Black America Web

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NY Times - Movies

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Trinidad Guardian

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Nassau Guardian

We lost two cultures that day

We lost two cultures that day

It?s easy to think of culture as being purely in the hands of the people: it?s in our mother tongues, our food, our dance and architecture. And, in many ways, it is. But it also leaves a residue, it sticks to our spaces and buildings and trees and forests and oceans, so that when our elders pass on, they leave just a tiny bit of themselves around for us to remember what we come from and we build upon that. With this in mind, and with heavy heart, we must look to the implications of Irma and her aftermath. Ragged Island was deemed uninhabitable this week and it is important to look at the full extent of what that means.

We lost two cultures.

They lost the towns they grew up in and so have we, as Bahamians. It is easy to think that we were blessed, spared the full wrath of Irma because our more populated New Providence and Grand Bahama were spared, along with so many other islands in the central and northern Bahamas and, my God, aren?t we grateful.

But we lost two cultures this week.

And others so much more. One death is one too many and we, in the Caribbean, experienced over 40, with another couple dozen more in Florida, with the final count still to come. As a country we very rarely take time to process the grief of hurricanes from these more personal losses and we certainly don?t take the time necessary to process the material losses we encounter. It is easy to say that material loss ?isn?t so bad? compared to a life, and that we should thank our lucky stars. And that we do, we give thanks on Saturdays and Sundays and in the various beliefs and ways we deem fit. But after the praying is done and our knees and souls are bruised, we never take into account how much it means that this material loss isn?t just a material loss.

We lose the home we grew up in, the home we first moved to with our partner, the place down the street where we first got cussed out for tiefing mango. These things are everyday but they are not insignificant, every little thread of a memory ties into the bigger weaving of our culture and history. It is the way we live our lives, as much as the knowledge of our history, that produce the particularities of this space and our idiosyncrasies as a people. We have characters (both good and bad), and these characters are set against the landscape in this sometimes strange spectacle that is Caribbean life - when we lose our set, we lose part of our story. This is why the act of archiving, curating (which literally comes from the latin ?curare? which means ?to care), and preserving our culture as much as possible is so valuable not just to people working in museums and art galleries and the like, but for those who come after us.

In all the rubble of our physical space, our lives, and our selves, it is a very small comfort to think of what we do have and what we can preserve. We are used to reading about great people in the region after-the-fact?the ?fact? here being the posthumous recognition of our brightest Caribbean beacons of light?only after they have been extinguished. So, with this in mind, we at the NAGB invite those of you who are busy rebuilding, sharing your resources, and generally trying to make sense of things, after thinking about these great losses, to hold space with us in our Project Space Room and view the series of short docs ?Those From Shallow Waters?. Far from a shallow plug of ?what?s on? at the gallery, this series of truly touching short films highlights Bahamians in our everyday, our ordinary folks doing extraordinary things: whether it?s being called to some greater purpose, being gifted in sports or music, or just simply surviving when your body wants you to do anything but, everyone in this series will touch your heart and remind you of what you come from.

It is too easy to say that as a region Caribbean people are strong, that Bahamian people are strong. Of course we are! Look at what we?ve gone through as a people! But we are also soft, kind, determined, disciplined, hopeful, and in some cases, calmly and contentedly accepting of our circumstances and learning how to make the most of it. These people are our people, they are us, they are our cousins, just as everyone affected by this storm is. It does the soul good to find yourself on screen in a way that reminds you of your own brilliance, when you feel there is so little light left in this place right now.

?Those From Shallow Waters? is the growing series of short documentaries from the Settler?s Cove Productions studio and will be showing in the Project Space (The PS) at the NAGB from Tuesday, September 19th, to Sunday, October 8th, during the regular gallery hours from Tuesday to Saturday at 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., as well as free showings on Sundays for all Bahamians and Residents from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. We would also like to note that any of our brothers and sisters and cousins, who are still displaced from the storm and staying in Nassau, are invited to view the films for free any day of the week. Far from part of our individual relief efforts as people working here, this is merely a way to offer a sense of welcome and refuge, and to show care.

