Culture

Forget the North Pole, shop locally

November 14, 2014

Pushing for more support from the community and government as they compete with cheaper, mass-produced, imported goods, local artisans with authentic, Bahamian crafts have been struggling year-round to keep their heads above water. With December rolling in, and many Bahamians planning to make trips to Florida, where they believe they may get more bang for their buck, local craftsmen are encouraging Bahamians to support their art-forms and the Bahamian economy by shopping for gifts and decorations locally.
Doing so doesn't have to come at a hefty price tag, nor does it mean being limited to kitschy or rudimentary items. Bahama Art and Handicraft and The Craft Cottage are two locations that specialize in selling 100 percent Bahamian-made, high-quality products at affordable prices.

Bahama Art and Handicraft
Opened in August, 2007, Bahama Art and Handicraft has been making a name for itself as a family-owned retailer dedicated to promoting local artisans. Its founder, Lou Moseley-Cuevas, a descendent of Founder of The Nassau Guardian Edward Charles Moseley, comes from a family long dedicated to the country's development. Discouraged by the lack of support for Bahamian creatives, she decided to open a place where everyday craftspeople could show their work.
"She was looking for a place for Bahamians to show their work because they're really isn't anywhere other than the straw market and they don't really have Bahamian products," explained Moseley-Cuevas' daughter, Luciana Hall. "Also she's been collecting and making art out of recycled material for probably 40 years now and she, herself, didn't have anywhere to display it."
Moseley-Cuevas' sea glass murals can be easily identified in the shop, which is also filled with the works of over 150 other Bahamian artists and crafts people. At the store, located at the corner of Shirley Street and Kemp Road, visitors can find fine art, locally-made teas, straw work, stemware, wood work, Christmas decorations and delicate jewelry made by Bahamian gold and silversmiths, among many other precious finds. Prices for small trinkets and gifts start at $6 and run up to $600 for high-end artwork. Bahama Art and Handicraft also offers gift certificates for those who aren't sure what friends or family members might want to sit under the tree, and many of its artisans are accommodating to those who request custom orders.
"We don't like to discourage anybody," explained Hall. "If we're not sure if a product's going to sell right away, we'll even take it on consignment to give it a try. We try to help everybody and we try not to discourage any artists, especially youth."
Still going strong in their mission to grow the Bahamian creative industry, provide a source of income for independent artisans and serve as a venue for showcasing the nation's talents, Moseley-Cuevas and Hall want to encourage Bahamians to recognize quality craftsmanship in their giving this Christmas.
"Bahamians should shop locally so the money stays in The Bahamas and supports our Bahamians. A lot of them don't have anywhere to show their stuff - that's what they're trying to live off of and there's nowhere for them to sell it," said Hall.
Bahama Art and Handicraft is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To find out more about Bahama Art and Handicraft, visit its website at http://www.bahamaartandhandicraft.com/default.htm or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BahamaArtAndHandicraft.

The Craft Cottage
Based on the same compound as Doongalik Studios, on Village Road, The Craft Cottage shares strong motives with Doongalik owner, Pam Burnside, in its mission to promote the Bahamian creative economy. Led by three of its original six founding members, Sosefina Christie, Rukenya Nash and Nadine Ramphal, The Craft Cottage has been open for nearly three years (its anniversary is in February).
In addition to managing the shop, Christie, Nash and Ramphal also make 80 percent of the goods sold at the cottage, with the remaining 20 percent sourced mainly from Family Island craftspeople. There is plenty to browse between Christie's jewelry, Nash's soaps and scented body care products and Ramphal's decorated glassware. Unafraid of testing their hands at new projects, they experiment with funky ideas and repurposed materials - think cufflinks boasting 15 cent coins and drinking glasses made from recycled beer bottles alongside classic straw work and cheeky hand-painted signs.
The cottage's laidback atmosphere means that visitors are welcome to browse for as long as they wish - Christie claims that most customers "have to go around this shop at least three times to get a good look". But the shop's attendees and artists are happy to assist and get feedback on their creations whenever visitors come calling.
"We are interacting with the public, so we're not at home creating and don't know what the public feedback is," said Ramphal. "We work based on that dynamic of what people love and what they say they enjoy."
The shop's original work has made a name for itself abroad - The Craft Cottage has been featured in travel publications and the famed New York Times as one of Nassau's top destinations.
"There's a comfort that you get when you surround yourself with things that have memories from your childhood and memories of Family Island life," said Ramphal. "You find that people, the further they go, the more they miss out on the basic touches, and when you surround yourself with natural fibers and hand-made things, there's a more personal touch. Things that, when you purchase them have a story behind them, I think those things mean a lot to people."
Shoppers can find stocking stuffers for as little as $2 and exquisite, handcrafted jewelry for under $100. Gift certificates are available.
The Craft Cottage is open Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To find out more about The Craft Cottage, visit its website at http://craftcottagebahamas.com/ or Facebook page, which is updated daily, at https://www.facebook.com/craftcottage.

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The paper trail down Bay Street

November 07, 2014

Once, during an interview with artist Stan Burnside, he told me how he and his late brother, Jackson Burnside, would often lament the fact that their country failed to acknowledge the "incredible gift" of Junkanoo and use it to its economic advantage.
A founding member of the One Family Junkanoo group, Burnside said: "In Junkanoo, you have an incredible opportunity, and I can't overstate that. [It is] an incredible gift. Tourism was just given this gift in their war to create and sustain the attraction called The Bahamas, and the gift is just sitting there, and they won't shoot it. They won't use it. You know? They're in the war, getting weapons from everywhere and the weapons are not as powerful as this gift right here, and they're just leaving it there, sitting. And for some reason they seem to be afraid [to use it]."
A few months later, newspaper pages erupted with the findings of a study by Dr. Nicolette Bethel, head of the department of psychology, sociology and social work at The College of The Bahamas. Titled "The Economic Impact of Junkanoo in The Bahamas", Bethel's four-year study (it began in January 2009 and ended in May 2013) reveals that Junkanoo each year operates at an astonishing loss.

