who you ain't'," she told business leaders at the annual Bahamas Business Outlook conference.
"For far too long we have taken our creative expressions for granted, ignored their importance and their value, and relied on an 'outside in' concept to sustain our development, when we only need to drop our bucket where we stand - 'tell story' - look inside for our own 'true, true' resources, good old Bahamian art, culture and heritage."
One of the ways Burnside hopes to spotlight and nurture what The Bahamas has to offer is through the Creative Nassau venture.
Creative Nassau was formed in 2008 by Jackson Burnside after he and Pam attended a UNESCO Creative Cities Conference on Creative Tourism in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Creative Cities Network is structured around the seven specific fields of literature, cinema, music, design, craft and folk art, media arts and gastronomy. It seeks to develop international cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable development, in the frame work of partnerships including the public and private sectors, professional organizations, communities, civil society and cultural institutions. The network also facilitates the sharing of experiences, knowledge and resources among the member cities as a means to promote the development of local creative industries and to foster worldwide cooperation for sustainable urban development.
The Creative Cities Network, according to Burnside, aims to strengthen the creation, production, distribution and enjoyment of cultural goods and services at the local level; promote creativity and creative expressions, especially among vulnerable groups, including women and youth; enhance access to and participation in cultural life as well as enjoyment of cultural goods; and integrate cultural and creative industries into local development plans.
Recognizing the benefits of becoming a part of this network, on their return from Santa Fe, the Burnsides invited a group of committed Bahamians to join them in working towards applying for membership as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art.
The Bahamas will be the first small island state to do so. Creative Nassau is in the process of preparing the application for submission, focusing on the two unique Bahamian elements of the country's straw culture and Junkanoo tradition.
Creative Nassau believes that focus should be placed on building Bahamians first, by encouraging an awareness and appreciation for who we are as a people because cultural self identity builds pride, self esteem and self worth, which leads to stronger social cohesion and economic empowerment, she said.
Burnside said that Creative Nassau is convinced that "creative tourism" is the way forward.
"Creative Nassau believes that everything we need is right here is our hands, staring us in the face, if we can only truly 'see what we lookin' at'," she said.
Burnside pointed to straw and Junkanoo traditions that have proved through the decades to be thriving and viable forms of expression and livelihood among many Bahamians throughout the Family Islands.
Creative Nassau plans to act as an umbrella organization to promote creativity, make connections from collaborations, develop design skills, encourage research and education, inspire excellence and celebrate success, Burnside explained.
"Let us take a closer look at them to truly see their value," she said.
Burnside said that this year Creative Nassau will launch its website and hold other publicity events. Plans are also underway to tell its story in "true, true" Bahamian style using creative educational programs to develop greater public awareness of art, culture and heritage throughout the country.
"This must be a collaborative effort," Burnside urged. "We look forward to support and partnerships with the government, public and private sectors as well as international entities to make Creative Nassau a success. Obtaining membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network will afford The Bahamas enormous opportunities in this regard."

read more »

Blue Curry selected for Santa Fe Biennial

January 18, 2014

UK-based Bahamian artist Blue Curry has been selected to participate in SITE Santa Fe, an international contemporary art biennial in New Mexico.
SITE Santa Fe creates significant experiences for visitors by presenting the "most innovative visual art of our time" in new and engaging ways, according to the gallery.
After a two-year biennial hiatus, the organization will relaunch its signature exhibition in July with a new focus on artists from the Western Hemisphere -- or according to SITE, "contemporary art from Nunavut to Tierra del Fuego."
Curry will be among more than 40 artists from 15 countries and is among the first 13 participants announced by the gallery.
The initial list includes: Cape Dorset, Canada-based artist Shuvinai Ashoona, Santa Fe-based artist Jamison Chas Banks, Los Angeles-based artist Andrea Bowers, Cordoba, Argentina-based artist Adriana Bustos, London and Nassau-based artist Blue Curry, New York-based artist Juan Downey, Santiago de Chile-based artist Gianfranco Foschino, and San Francisco-based collaborative Futurefarmers, New York-based artist Pablo Helguera, Mexico City-based artist Antonio Vega Macotela, Lima, Peru-based artist Gilda Mantilla, Hudson-based artist Jason Middlebrook, and Toronto-based artist Kent Monkman.

read more »

New cast members take on new roles in Gippie's Kingdom season two

January 18, 2014

The wait is over.
Ian Strachan's and Travon Patton's second season of the ground-breaking, much talked-about evening melodrama Gippie's Kingdom premiers next week.
This original Bahamian TV series - written, directed, produced, filmed and performed by an all-Bahamian cast and crew - made history in June, 2013. The show will return this month to ZNS TV 13 to wow Bahamian audiences.
The program has enjoyed a regional following and aired in Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Belize, Grenada, Turks and Caicos, Grenada, St. Lucia and Trinidad.
Most of the cast returns for a 12 episode season, with the exception of Scott Adderley, who played Donovan, Gippie's son-in-law. That role now falls to Beaumont Todd.
There are also other new cast members taking on fascinating roles.
Most notable among them are Terez Davis, Leslie Tynes, Neil Cleare and Emille Hunt, all veterans of the Bahamian theater scene.
Asked what viewers can expect of season two Strachan said: "We have raised our game. You can expect the show to look better, sound better, but more importantly, be better.
More drama. More humor. More romance. More suspense. More craziness. And more of the characters folks have come to love."
The first season of the show ended with a cliffhanger.
Sean Bowe, a murderer on the run, invades Gippie's home and tries to rob the family. Gippie confronts him and there's a shootout. Season two begins where the first season left off.
Did Gippie survive? Will Donovan and Monique patch things up? Will Everena finally leave drug dealer Kayron for good?
These and so many other stories take center stage in the upcoming season.
"Revenge is the name of the game in season two and everyone's playing," producer Travon Patton said.

o Gippie's Kingdom is rated TV 14 and airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 9:30 p.m. on ZNS TV13. The premiere is January 23rd.

read more »

Arts calendar

January 18, 2014

Exhibitions
"Intersect",the 2013 Junior Residency Exhibition by Gio Swaby and Kachelle Knowles, continues at Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts. For more information, call 322-7834.