 


The art of survival

The art of survival

When I moved to The Bahamas in 2013, I knew that it was possible to encounter one of them. Like the unspeakable name of a villain in a famous children?s book turned film series, I talked about the storms that originated on the shores of West Africa in a low voice, as if I?d awaken them if spoken at a regular volume. Most Nassau residents I encountered were largely unbothered, and I was amazed at how casual most were when it came to the conversation of hurricanes. Then, in 2015 Joaquin hit the southern islands and I realized how incredibly close they could be. I ached for those who had lost nearly everything and for their family members who watched from their screens in New Providence.

Then, there was Matthew. We always speak of them, hurricanes, by a single name with contempt, as if they are estranged friends or lovers ? the family member no one wants to see at the annual reunion. ?He? levelled settlements in Andros, ripping homes, forest and lives to pieces in Freeport and New Providence. During Matthew, I bottled up the agony and hid it behind my lungs. That way, I could breathe for the sake of my tender one-year old that I held in my arms. When she slept, I would sneak into the one room, where there was still a small bit of light showing through a window and watch palm trees dance. They moved to the cadence of wind. Matthew?s call. His invitation. His command. He walked slowly and painfully across the backs of our neighbors like Haiti and Cuba, nearly breaking them.

Then came Irma and it would permanently change the way that I saw wind and rain swirling in the ocean and hammering against the shores of islands and states, nullifying countries. How does a nation become uninhabitable? Then, I considered my hometown, not just because of its recent bouts with near obliteration, but also because I was there, evacuated by the U.S. Embassy, a luxury my foreignness allowed me. Watching from hundreds of miles away, I agonized over my friends, neighbors and family that I had left behind as the Category 5 barreled towards Nassau, just a day or so after destroying Barbuda. There?s a saying about making something out of nothing, but how does one make a life out of ash and rubble, the vestiges of one?s actual former home? This is the question that now faces much of the Caribbean and our southern family Islands are included in that deeply affected number.

I was overwhelmed by the size of the storm and my worry over everything that I could not control: would there be a home to return to; would my entire family, left behind, survive; would those evacuated from the most vulnerable areas ultimately lose both their homes and their loved ones. The news updated us hourly, sometimes by the minute while I sat in my mother?s living room. Nassau was spared. Florida was her next target. I turned to art, a thing I could understand, an object that could move me, but only figuratively.

Standing in places I knew well ? museums, and in them, I found solace even if I didn?t find answers.

I am a woman whose core identity has been shaped by spaces, both lived and imagined. But none have been more impactful than the city of my birth: Detroit. We are the home of the automobile, Afro-futurism and Motown. We are also home to one of the most historically significant occurrences of 1960s American history and urban lore. It was a storm of sorts, which started, like every hurricane, as a strong wave. In hindsight, the 1967 Rebellion was inevitable. At that time, America was in ?riot? season. The weather was ripe and the air was rife with institutional terror and singular fearlessness. Eight days became a decades? old nightmare, from which the city of Detroit has yet to fully recover.

However, I didn?t grow up in a city that operated as if it had been marred. We lived. Family cookouts and slow riding down Jefferson Avenue, the city?s southerly most thoroughfare. We sang songs from windows as we celebrated high school graduations and wedding proposals. No one was safe from spontaneous Hustle competitions. In the Caribbean, it?s called the Electric Slide. Both have official anthems.

Then, there was the Great Recession (which operated more like a depression for Detroit). Neighborhoods I?d known my entire life, streets I?d run down and friends? homes at which I?d played were barren. Some houses were missing from the block as if they?d been intentionally plucked; others - with roofs and doors removed. These were no longer communities. They were ghosts, of the very real and incredibly frightening kind. Businesses that had once provided services to families just yards away were boarded, open signs replaced with splintered wood and chains with heavy locks hanging from them. Some likened the scene to a war zone. Others, the effects of a natural disaster.

Art, perhaps considered a luxury by most (especially when considering the carnage of hurricanes and economic downturns), became a source of hope and clarity for the trauma of the ?67 Rebellion in Detroit and also of the continued economic distress the city would face for an enormity of reasons. The people of that time and of the times since, created. Telling the stories, breaking the chains, and constructing new ways for city natives to see themselves and their evolving Detroit landscape.