The bad news
According to the report, Junkanoo expenses - that is the cost of food, materials and overheads - amount to somewhere in the region of $8 million to $10 million per year. In addition to that staggering figure, Bethel believes there is at least another $10 million being lost in unpaid labor.
"There is one element to Junkanoo that we overlook tremendously, and that is that it is a result of hours and hours of unpaid labor. People are working in the shacks, but they're not paid for that work. Now if you want to make it an industry, they should be able to be paid. So that represents some $10 [million] to $11 million dollars, annually, in labor," she said in an interview.
To calculate the figure, Bethel and her students visited a Junkanoo shack over an eight-week period. They used an average of $10 per hour - a rate higher than minimum wage "because Junkanoo is a labor-intensive activity, so it shouldn't be minimum wage", but lower than the average national hourly wage of $13.50 because of the Junkanooers' young ages and earning potential. The team observed Junkanooers spending an average of 20 hours per week, over 17 weeks - the length of time that Bethel believes most Junkanoo shacks take to prepare for the parades.
With an idea of the tradition's monetary losses, Bethel sought to uncover its gains - an endeavor easier said than done. The only measurable source of revenue from Junkanoo is ticket sales, which fluctuate, along with sponsorship.
"The Junkanoo groups have sponsors. Other sources might be exchanges in kind... They do a number of things that one would associate more with a volunteer group, those kinds of fundraising activities, rather than taking a business-like approach. That's the gap. Everything is done very much from the voluntary model as opposed to a business approach, saying 'These are our costs. These are what we have to cover. These are what we're going to create as revenue streams'. That doesn't seem to happen," she explained.
Tallying up the only numbers she had - those of the ticket sales - Bethel found the number that Junkanoo groups stand to make, on average, each year. Four-hundred thousand dollars is what's currently being pulled in each year by ticket sales to cover about $20 million in costs.

The better news
Bethel believes the situation is fixable, not least because the tradition has managed to survive against all odds, apparently out of Junkanooers' sheer love for the rush. Still, she's recommended several action plans to prepare for the days when love may not be enough.
Marketing Junkanoo and making it more accessible to tourists is at the fore.
"There's almost a hands-off, non-involvement from the Ministry of Tourism. Junkanoo is never promoted to tourists. Junkanoo is used in the promotion of The Bahamas, but Junkanoo itself is not promoted to tourists." she said.
Officials have told her that the main reason for this is "that nobody is traveling on Christmas day, so the Boxing Day parade isn't going to be sellable to tourists". Countering that, she argues in her report that there is a spike right after Boxing Day in tourist arrivals. This, she believes, could be beneficial to the New Year's Day parade.
"Junkanoo has 76 percent occupancy, by our calculations," she said. "That means that 24 percent of the tickets don't get sold. These are available for the tourist population. And even if you don't want Bahamians to pay more than $45 or $50 a head, you could charge tourists $100 a head because they don't have the opportunity to see it more than once, and they will pay."
Bethel thinks a chat about the current local ticket prices is worth having, too. Current prices for Junkanoo tickets have been capped off by the government at $45 in a move she believes to have been unwise. In her research, the professor found that one third of the people she interviewed, who were largely from a young, financially-dependent, student demographic, were willing to pay up to $50 for a Junkanoo ticket.
"If there's a third of the population out there who's willing to pay more, capping the tickets at less than they're willing to pay does not make economic sense. So that's the first thing. The ticket prices are currently too low, and that's a Cabinet decision," she said.
She also mentioned the lowest available price of a ticket for the Boxing Day or New Year's Day parade - $5. This is half the price of the lowest available ticket price for a Junior Junkanoo parade.
Another starting point for additional revenue is the Junkanoo practices. Bethel believes practices should be ticketed events, citing the fact that vendors who sell refreshments at the practices stand to make substantial sums of money - she knows of one such vendor who has made up to $10,000 over two nights - while the Junkanoo groups do not gather any revenue. This method of making quick money has been touted by the Bahamas National Festival Commission as the reason why so many Bahamians stand to benefit from the Bahamas Carnival; few know that the opportunity already exists in the Junkanoo community.
A key point Bethel hopes to highlight is the need for groups to set aside their differences and take the Junkanoo reins out of the government's hands.
"The Junkanoo community, over the last 20 years, is waiting for the government to take the lead in providing these solutions. That's where they make their mistake. It's not the government's job to do that," she said.
She added: "The difficulty that's happening right now is that the generation of leaders who forced the government to take note and invest in Junkanoo are dying. The people coming behind them never had to fend for themselves, so there is a learned helplessness in the community that has to be conquered."
Bethel has emphasized the need for the Junkanoo groups to operate "as a cooperative" for the benefit of the tradition itself. A lack of trust among groups, and even among separate shacks within the same group, has proved to be one of the most difficult hurdles to revitalizing what has been called a dying breed in recent years.
With the professor's study confirming what many had already suspected - that the tradition is indeed at risk - Bethel hopes it will also serve as a wake-up call to preserve a national treasure. Echoing Burnside's sentiments, she said: "In Junkanoo, people are making music and dancing and carrying costumes all the same time. This is unique... What we have failed to do is recognize the uniqueness and make the most of it."
Perhaps, in so doing, the country might preserve what Burnside has called the "fragility of Junkanoo".
"Junkanoo is something that we should treasure," he said, in that earlier interview. "We should try to never do anything that will put it at risk. I feel that we shouldn't take for granted that the Junkanoo artists are always going to come to Bay Street and produce what they produce."
"The Economic Impact of Junkanoo in The Bahamas" has been published in Volume 20(1) of the International Journal of Bahamian Studies and is available online through The College of The Bahamas.