"Undercurrent", a film exhibition by Holly Parotti, continues at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). For more information visit www.nagb.org.bs, email info@nagb.org.bs or call 328-5800/1.

Kishan Munroe's "Swan Song of The Flamingo", a multidisciplinary collaborative exhibition, continues at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

For more information, visit www.nagb.org.bs, email info@nagb.org.bs or call 328-5800/1.

"Get Out", a Salus Project exhibition, continues at the Ladder Gallery, New Providence Community Centre, Blake Road.

"40 Years of Bahamian Art" continues at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). For more information visit www.nagb.org.bs, email info@nagb.org.bs or call 328-5800/1.

Film
Passage (2013), the award-winning short film by Bahamian filmmaker Kareem Mortimer, will be screened on Thursday, January 23, 2104 at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, 6 p.m.

The film tackles the harrowing subject of immigration. The 15-minute film will be preceded by a "making-of" that explores the director's motivation.

Following the screening in the ballroom gallery, there will be a panel discussion moderated by radio personality Louby Georges, host of 'The Creole Connection' on Guardian Radio 96.9. Panelists include R.E. Barnes from Amnesty International; Erin Green, interim deputy chairman of CARFA; and a representative from the United Haitian-Bahamian Association.

Poetry
Illiterati Story Slam -- a forum where writers, storytellers, poets, musicians, comedians, artists and others share thier stories -- will take place on Friday, January 31, 6pm-9pm at Doongalik Studios Art Gallery, Village Road. The forum is held on the final Friday of every month.

Each month a new theme is selected and participants are invited to share a story of 10 minutes or less on the topic. This month's theme is "Stories About Change."
The winner of the season's story slam will receive the opportunity to have their stories compiled in a hand-bound chapbook by Poinciana Paper Press.

Tours
Islandz, having acquired Downtown Art Tours, offers its Islandz Gallery Hop tours, examining art spaces downtown on Saturdays. Tickets are $20 per person for the two-hour tour.

For more information or to book tickets, call 601-7592 or visit Islandz online at www.islandzmarket.com.

Tru Bahamian food tours offers a "Bites of Nassau" food tasting and cultural walking tour to connect people with authentic local food items, stories and traditions behind the food and the Bahamians that prepare and preserve them, through a hands-on, interactive, educational tour and culinary adventure. Tickets are $69 per person, $49 for children under 12. Tours are everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., starting at the British Colonial Hilton and ending at Tortuga Rum Cake Company. For more information visit www.trubahamianfoodtours.com.

read more »

ARC Magazine awarded art grant

December 21, 2013

Oettinger Davidoff AG, the worldwide leading manufacturer of premium cigars headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, announced two new recipients of Davidoff Art Grants during Art Basel in Miami Beach, along with the evolution of plans for an international residency in the Dominican Republic. These programs are part of the Davidoff Art Initiative, which was launched in 2012 with the mission of supporting contemporary art and artists in the Caribbean and Dominican Republic, fostering cultural engagement between the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
Davidoff Art Grants assist local cultural organizations and institutions in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region with small and medium-sized awards. A limited number of grants are provided each year to meet the specific needs of organizations working to promote visual art in the region. Under the terms of the Davidoff grants, ARC Magazine will receive a monthly stipend for one year to fund capacity development related to its editorial growth.
"With the Davidoff Art Grants, we have an opportunity to offer specialized support to cultural organizations and institutions in the Dominican Republic, tailored to the needs of each organization," said Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, president and CEO of Oettinger Davidoff AG. "Davidoff Cigars has a role in ensuring the sustainability of these organizations and by extension, the cultural community of the Dominican Republic. This is the core aim of the Davidoff Art Initiative."
"Receiving recognition of this caliber outside of our regular working locale is very exciting for the longevity and the sustainable development of ARC," states Holly Bynoe, director of ARC Magazine. "The Davidoff Art Initiative Grant will assist ARC's core team to be more autonomous while providing us with the ability to take editorial risks, as well as confirming security and continuing scholarship, study and outreach. We are excited to be moving into the new year and plan for a dynamic round of programming and activities that will reflect the merit of this grant."

About the Davidoff Art Initiative
The Davidoff Art Initiative supports contemporary art and artists in the Caribbean, strengthens art organizations in the Dominican Republic, shares knowledge and expertise about contemporary art, and fosters cultural engagement between the Caribbean and the rest of the world. At the core of the art initiative, Davidoff aims to give back to the cultural community in the Dominican Republic, where much of its production and so many of its employees are based, bringing opportunity and visibility to the art and culture of the Caribbean region while extending the company's long-standing commitment to artistry, craftsmanship, community and quality. The Davidoff Art Initiative's four global program areas are: the Davidoff Art Residency, Davidoff Art Dialogues, Davidoff Art Grants and Davidoff Art Editions.

About ARC
ARC Inc. is a nonprofit organization that publishes ARC Magazine, printed bi-annually and that operates an online and social platform since 2011. ARC seeks to fill a certain void by offering a critical space for contemporary Caribbean artists to present their work, while fostering and developing critical dialogues and opportunities for crucial points of cultural exchange. ARC's mission is to build awareness for Caribbean art by fostering exchanges and opportunities that expand creative culture, within the visual arts industry across the wider Caribbean and its diasporas.

o Originally published on arcthemagazine.com.

read more »