Abandoned spaces were adopted by street artists, who saw through broken windows and into the future. 50 years after fire and bullets filled many communities in Detroit, three regional museums decided to uncover and express what that moment meant, through art. In two pieces, a woman who was a young artist in 1967 , went about finding objects in the directly affected areas shortly after the smoke had cleared: charred wood; torn tires; ripped fabric and bent signs. With paint and canvas, she constructed disturbing mixed media works that wore both figuratively and literally the scars of the city. In a time when art was being cut from schoolrooms, in these exhibition galleries, it served as the primary means to speak of a painful history, that for some was too difficult to discuss otherwise.

When looking at the results of an Irma from overhead, driving through Nassau after Matthew, I wonder how art will tell this story. How will arts and cultural institutions, like the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, venture to discuss the seemingly unspeakable but so critical and necessary? How will we build away from coasts when our entire island is coastal, constructing for a new world where seas are higher and warmer and angrier. In Detroit, there are many structures, seen and unseen that have been forgotten, while others are being revitalized. What will The Bahamas choose to remember and which will it choose to forget? Through which broken windows will the next generation of artists see the future? Although our country and the Caribbean region to which it belongs are inextricably tied to the decisions of countries far afield, we still have the power to determine our destiny and choose our memories, setting a course for a different and verdant tomorrow. In an ever-changing world, we intend to be present and accounted for. Art will also be there.




The clapboard house

The clapboard house

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma?s devastation, as the Caribbean recovers and rebuilds, it would be remiss not to pause and reflect. In moving forward, there is much to be considered from our survival and journey as an island people. Our social and physical landscapes have and will continue to weave the rich cultural fabric of our existence once we continue to value and preserve them.

Following the most powerful storm seen in the Caribbean, desecrating islands and leaving many homeless, much debate concerning our built environments has emerged. Largely influenced by environmental factors, Caribbean architecture, dating back to the Lucayans, has responded pragmatically to geography and climate considerations. Even when modelling after the early European trends, which often proved less appropriate to the tropics our structures have still withstood hurricane and storms for decades.

According to Bahamian Architect and Partner at TDG Architects Marcus Laing, ?Building codes and standards in The Bahamas ensure that structures are designed to take wind speeds of at 150mph. The house I grew up in Englerston was a modest two-bedroom home that survived many hurricanes because it was built up two feet from the ground and followed this building code. In fact, clapboard or wood framed house could be just as strong as a concrete block structure. It?s just a matter of the quality and frequency of wood used.?

Although deemed structurally comparable to concrete, clapboard construction is at an all-time low. The once-revered Bahamian clapboard house emerged as an architectural style in the 19th century as one of the most commonly-used styles in the region. Ship-builders turned their woodworking skills to home construction and developed a style that has reached as far as the South Florida area. Sadly, the charming landscape of brightly-coloured clusters that framed our residential communities has left our social and patriotic consciousness. Bulldozed, burned down and belittled has been the fate of the remnants of the clapboard house legacy. Their scarcity is heartbreaking. We?ve abandoned them for concrete floors and drywalls, sometimes carrying over colonial accents like decorative shutters, an understated architectural snub.

As the Southern Bahamas prepares to rebuild our lost communities, we are presented with a unique opportunity to help reclaim and restore cultural, environmental and possibly economic balance through architecture. Considering the degree and frequency of the threats with which we are faced, it calls for the re-thinking of design, construction and urban planning. This doesn?t mean that we must simply abandon models that have worked for our country for so long, but we should consider realising a blend of preservation, creativity and sustainability that will allow the tradition of the clapboard and similar regional architectural styles to evolve.

According to Assistant Professor in Architecture at University of The Bahamas Valeria Pintard-Flax, ?Drawing a link to our past to the materials and methods used and realising the benefit to a ?common sense? approach to building, is essential to moving us toward a more sustainable future for our built environment. I feel that there is a direct correlation of how we build, with an ?authentic? traditional lifestyle. This translates not only to the aesthetics of our surroundings but affects how we live. The purpose of architecture is to help people experience the person, the culture and the surroundings; to give a feeling of ?authenticity? and ?belonging,? a familiarity with the culture and the environment.?

Growing up, I have always had a deep appreciation for the endearing and welcoming sense of belonging of tight-knit neighbourhoods in The Bahamas. A community is woven together like a string of clapboard houses, whose landscape appear as a continuance playground, hangout, clothesline and communal space. In 2012, I created a watercolour painting, ?Jook Jook Corner,? after returning home having lived abroad for several years, as a way to express this longing that I had for a space I never really experienced. Like myself, many Bahamians will never have the opportunity to know and appreciate the charm of such a space and a time. Thankfully, there is a saving grace. The memory of the architecture and dynamics of the community that lives through the work of visual artists.