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A thought on culture

November 07, 2014

The Minnis retrospective exhibition, titled "Creation's Grace", at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is a fantastic walk through Bahamian visual and musical culture. It is a glimpse of what we are and where we came from and what we love. It showed, too, this family's cross-generational gift for capturing culture that is not adulterated by the recolonization of the Bahamian psyche.
In one space, a lifetime of exposure to art and the Minnis family can make a lasting impression on the Bahamian psyche. They have invested beyond millions in Bahamian culture, but the importance of that investment is quickly eroding. Yes, time moves ahead at a winged-chariot pace, but the damage that our un-remembering of the past is doing is simply criminal. What is fabulous about the exhibition - including the impressionistic realism of the watercolors of Harbour Island beauty, the comic fun-poking at political icons and the musical rendition of island life - is the capturing of the Over the Hill area. It showed it, not in a romanticized fashion, nor did it render it empty of life and value, as we are so tempted to do today; it presented rather as being alive, relevant and vibrant. It may have been blighted by its problems, but it created some of the most significant artists and Bahamians. Unlike those who claim themselves to be the most important figures in the country's history, it showed true people.
Over the Hill was not a world lost to possibility, as we so often render it today, nor was it a space empty of worth and easily bought for a dime. It was a community that thrived on its own self-awareness and consciousness. This self-awareness has mostly died today because it has been encouraged to die. Its replacement is a plastic feel-good copy of what we render as Bahamian.
The Minnis retrospective is an honest and invaluable journey through more than 40 years of national development. It shows the reality of young, unwed-motherhood with children in tow but also the pride in house and home, since vanished and replaced by a pride in car and clothes. It provides social commentary, both critical and comic, but also encourages us to strive to be our best. It is timeless in Eddie Minnis' depiction of the social problems of young Bahamian males: "He either in Fox Hill or..." holds cultural poignancy decades later.
The exhibition is timely, too, as its opening coincided with Edmond Moxey's death. Like Eddie Minnis, Moxey was a cultural icon, a man who perhaps saw beyond his time. The exhibition speaks to a need to remember that we have a culture of great worth. There are talented artists who capture our lives as they are, not for the pleasure of some outside gaze or vision of what The Bahamas should be as it develops into a painted copy of itself, sanitized and safe. Some of the artwork captures buildings, many of which were left to rot or be eaten by the worms of under-development, later turned into car parks and roads for progress to pass through on route to resorts, walled away from prying local eyes. How ironic that a man like Moxey, who was so much before his time, who celebrated the simplicity and realness of Bahamian identity and culture, who was destroyed by the power that devalued blackness but unrealistically elevated it to fragility and museum fossilization, should be mourned and heralded as a hero at the same time that the Minnis' cultural impact was being celebrated. Much like Moxey, Eddie Minnis lent a serious voice to black Bahamian life, to political critique and to encouraging Bahamian arts and culture. The Minnis family lends voice to the hidden culture exceptionally well, capturing multiple gazes of different real Bahamases that we who live here become blind to.
The exhibition pulled away the veiled covering that repeats that we are nothing but a cultureless backwater. This idea is far too prevalent in the 21st century young Bahamian psyche. The Minnis family shows how much we painted,drew and wrote, and that we could criticize the follies of old-time leadership through comedy. Simultaneously, the exhibition is a fabulous and poignant statement of the loss of culture that carnivalizes or cannibalizes us into tourist-imaged rap-steadiness.
The slice of culture that hangs on the walls of the national gallery is only the beginning of what we can hope will become a revival of true Bahamian culture. Yes, there is true culture. It is not the plasticized stuff that we trot out with whenever we want to perform who we are for the tourist gaze. The real culture spans a history of life in Long Cay, where one of the oldest churches in the country stands as a beacon to a pre-civilization that was almost destroyed by the change in power and that bears witness to the problem of falling from government's grace. Perhaps, better it fall from grace than be devoured by the greedy jowls of mass-developed tourism that seeks only to Happy Meal us all, and fit us into a cultureless world of tin can music and performed authenticity.
The exhibition offers color, texture, depth, music, voice, pain and pleasure of a people alive in themselves. How can we reinvigorate that life energy that was perhaps not so fast to sell itself to the savior promising trinkets as Columbus' men once did? We may sell ourselves for the $100 today, but tomorrow holds some serious bad belly after the ball. Eddie Minnis criticizes these problems with his music and his cartoons. How can we revalidate what the Minnis retrospective shows as being so much a part of our being?
The exhibition is a fabulous sliver of Bahamian life. Why can we not celebrate this culture and continue to present ourselves as we are and not as we think people want to see us? We must commend the years of dedication and incredible cultural wealth the Minnis family artists have endowed the country with.

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A celebration of diversity

October 24, 2014

Making its grand return, the 19th annual International Cultural Festival was held last weekend at the Nassau Botanical Gardens. The festival, known for its multitude of booths representing a myriad of countries, was this year no less a success than its predecessors. The two-day event featured performances, competitions, food, drink, craft items and, of course, lots of cultural pride.
The current International Cultural Festival Board of Directors, led by Chairperson Janet Johnson, took over management of the festival in 2009 and has been working to expand and improve the annual affair over the past five years. The team of directors includes Sheila Bethel, Eric Carey, Peter Goudie, Gershan Major and Brendon Watson.
It seems the board's efforts are working. Initial attendance counts revealed the festival's visitor count over the weekend to be in the region of 32,000 to 34,000. Hoping to get more international visitors involved, the board partnered with Bahamas Experience Tours, which offered a shuttle service for tourists to and from hotels on Paradise Island and Cable Beach as well as Festival Place in Downtown Nassau.
There's no mystery why people flock in droves; the festival is known as an event for everyone - families, couples, senior citizens and children reveled in the gardens and patronized this year's booths, of which there were more than 100 representing approximately 24 countries.
Doing more than incensing the garden's air with the smells of cooking food, the booths delighted the visual senses, as well. Dressing up the booths is one of the festival's traditions; not only does it give booth holders the opportunity to celebrate unique cultures through festive decorations, but it also gives them a shot at one of the festival prizes.
Divided by geographical region, the festival booths vie for first or second place in their respective divisions. There is also a best in show prize given to the booth deemed the most festive overall. Judging this year was done by a team led by artist John Cox, who chose the Republic of The Philippines' booth as the best in show. The win was the second consecutive for the booth that wowed judges with dances, food showcasing, craft demonstrations and a brief overview of the country's history.
Zeleka Knowles was part of the team representing Ethiopia as the sole African nation at the 2014 festival.
"Two years ago, South Africa was there, which was very exciting to at least have them present," she said. "But this year we heard that South Africa wasn't going to have a booth, so we thought that it'd be important to represent Africa."
The Ethiopian booth was one of the few offering vegetarian and vegan options at the festival. Served with Ethiopian flatbread, known as injera, the booth offered misir wot, a spicy red lentil stew; kik alicha, a yellow split pea curry, and garlic and ginger-infused collard greens. There were also beef skewers brushed with cardamom and rosemary butter, Ethiopian honey wine - a mead - and artisan, Ethiopian jewelry.
"We had a great reaction," said Knowles. "We got very positive feedback from a lot of people. The Rasta community was - as was to be expected - very intrigued by the booth."
Originally from Ethiopia, Knowles recognized the opportunity the festival presents for expats to connect with others of similar backgrounds.
"We did meet other Africans at the booth, so that was another exciting part about having this booth because it's such a small community of Africans here. It was an opportunity for me to meet and connect with other Africans living in The Bahamas," she said.
A nonprofit venture, the festival is sustained by a 10 percent deduction on the profits made by vendors each year. While a good portion of the funds provides for the following year's infrastructure, the board also uses a part of the money raised to support local educational and charitable ventures. Prominent beneficiaries of the festival are students who participate in Model United Nations conferences and debates in local schools. The International Cultural Festival provides sponsorship for the winning debate team to travel to the United Nations Headquarters in New York with the minister of foreign affairs.
Special mention has been made by a member of the board of directors for the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, which, every year donates the total proceeds from its festival booths back to the International Cultural Festival.
Though this year's festival just ended, the planning process for the 2015 International Cultural Festival is only a few months away. Those who are interested in getting involved may contact the board from early February onward. To find out more about the International Cultural Festival, visit its website at http://www.culturefestbahamas.com/.

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Making the transatlantic connection

October 24, 2014

Making its return to The Bahamas for the first time in over 30 years and featuring a Bahamian cast for the first time ever, "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" blew audiences away in the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts Black Box Theatre during the sixth annual Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival (SIP). Directed by SIP Artistic Director Philip Burrows, "Sizwe Banzi's" two-man cast starred COB Professor Mark Humes as Sizwe Banzi and IT professional Dion Johnson in a double role as Styles and Buntu.
The co-stars had acted in previous SIP seasons and knew each other from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". "Sizwe Banzi's" return was spurred by Johnson's interest in testing his talents onstage.
"I normally try to play comedian-type roles. I wanted to challenge myself with this type of role because it's not so often you can actually portray something that is serious, significant and historical," he said.
Johnson presented the idea of a one-man show to Burrows in 2013. Advising that such a production would be "something he really needed to research, workshop and spend quite a bit of time working on", Burrows suggested "Sizwe Banzi" in lieu.
"I said, 'Well I do know there's this play if you want to do a one-man experience; there's like a 40-minute monologue that opens the play, if you want to work on that'. And we started to discuss 'Sizwe Banzi' as a possibility," explained Burrows.
Having experience working with Humes, whose stage presence he admired, Johnson decided to consider the roles of Styles and Buntu, acting opposite Humes as Sizwe Banzi.
Written during the apartheid era in South Africa, "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" is the product of a collaborative effort by South African activists and playwrights Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona and John Kani. The play tells the story of Sizwe Banzi, a black South African man in search of work in Port Elizabeth. Originally from King William's Town, Banzi travels on a passbook, which gives him permission to look for work in Port Elizabeth for a finite period. With his - what could essentially be called a visa - expired, he is told that he must return jobless to his family in King William's Town. After an evening of drowning his sorrows with his friend, Buntu, Sizwe Banzi encounters the body of a dead man whose passbook gives him permission to stay in Port Elizabeth. Sizwe Banzi deals with internal conflict and an identity crisis in a world that defines him by the government stamps on a book. With the unwitting help of photographer Styles, Sizwe Banzi 'dies' when he replaces the picture in the dead man's passbook with his own.
"The reason I wanted to do 'Sizwe' is because, when I read the background information on it, based on apartheid, I realized the connection that it has, especially with regard to the ending of apartheid and to our own prime minister, the late Sir Lynden Pindling," explained Johnson.
The Bahamas voiced its disproval of the apartheid system in 1985, at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held in Nassau. The Nassau Accord was drafted at Lyford Cay and called on the South African government to strike down the apartheid system and "initiate... a process of dialogue across lines of color, politics and religion". Upon his release from prison, Mandela traveled to The Bahamas to thank the Bahamian government for its activism.
Humes noted the story's relevance in a current day Bahamas: "We (he and Johnson) were so concentrated just on learning the lines that, that was the main focus; you really didn't get the essence of it when you were learning the lines and rehearsing. But there was one day in rehearsal when we did the scene where we saw the dead guy, and Bantu was actually going to walk off, that it really hit me. I have never experienced anything like that in my life - it really shook me - and I started to actually cry. To feel that, to have that possibly happen to you - and I've seen many Haitian persons in our community just struggling to get an identity... I've seen several people in the Haitian community here who just walk around with this whole bunch of papers. And it hurts. It really does hurt to see that there are people living in our society like that. And it was kind of real to think about it."
The show's director also observed other linkages in curiously coincidental ways.
"It's very much a connection [between The Bahamas and South Africa]," said Burrows. "Things kind of happen very strangely. I had set the dates for "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" having no idea that the date that we opened was 40 years to the day that it opened in South Africa. These kinds of things sort of just happened as it came up. It (2014) was the year of the 20th anniversary of Mandela being released."
Eerie happenings aside, "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" was well-received by the Bahamian public, who congratulated the cast and director on the show's closing night with a standing ovation. By popular demand, Burrows, Johnson and Humes have decided to bring the play back to the black box theater for three nights only. Those who missed "Sizwe Banzi" during the Shakespeare in Paradise Festival will now get a chance to see it performed from November 13 - 15. Tickets will be on sale at the Dundas next week.
To reserve tickets, contact the Dundas on 393-3728 or visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thedundas. To find out more about "Sizwe Banzi is Dead", visit the Shakespeare in Paradise website at http://shakespeareinparadise.org/.

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And then there were three

October 18, 2014

Self-discovery isn't something that fits in a five-year plan. It doesn't heed deadlines, and it certainly doesn't mind age. Finding and re-discovering one's passion can happen at any stage in life, as Subrenna Gomez-Higgs, Janet Jennings and Jeanine Lampkin can attest.
In recent years, the three women have been unearthing their individual creativity in bags of clay and gallons of glaze, under ceramicist Joann Behagg's watchful eyes. Though they hadn't met before their first Saturday class together in Behagg's studio, Gomez-Higgs, Jennings and Lampkin share common traits, one of them being the way they found their way to ceramics.
Gomez-Higgs realized her "inclination for art" when she began helping her teenage son with preparation for his Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations.
"I got him some art tutoring, and I felt like I could do it and it felt exciting, so I started taking some art classes," she recalled.
Her interest in ceramics was piqued during a family member's pottery demonstration at her church. She began ceramic lessons with Behagg in May 2013, and met fellow freshman Lampkin who was also on her first day of pottery classes.
A gift from her daughter, the ceramic lessons served as a return to fine arts for Lampkin, who had pursued painting and sketching in her teenage years with dreams of becoming an architect.
Jennings began ceramic lessons with Behagg in 2011. She, too, was guided to the classes through her children, who benefited from a summer art program with Behagg.
With their years of helping small children with classroom art projects behind them, the women have taken pride in redirecting their energies into pursuing creative studies as adults. They all agree that their efforts have been worth it - each ceramicist has found curative properties and restorative benefits in the art form.
"Ceramics is an opportunity to be creative, to interact with my fellow students and just have fun," explained Gomez-Higgs. "It takes you to a different world. I feel like I'm a kid again because I'm learning to craft, and I'm not sure how it's going to come out...ceramics takes you into the world of learning and being a true student."
Similarly, Lampkin and Jennings have noticed their artistry's positive effects on their daily lives.
"Doing pottery is extremely therapeutic," said Lampkin. "It offers an opportunity to release creative energy."
Jennings added: "It provides relaxation, focus and motivation to be able to pursue my goals."
Keen on sharing the fruits of their labor of love, the women now look forward to their newest venture - a group show aptly named "Trio". The idea was Behagg's. Believing that they "seemed to gel really well as a group while doing the classes" and having seen each student develop capable skills, she introduced the concept of a group exhibition.
Trio will be the first show for Gomez-Higgs and Lampkin and the second for Jennings, who previously held an informal joint exhibition with another ceramics student. Opening this coming Thursday, Trio will be held at Doongalik Studios on Village Road. The exhibition will feature staples like teapots, tea sets and platters alongside each ceramicist's self-inspired works.
Jennings is particularly proud to display her "rose bouquet" - a collection of handcrafted ceramic roses - and "British Car" teapot. Similarly, Lampkin looks forward to showcasing her "Face Mugs" - a series of mugs featuring intricate facial features.
Gomez-Higgs and Jennings hope Trio will provide inspiration for adults interested in pursuing art.
"Hopefully a lot of visitors will be able to say, 'Hey, we can do it too'," said Gomez-Higgs. "You can be 70, 80, 90 and still be able to do these kinds of things."
Jennings looks forward to using her work as encouragement for others by demonstrating "that it's never too late to start discovering your gift that's within you". She added: "Only you will know that when you reach that point, and I think that's where I am right now, and I hope it gives [visitors] motivation."
While emphasizing the values in lifelong artistic development and the remedial advantages of creative expression, Trio will also underscore the wealth of creative talent found in The Bahamas by highlighting one-of-a-kind, hand-molded pottery. Lampkin hopes the exhibition will draw attention to ceramics in The Bahamas and give visitors "a better appreciation for the work that is required in terms of creating a ceramic piece".
"All of our pieces in the show are hand-crafted. We don't do anything on the [potter's] wheel, which means that it takes a long time to create, and people are used to buying mass-produced pieces of ceramics that, of course, are less expensive," she said. "Hopefully they'll become more appreciative of the work and creativity that go in to each molded piece."
Trio will open at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 23 at Doongalik Studios. The exhibition will be on display at the gallery until November 12. Those interested in supporting the artists or finding out more about ceramics in The Bahamas are encouraged to visit the gallery during its opening hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays through Wednesdays. More on Doongalik Studios can be found on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/doongalik.