Eddie Minnis, many of whose works are in the National Collection, is known for his life?s work of oil paintings that focus on everyday Bahamians in their environment. As a trained architect, there is no surprise that his style is meticulous in capturing the details of the architectural elements. In ?Out Island Scene? Minnis offers a glimpse of island life in and around the home with children playing and mothers soaking in the sun as they carry out domestic chores.

Holston Bain and Nastassia Pratt?s work is less about social stereotypes in the Caribbean and are more concerned with architecture and the landscape. The connection between homes and the natural environment not only offer visual references but insightful technical and archival gems. Collectively, these works belong to an anthology of art that can be archived and studied to reference an island people and their habitat.

 

 


Internationalizing The Bahamas and ...

Internationalizing The Bahamas and its Orange Economy

According to the governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, John A. Rolle:

?The Concept of Orange Economy been around for 20 years. All sectors whose goods and services are based on [Intellectual Property], Architecture, Art... [this is the] [e]volving space of creativity. . . 4.3 trillion dollars [are spent in it] 2/12 times military expenditure?.

London, New York, Miami, all bring in millions a year from the Creative Industries. This is where the growth is in the economy; it is not in the imports that drain the cash from the national coffers. Shakespeare in Paradise is a tremendous example of the local Orange Economy. As the world advances into a service-oriented economy, where more people enjoy entertainment outside of their homes, or entertainment that they can access through the World Wide Web, we also stand to gain access to untapped markets. However, we, as the people of The Bahamas, have to be there. Currently, we are not. We hardly see the importance of creativity, or how it can and should be developed, promoted and protected. We do, though, as a nation, allow much of our resources to be squandered by international owners of industry and not by local owners of businesses. Theatre is one of the top attractions, along with cultural or heritage, and festival tourism.

Cat Island, San Salvador and Crooked Island provide unique points for cultural and creative industries.

The Orange Economy or the Creative Industries are not new, yet we treat them as if they were untested and untried avenues to success. The former government often chatted about the importance of creativity, yet it promoted foreign-owned business taking advantage of locally-produced resources and talent. We can be the space of ingenuity and creation, but it is not usually produced by the systemic, ordered, or stymieing state-run space. Creativity usually happens in spaces that have socio-spatial permission to create, where individuality is recognized and promoted, not a dark, closed-in basement or corridor without collective gathering spaces.

The Webinar produced by Creative Nassau in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Central Bank of The Bahamas, at the Central Bank?s Training Room on Wednesday 30th August brought together international presenters, their audiences and the local organizers, attendees and discussants. Speakers included Felipe Buitrago Restrepo, from Colombia, Keith Nurse from Trinidad who currently lives in Barbados, and Peter Ives, from Santa Fe, New Mexico. All of the above partners have a stake in the local economy and in local creativity. Ironically, notwithstanding all the action and traction we get from these endeavours, the government as an institution remains, (in)agilely stuck in the late 19th-century early 20th-century mechanism of development through colonial visioning. As so many small economies like to look at Singapore as a model for change, it has to be said that their model is not an outdated, outmoded economic model that allowed people in government to continue to function as they did when we were all still controlled by external powers. Singapore reinvented itself, ridding itself of the dated ideas of governance. At the same time, it became somewhat of a police state.

Government seemed poised to support the arts and their development when the country was beginning its journey into Independence, but seems to have since pulled back. Support for Creative Industries is essential for development because there is a need for multi and plural vision and action or multiple levels of productivity in any country, especially a country that is as gifted to have such a rich and diversely talented population. Supporting the arts in the 70s the government was perhaps more focused on the productive genius of people like Winston Saunders, Clement Bethel, Edmund Moxey, because it saw the need for them and their incredible talent and ability. They were mined for what they could give the nation and in turn they gave more and more.