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Central Bank announces winners of 2014 open category art competition

October 18, 2014

This past Wednesday, The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) announced the first, second and third place winners of the open category component of its 31st annual art competition and exhibition. Setting this year's open category competition and exhibition apart from its predecessors, the 2014 competition administrators withheld a theme for the show.
The move resulted in what CBB Art Gallery Curator Antonius Roberts described as the "strongest ever" body of work displayed in the annual exhibition. Unrestrained, visual artists were given the freedom to select the works they believed would best reflect their talents and convictions. Open to Bahamian artists ages 18 and older who are not registered in secondary schools, the gallery's call was for artists to present their most outstanding works in progress or recently completed pieces.
"We encouraged every participant to submit something that they are working on, because we assume and we believe and we encourage young artists...to be working anyway, and if they're serious about their art, they should be working on a theme or a body of work that reflects their philosophy, their focus, their concept or the ideas that they've been pursuing through their art. And so we figured that if we allow people to present what it is they're working on, then in that way it's to their advantage, because then they will have a head-start as opposed to just focusing on a theme just for a competition," Roberts explained.
The curator and artist believes the result has spoken for itself.
"It's a very strong exhibition, and there's something in the exhibition for everybody," he said. "It really transcends all genres of art and every artist who participated really, really put their best foot forward."
Open to sculptures, drawings, paintings, prints, collages and other "pictorial presentations" from throughout The Bahamas, more than 30 applicants each submitted one piece supported by a portfolio. The winners were selected by a panel of judges comprised of Creative Nassau Co-founder and Owner of Doongalik Studios Pam Burnside, ceramicist Jessica Colebrooke, CBB Banking Department Manager Derek Rolle, architect Derek Paul, CBB Deputy Legal Counsel Stacy Benjamin and artist and former CBB Gallery Curator Heino Schmid.
Columbus, a Fairy Tale by Washington Irving". The winning piece plays on the mythologies associated with the voyages of Columbus and common misconceptions about his encounters with the Americas. In creating the piece, McKinney drew inspiration from coloring books - a prevalent medium in childhood learning. "See is for Columbus" is composed of crayon and marker drawings on paper and features fairy tale-esque creatures and tongue-in-cheek references to popular misunderstandings about the 15th century traveler.
"A lot of my work that I do, I do because I like to inform an audience and I think that [it] is important to have that conversation starter...in a positive way, so I used the idea of this coloring book that is very classic, and I created it the way I wanted to create it using elements of fairy tales to express the idea of this fictional story [of Columbus]," explained McKinney, who had only begun working on the piece a few months before the competition opened.
No stranger to the Central Bank Art Gallery, McKinney also won the bank's 2012 art competition.
"The inspiration for me entering the show was [that] I've always been a part of the Central Bank. I've participated in a few of the shows, so I just decided to enter [the 2014 open art competition]. I thought it was a good place to show the piece and...I really wanted to try to explore this idea, so I entered the show to see if my idea was worth working toward," he said.
The panel of judges certainly thought so. In addition to a $7,500 cash prize, McKinney has also been awarded a bespoke art competition pin designed by local jeweler Michael Anthony Kelly and an opportunity to host a solo exhibition in the Project Space at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Second and third prize winners, Julius Tinker and Kevvanna Hall, respectively, also took home special recognition pins, which reflect the bank's 40th anniversary.
Drawing attention to the achievements of all the competition's participants, Colebrooke addressed gatherers on Wednesday night in a speech that underscored the importance of constant professional development and tenacity.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian she explained: "The point I'm trying to relay to the audience is that it's always difficult. It's a difficult process when judges get together; you have people from different backgrounds, different crafts, different trades, and having to look at the wealth of artwork that's produced in front of you and to determine who our winners are going to be...What a lot of people tend to do when they come to these shows is focus just on the winner, and everybody leaves feeling defeated. It was very important for me to address that [just] because you weren't chosen, that doesn't mean that your work isn't good. What it means is you either have to do some more developing, some more growing, or it's just not your time. It's not your season. Step back, look at what you've produced and see how you can perfect it.
"I'm an artist. I went through that process many times. I got rejected many time. I get rejected now, even as a professional...But I look at it like, 'OK, that's probably not the job for me'; or, 'That wasn't meant for me'; or 'My work needs to improve'. You have to look at it from a positive perspective if you're going to keep growing as an artist."
The Central Bank's 31st open art competition and exhibition will be on display until October 30. To find out more about the annual competition or the gallery space, visit http://www.centralbankbahamas.com/galleries.php. To learn more about gallery curator Antonius Roberts, visit http://www.antoniusroberts.com/.
"See is for Columbus, a Fairy Tale by Washington Irving" by 2014 open category art competition and exhibition winner Jace McKinney. PHOTOS: JODI MINNIS
"Puzzle Piece" by third place winner Kevvanna Hall. Photo: Jodi Minnis
"Lineage" by second place winner Julius Tinker.

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Talking about the weather

October 10, 2014

As the country experiences significant social and economic changes, the D'Aguilar Art Foundation (DAF) is demonstrating its appreciation for ongoing shifts in the Bahamian landscape with a cleverly christened quarterly exhibition. In its most recent show, Partly Cloudy With a Chance..., the foundation juxtaposes works that manifest both charming scenery with less-than-idyllic realities.
Opened on Thursday, October 2, Partly Cloudy was a joint effort by DAF Director Saskia Shutte-D'Aguilar and newly appointed DAF Curator Tessa Whitehead; the duo selected works from the foundation's collection that represent a transition away from the traditional, picturesque Bahamian landscape paintings toward pieces that offer a candid look at the Bahamian landscape.
Paintings of cloudy skies and an apocalyptic, post-hurricane Bahamas complement a mixed-media work, "Little Lizzie", by Noella Smith and ceramic pieces from Alistair Stevenson's Growth series - a body of work inspired by wild plant life on the ceramicist's native Long Island.
Whitehead credits her interest in the late Vincent D'Aguilar's affinity for art with helping her to focus the show's theme.
"I have a background in painting, and as a new part of the team, I was interested in understanding Mr. D'Aguilar's eye or choices from a formal point of view," she explained. "I know he built very strong connections with the artists he collected from and bought work first and foremost because he liked it or had an emotional connection to it. There is a hand-written note by Mr. D'Aguilar in the foundation's office that reads, 'Technique in itself is not enough. It is important for the artist to develop the power to convey emotion'."
A successful and well-traveled businessman, Whitehead noted that D'Aguilar "would have had such an in-depth understanding of the trends, patterns and correlations between politics and subject matter in Caribbean painting". She and Shutte-D'Aguilar took the opportunity to "illustrate the development of landscape painting in The Bahamas" accordingly.
The works span almost five decades, beginning with a late 1960s painting by Angelo Roker titled "Colourful Sky with Coconut Tree and Seagrape" showing partly cloudy skies above a choppy seascape. Partly Cloudy highlights a development in the years preceding Bahamian independence and after. "I think you can see the artists' relationship with the landscape change quite drastically after this point (independence)," said Whitehead.
The varied group of artists presented in Partly Cloudy is an element of the show that Shutte-D'Aguilar and Whitehead take pride in. According to Whitehead, on the exhibition's opening night, the collaborative product delighted art enthusiasts and the featured artists who "saw their older work hanging in a new context, or newer work hanging alongside older paintings".
"We pulled out a lot of paintings that are rarely exhibited for this show, and certainly that I had never seen," she said. "I was proud to be able to hang such a wide spectrum of Bahamian works together that are all really special works in themselves, and to be able to hang a younger Bahamian artist, with some of the more established artists."
The younger artist she referred to is Bernard Petit, whose "Lagging Behind" is one of the paintings to enhance the foundation's space for the exhibition.
For Whitehead, the best thing about the show is the paintings' "visual substance".
"They reveal more and more with a second and third look," she said. "Every time I go in the gallery, I fall more in love with Angelo Roker's painting 'Colourful Sky with Coconut tree and Seagrape'. I can just feel the weather the day that it was painted, and it feels like a subtle but critical look at the exotic or utopian landscape that we have been branded with."
Partly Cloudy With a Chance... will be on display at the D'Aguilar Art Foundation until November 30. Visiting hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. Those interested in finding out more about the D'Aguilar Art Foundation are encouraged to visit its website at http://daguilarartfoundation.com/.

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Central Bank reschedules grand opening and awards ceremony

October 10, 2014

Since 1984, The Central Bank of The Bahamas has staged an annual art competition and exhibition through which it has continued to uncover and showcase budding Bahamian talent in the visual arts. For many, this competition and exhibition has served as an introduction to the Bahamian art world, and the exposure received has been an invaluable first step in growing their gifts. Moreover, in staging this event, the Central Bank has enjoyed the distinct privilege of assisting young Bahamians in educational pursuits that have helped them to further develop their skills. Many of them have gone on to very promising and successful professional careers in visual arts.
The Central Bank Art Gallery regrets to inform that the Grand Opening and Awards Ceremony (open category) has been rescheduled.
The gallery wishes to apologize for any inconvenience caused, and invites the public to visit at 6 p.m. on October 15, 2014 to celebrate the spirit of the competition, formally open the exhibition and announce the prizewinner.

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A simple concept

October 03, 2014



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NAGB's new permanent exhibition tells an honest narrative

October 03, 2014

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) is freshening things up with a new permanent exhibition called The Bahamian Domestic. Saying goodbye to 40 Years of Bahamian Art, the former permanent exhibition which paid homage to the country's four decades of independence, the NAGB team now looks forward to the new collection of works that gives voice to a plethora of experiences of living in The Bahamas.
The exhibition's theme was chosen by NAGB Director Amanda Coulson, who wanted the chance to showcase the everyday moments of Bahamian living, according to NAGB Assistant Curator and Registrar Averia Wright. Wright is co-curating the show alongside NAGB Collections Management Registrar and Curator Ashley Knowles.
Despite what the name suggests, the NAGB's permanent exhibitions generally last from six months to one year before being changed.
40 Years of Bahamian Art had been on display at the gallery since July 2013.
"With a year-long show, you can tell when attention starts to wane from the public, so it was time. And also we were ready for something new," said Wright.
The former show featured work from the 70s - the decade the country became independent - to the modern day. Many of the works were influenced by international styles of art - like Cubism and Impressionism. The Bahamian Domestic, in contrast, will "show how Bahamians grasp their own visual style".
Honest is probably the best way to describe the exhibition - visitors will find no perpetuated misconceptions about living in paradise in the art works. According to Knowles, the show gives a voice to Bahamians and the ways they "manifest or explore the issues in their own society".
Taking a multifaceted approach, the curating duo have touched on a number of areas of Bahamian life including immigration, religion, poverty, labor, music and architecture. The project will showcase "the beauty and the bad", Knowles added.
"It's a very involved exhibition, but it all comes back to the fact that it's Bahamian domestic [life] - it's where we live, where we work, how we get along with each other and it also has the spirit of the Bahamian people, so we didn't really heavily focus on Junkanoo, but you get some idea of festivities, goombay, and the everyday - it's supposed to be more of the everyday rather than those big moments, so that's basically what the whole exhibition is about," explained Wright.
Most of the works have been sourced from large collections like the Dawn Davies Collection and the D'Aguilar Art Foundation, with a few pieces coming from the National Collection of Bahamian Art. Visitors can look forward to seeing works by some of the visual art community's newer faces, including a ceramic set by 2013 Central Bank Art Competition winner Jeffrey Meris. The final selection is the product of a joint effort and synergy between the co-curators.
"We started to cross off or add or fix the story as in [define] what is The Bahamian Domestic," Wright said. "So it didn't happen that we agreed on everything; we always had to defend our pose on this piece or [that], so it was a joint effort, but we got the story together at the end."
Dividing the space between them, Wright and Knowles each took charge of her section, with Wright responsible for the front of the exhibition - a space that tells the story of the Bahamian home and family - and Knowles curating the back - an area that narrates cultural issues and social dynamics. The various sections of the exhibition will be accompanied by essays composed by the curators. Through their writings, Wright and Knowles hope to explain their motives behind the themes portrayed in The Bahamian Domestic's spaces.
PopopStudios Prize Winner Jodi Minnis has also played a role in bringing the new exhibition together by curating the show's "labor" section.
"My wall is about labor, and your work kind of dictates what social class you fall into, and your social class depicts how you respond to religion and living in The Bahamas and the other aspects of the show," she said. "So I think it's important to bring in that aspect to show that there is a tie between all aspects of Bahamian life."
The Bahamian Domestic will be open Tuesday, October 7, 2014. The NAGB is open to visitors Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m. To find out more about The Bahamian Domestic or the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, visit http://www.nagb.org.bs/ or call (242) 328-5800/1.