Another example of a visionary is H. G. Christie, land developer and founder of H.G. Christie Real Estate who sold land to foreign concerns, a great friend of Sir Harry Oakes, and a founder of The Chelsea Pottery, another institution that helped put The Bahamas on the creative maps. The Pottery once stood where the National Post-Office Building crumbles in the 21st century; and this is not political but factual. When our prized tourists venture off the cruise ships, much against the warnings from the floating hotels which bring them here, they leave with great trepidation.. If we look closely, we may see the shadows of a very interesting space that remains controlled by the past and shows no sign of moving into the future.

 

How then do we change this?

A creative centre could attract more tourists. As they emerge from ships, they would encounter art, music, food and agreeable surroundings, both, what can be referred to as, high and low culture. Straw work can be made publicly, as can real local woodwork, not cheap imported ?Bahamian? handcrafts.

 

New Education

We need investment in education, but not the education of rote and rhyme, but the education of the future where we learn how to do things and how to empower our people. Why would employers from abroad not look to the country for employees and the next generation of thinkers, doers and creators? Perhaps they do, but we wash our hands of them before they even get to the point where they can be great at anything. This requires some unpacking.

Many extremely successful Bahamians have left the country early in life because they faced huge hurdles and great obstacles to their development, perhaps because they were not linear thinkers, perhaps because they were imaginary-visionary, had another kind of gift, had different ideas, they sought out other opportunities. For sure, The Bahamas produces great thinkers, but many of them leave. They become top thinkers and doers in world-renown spaces, but when asked to return, they are often stifled, and leave once more.

 

The Past and The future:

In the World?s Fair of 1851, the world was duly impressed by Britain?s ingenuity and design capacity when they unveiled the Crystal Palace, produced for the Great Exhibition of that year. Today, The Bahamas has the opportunity to use its ingenuity and creativity, design thinking and orange capacity to work towards the World Fair Expo 2020 to be held in Dubai, UAE. This is an opportunity unlike any other for the country to foreground the talent of the youth; it is not about old, established paradigms or models. We need new, and the new must be able to face the ?new? and shifting challenges of the new world reality, of which the floods and awful damages in Texas, USA are just a reminder or a sad, absolutely catastrophic example. Expo 2020 is a funded project to showcase Bahamian talent and youth and how The Bahamas holds promise for the future.

If we look to a local yet international development of changing paradigms we can use the example created at Albany in southwestern New Providence. A private community, Albany has created a new model, for The Bahamas, of high school education that promotes access to a world of opportunities. This offers a different type of space and time to what we see in local education, for the most part.

From a general standpoint, in a society like ours heterotopias and heterochronies are structured and distributed in a relatively complex fashion.

First of all, there are heterotopias of indefinitely accumulating time, for example museums and libraries, Museums and libraries have become heterotopias in which time never stops building up and topping its own summit, whereas in the seventeenth century, even at the end of the century, museums and libraries were the expression of an individual choice. By contrast, the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity. The museum And the library are heterotopias that are proper to western culture of the nineteenth century. (Michel Foucault, ?Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias?, Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité

October, 1984; (?Des Espace Autres,? March 1967, Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec)

The Bahamas seems caught in the museum of out-dated models. Colonialism has left us with a lasting legacy that disallows a great deal of progress outside of formalistic processes which, in reality, stunts, retards and diminishes creativity, design and creative expression, and progress. In most schools and universities, like the new institution created by Albany, people come to find talent. Engineering schools at state-run institutions like The University of Puerto Rico are examples of this. Art and design programmes at the Royal College, small state-run schools, and small high schools, where teachers not only allow, but coax students to think outside the institutional box, not hem them into thinking that is limited and outmoded, those places with lawns, light, open windows and no barracks-like buildings, promote design and creativity that bring fame and recognition.

The University of The Bahamas could be the regional focal point for a programme and institute in Small Island Sustainability. It is important to think of the Creative Industries/Orange Economy as a productive way of seeing creativity, local culture and talent and removing the old constraints around professions set by traditional thought processes. We see that Modernism has given way to postmodernism, though modernism is still a thriving possibility for those who find its thinking and modes of expression useful; the advent of postmodernism did not kill modernism nor did it present its end.

Postmodernism as a multifaceted school of thought has allowed a different type of wealth accumulation and artistic expression that can no longer be easily challenged as being high or centre or in the margins. So, as much as postcolonialism has supposedly marked the end of colonialism, it in fact, has not. It can come after colonialism, but we also see now that while the time of colonialism may have ended officially, it was not ended really, rooted out and the thinking processes changed. Have we changed the way we view our creative industries, economy and potential to be a creative and sustainable hub in the region?