Jump: The Bahamian Domestic is the product of a joint effort

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Cox's highchair takes a seat at N.Y. show

September 27, 2014

With his fingers in several of the country's visual arts pies, Baha Mar Creative Arts Director John Cox has dipped another digit in upstate New York. The artist's work has been featured in a show titled "Principals/Principles" at the KuBe visual arts center owned by Ethan Cohen Fine Arts.
The KuBe is one of two Ethan Cohen Fine Arts creative centers (the other being the Ethan Cohen Gallery in New York City) and is based in Beacon, N.Y. Its objective is to foster international dialogue about the arts and serve as an avenue for showcasing art forms from around the world.
Principals/Principles is its most recent exhibition and seeks to explore "formal and conceptual connections between a diverse range of artists' principles and the principal languages invented by each". The exhibition opened on Saturday, September 13 and presents several solo shows along with a combined group show, of which Cox's work is a part. His "High Yellow" piece - a structural fusion of a chair and bicycle - has been holding its own among works from over 30 American and international artists.
Though Principals/Principles opened only recently, "High Yellow's" journey to Beacon began six months ago. Representing PopopStudios at the New York March 2014 VOLTA show, Cox exhibited his "Filler" installation - a series of bicycle tube "flowers" - and "High Yellow" - one of a series of works he deems "highchairs". The whimsical works caught the eye of art collector Ethan Cohen, who soon after added both "Filler" and "High Yellow" to his personal collection.
"High Yellow" first took root six years ago in the fourth National Exhibition (NE4). Cox entered his "Balance Between Contemplation and Action" - an installation featuring a bicycle and chair in suspension, each balancing the other on pulleys connected to the ceiling.
"The chair kind of symbolized a more contemplative self or presence and the bicycle presented, depending on how you thought about it, an opposite or a polar type of perspective or philosophy. And I guess the idea was trying to strike a balance between the two," explained Cox.
The concept evolved in the years following. Carrying on with the motif of striking harmony between "being experimental, being intuitive and spontaneous" and being "measured or being academic in some regard", Cox revisited the two main elements - the chair and bicycle. Changes in his personal life inspired him to experiment with elevating the chair in 2013.
"The idea that the sitting part or the intellectual or contemplative part, was up in the air above head height kind of elevated the idea that thinking was an important part of things, or being measured or being academic in some regard was important," he said. "But it's a little tongue-in-cheek because for the last couple years, I've been negotiating having my life around small kids. The work itself was kind of inspired a little by the way a highchair looks for a child. The chair needs to be lifted up so you come to a point where you're like, 'OK, I can negotiate with everybody; I can eat my food and have an eye-to-eye conversation with people'. So it was kind of an elevation in saying 'This is an aspiration, this is an homage', but it's also [saying] 'Yeah, but you're still like a child; you're still trying to work things out, and you're still trying to play'."
The exhibition means more exposure for Cox and, by extension, the wider Bahamian visual arts community.
"It's something I'm happy about. I think it's significant whenever your work is kind of experienced and someone else gets a chance to figure out what you're thinking, and I'm happy that it may be a springboard for some more works like that," he said.
To see Cox's "High Yellow" in Principals/Principles, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ethancohenkube. To find out more about The KuBe, visit its website at http://www.ecfa.com/.

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Art in your inbox

September 20, 2014

Dionne Benjamin-Smith has been dedicated to making the arts more accessible for nearly 20 years. A visual artist, graphic designer and illustrator, Benjamin-Smith is also the founder of one of the country's foremost arts and culture media - the weekly "Bahamian Art & Culture" e-magazine.
Founded in 1996 - long before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - "Bahamian Art & Culture" was an avant-garde concept preceding most forms of social media. It came at a time when the Internet and email had just begun their debut into mainstream society. Though it began as a primitive version of the one readers see today, its purpose was the same - to support local creatives by spreading the word about their events.
Working at former design firm, Time Design, Benjamin-Smith composed a mailing list of contacts made through her work. Though limited at the time, the list developed over the years as her cultural updates began to take effect.
"It kind of grew and it grew, and it really was something that came from the heart out of a love for the arts and really wanting to help my friends do well and be successful at their crafts," said Benjamin-Smith.
Like many other forms of social media, the e-newsletter slowly evolved into a business.
"It really took off, and a friend of mine...he gave me such good advice," said Benjamin-Smith. "He said, 'Dionne, why don't you start charging for what you do?' And it [had] never even occurred to me to charge."
She started out small, keeping her fees minimal and billing only for the time it took her to put the advertisements into the e-magazine. Her premise was and is still simple: she only charges advertising fees for profit-making ventures.
The effectiveness of the business has spoken for itself. With the help of account manager Stephanie Shivers and design assistant Don Adderley, "Bahamian Art & Culture" now has a following of over 5,000 subscribers in 45 countries.
Known for using her talents in printmaking as a platform for political and social commentary, Benjamin-Smith understands the potential in using art as a catalyst for starting dialogue on important social issues.
"I think the arts in general are an extremely important part of any community - and that involves the visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, musical arts. These things speak of the culture of a community," she said. "It speaks of who they are, where they came from, what they sound like, how they speak, what they eat. These things define what a community is. It brings, for the most part, a general uplifting of the spirit and it brings joy and it brings beauty into a community. And it also speaks to where a community is going."
She finds inspiration in the fact that the e-magazine is the only one of its kind in the country that is exclusively devoted to promoting Bahamian art and culture and encouraging the preservation of a cultural identity. While she hopes that the public is able to enjoy and be entertained by the many events publicized by the e-newsletter, her objective is to "educate and uplift" the community.
"The artists, the musicians, the writers are extremely important in defining who a people are. It's always interesting to note that when there is a society that is undergoing a terrible change [such as] a dictatorship or persons who wish to control a society, they often target the musicians, the writers and the artists...So I think they're an incredibly important part of any society. And they're coming into their own in The Bahamas in recent years," she said.
She has emphasized the e-magazine's accessibility for those in search of a platform to promote their creative works and "a vehicle to help themselves to grow and become a better artists".
Those interested in finding out more about the Bahamian Art & Culture eMagazine are encouraged to contact Dionne Benjamin-Smith at dionne@smith-benjamin.com or visit the Bahamian Art & Culture Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bahamian-Art-Culture/177752425612038, where they can view past issues of the e-magazine and sign up to subscribe.

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The very first Instinct

September 13, 2014

Celebrating their innate drive to create, nine esteemed Bahamian artists will be showcasing their works at The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) Art Gallery in a show aptly titled "Instinct". Opening on Thursday, September 18, the exhibition has been organized by multimedia artist Nadine Seymour-Munroe, who hopes to create a platform to expose The Bahamas to the talents and mastery of female Bahamian artists.
Having practiced art since high school, Seymour-Munroe knows firsthand the importance of artists gaining support and recognition for their abilities. She received partial scholarships for her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she graduated as the top painter in her year. The honor meant she was a prime candidate for the Florence Leaf Award, which helped fund her studies in RISD's master's program in art education. Her efforts did not go unnoticed at home, where several individuals and organizations provided her with private donations toward her education.
Now, she's trying to keep the ball rolling by establishing a sustainable foundation of support for female artists in the country. She'll be starting with Instinct, which will feature a range of mediums - from ceramics to digital pieces - and host the works of Sue Bennett-Williams, Chantal Bethel, Lisa Codella, Jessica Colebrooke, Claudette Dean, Sue Katz, Holly Parotti, Nadine Seymour-Munroe and Ana-Lisa Wells. This show is the first in what is hoped will become an annual event.
"I feel in The Bahamas right now, the female artists could get together a bit more and present themselves stronger, so this is how Instinct came about. Instinct is simply the ability to do something without being taught, and I feel...that women are instinctively creative, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to have these gifted artists who work in The Bahamas to come together and show The Bahamas what we have to offer," said Seymour-Munroe.
Acknowledging that it comes at a time when gender issues are at the fore in the country, she noted that the show "is a good representation of what we have to offer because, if you check records, most men get contracts when it's time for art, and a lot of times they get paid more, and it's an international concern. But I think this is a great start to say, 'Here we are, see what we do'."
Choosing artists whose work and skills she knows and admires, Seymour-Munroe wants to call as much attention to seasoned artists, like fellow multimedia artist Sue Bennett-Williams, as she does to relative newcomers, like ceramicist Lisa Codella. She is quick to point out that her objective is not to exclude male artists, but, rather, have it "be noted that we have excellent, senior female artists [in The Bahamas]".
"We've been saying we don't want it to be thought of as a sexist show, because when males have exhibitions, they don't say it's an all-male show, so we don't want the focus to be that it's an all-female show," said the Instinct founder. "But I want it to be noted that we have excellent, senior female artists. Oftentimes female artists are not as highly esteemed as male artists are. For example, we have master artists, but all of those are males. Why don't we have female master artists?"
Each artist chose her own pieces for the exhibition, which was arranged by CBB Gallery Curator Antonius Roberts and his team. Seymour-Munroe has submitted pieces from her "Blue Angel" series of abstract, mixed media works.
"It was done that way because, like I said, instinctively we are creative, and this show we really didn't have any limitations as to what you should enter," she said. "I just wanted the ladies to show the public what they feel inside as artists."
Though it hasn't opened yet, Instinct has already received attention internationally from a Chicago-based gallery, and Seymour-Munroe believes it's a good indication that the exhibition would have success as a sustainable, long-term and, possibly, international endeavor. Though Instinct is a for-profit show, she has plans to establish an Instinct-linked scholarship foundation for younger female artists in years to come.

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Doing double duty

September 13, 2014

The product of two developers - one of whom was in search of a simple dining experience offering good food and friendly service and another who knew his way around a cellar as a wine sommelier - Mahogany House was born in 2011.
Serving up simple meals made from fresh ingredients, the restaurant has since offered an understatedly elegant dining option to New Providence's western community.
But these days there's a whole lot more being dished up on the lush, green property than what comes out of the kitchen. Lauren Holowesko, daughter of Mahogany House founder Mark Holowesko, is branching out of the family tree with her own project - The Island House.
A boutique hotel in the works, most people have by now caught wind of The Island House, which is being developed on a 10-acre plot adjacent to Mahogany House. Seeing a need for a guest house offering all the comforts of home, the luxuries of a resort and the beauty of the country's natural landscape, Lauren Holowesko seized the opportunity to provide the area's many business travelers with a suitable place to stay.
This isn't the first time the developer's gotten her creative juices flowing - far from it, in fact. Holowesko has a strong foundation in the visual arts, which began in elementary school.
"I got involved in art from a really young age...I had a fantastic art teacher, Ms. Robertson, at Lyford Cay School and at St. Andrew's," she said.
Her early years resonated with her at Georgetown, where she completed a bachelor's degree in art history; she followed that with an art business master's degree at Sotheby's Institute of Art in London. It was also in London that she worked with auction house Phillips (formerly Phillips de Pury & Company).
Returning home in 2012, Holowesko got started on putting her plan into action that April. She knew from the get-go that her love of the visual arts would have a starring role in the finished product.
Now the project manager of The Island House, Holowesko finds her days filled with sourcing artwork for the upcoming hotel, which will serve as the exhibition space for Mark Holowesko's private collection of Bahamian artwork.
"I think that celebrating art ties into the foundation of The Island House and the reasons that we wanted to build this - a lot of it has to do with celebrating passion, creativity and conceptual thinking and really hard work," said the project manager. "I think that will enhance each guest's experience and I think also the misconception of what Bahamian art is, is something that we want to be able to brush to the side."
Holowesko's grand plans include original Bahamian works - including paintings, installations, woodwork and ceramics - in each of The Island House' 30 rooms and suites as well as its common areas. Slowly growing her father's collection, she has acquired existing works and commissioned bespoke pieces by master artists and up-and-coming ones alike. It will be those works that make each room at The Island House unique.
"That's something that Baha Mar has an advantage over us," said Holowesko of the upcoming mega resort, which has pledged to fill its property with original Bahamian works. "They have the publicity and the presence to really elevate Bahamian art to an international level and that's something that we're hoping to do as well. [It's] the realization of our social responsibility that we have to really showcase this and encourage cultural development in general."
In addition to serving as a hotel and private exhibition space, The Island House will also have an onsite 48-seat cinema, which will focus on hosting art house and independent films. Hoping to establish a quarterly program for the theater, Holowesko looks forward to supporting Caribbean filmmakers by promoting their works at The Island House.
"I think [it was] something that really sparked my interest, being in London and having access to so many art house cinemas all over and being introduced to that. It really sparked an interest - a desire for that to be available to this community as well," said Holowesko.
The Island House cinema will be open to the public who will be able to book their tickets online. She looks forward to showcasing documentaries, in particular, mentioning Laura Gamse, Toby Lunn and Kareem Mortimer's collaborative work, "Brigidy Bram", as a potential future feature.
"I think that would be fascinating because we're looking to have some of Kendal's works in the hotel, and [to] be able to showcase a film like that, that draws the viewer in and gives you a real foundation for his whole life and how his art career has developed...I think it brings so much more value to what we're presenting to not only the tourists who come to stay in the hotel but the locals as well."
While the hotel and theater won't be open until early 2015, Holowesko already envisions plans to extend The Island House' role in the Bahamian film and visual arts scenes.
She has proposed using the site as a potential screening venue for the 2015 Bahamas International Film Festival. Hosting other exhibitions and establishing a future artist-in-residency program may also be on the books.
"There's kind of endless opportunities that we'd be able to provide, and I think that's what's so exciting - to be able to provide a platform that's really flexible and really creative," she said.
To find out more about The Island House, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Island-House/236004756595343 or contact a member of The Island House team at info@the-island-house.com.

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