 

 


Max/Amos bids farewell in Exuma

Max/Amos bids farewell in Exuma

After a two-year journey that took this iconic exhibition to three islands - Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and Abaco- it is only fitting that the Max/Amos traveling exhibition bids us farewell in Exuma, the hometown of Bahamian folk and master artist, Amos Ferguson.

The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas developed the Max/Amos exhibition in response to the call to share Bahamian art with every citizen in our archipelagic nation. While our geography is responsible for the wonderful flavor of this country, which is grounded in the diverse cultural microcosms on our 17 inhabited islands, it is this feature that makes access to spaces like the NAGB challenging for persons living on the islands, especially those who do not travel frequently to the capital.

Family Island access to the national collection is a critical component of the NAGB?s mission and by taking our collection to off-site locations on the islands we have garnered community support and participation and facilitated a creative initiative that is truly for all Bahamians.

Featuring the works of the masters Maxwell Taylor and Ferguson, this exhibition delves into the multiple dynamics of Bahamian society in relation to our global identification as a ?paradise?. Both Taylor and Ferguson go to the heart of the Bahamian experience with honesty and integrity, and an abundant respect for their fellow Bahamians, whose lives they represent in their work.

Taylor, a son of Grants Town, New Providence, first honed his practice at the ?fabled? Chelsea Pottery, although his path would lead him abroad. Taylor?s experiences during his more than 20-year journey throughout the U.S. and Europe still shapes the lens through which he views his work and the world around him.

Hailing from the Forest, Exuma, Ferguson began his professional life as a commercial painter. Spiritual revelation compelled him instead, to paint the visions of his mind and community. The most famous and beloved outsider artist, Ferguson had no formal artistic training, choosing house paint over that of oil and acrylic - his canvas, cardboard.

It is no wonder then that these two great artists were selected to represent the brilliant diversity and passion of Bahamian art and artists. However, Max/Amos is about more than presenting work. The exhibitions have been displayed in local galleries and community spaces easily accessible to residents and have been accompanied by free workshops on the practices of both artists; public talks; school visits; and donations of museum literature to art teachers, schools and public libraries. Understanding that sufficient art materials in schools on the out islands are a concern, the gallery has also donated remaining workshop materials to schools that have demonstrated need.

?The exhibition has been well received on all the islands. The kids have appreciated the opportunity to work and interact with art professionals and people have been excited about having the work of Max Taylor and Amos Ferguson in their communities. They have had lots of questions about the artists and have been truly supportive of this initiative,? says Jackson Petit, NAGB Digital Media Administrator and technical assistant for the Max/Amos exhibition.

Representing the NAGB with Petit is Community Outreach Officer Abby Smith; they will install and open the exhibition in addition to facilitating all other activities. In preparation for the upcoming exhibition, staff at the NAGB have been working hard to reframe, pack and ship 31 paintings, many of them familiar staples in art classrooms, ensuring that Max/Amos is given a phenomenal send off for its final presentation. A week of workshops for children and adults, public talks and scheduled school visits have all been planned and the Exuma community has been incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic.

The opening reception for Max/Amos will be held on Monday, September 11th at Wenshua Art Gallery in Georgetown, Exuma, from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. It will be on display September 11th to November 15th, 2017. To keep up-to-date with the Max/Amos exhibition?s final journey follow us on Facebook and Instagram!




Living in the Shadows of Empire

Living in the Shadows of Empire

Bahamian history and memory are often trumped by the Empire and the identity it imposed on its subjects. Last month marked the 70th anniversary of India?s independence from Britain, most of which was negotiated by Lord Mountbatten, the second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, who was sadly killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb. These are facts independent of his role in negotiating the end of British imperial presence in India, but at the same time, the establishment of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and an Independent India during a troubling period called ?Partition?. In August 1947, when, after 300 years in India, the British left, they left a deeply divided and fractured country. Independence was one positive, but the legacy of Empire and the lasting impact of colonialism were deeply felt. Imperialism and colonialism have divided great swaths of land, usually from under the very people who inhabited those spaces.

In other words, the invention of tradition was a practice very much used by authorities as an instrument of rule in mass societies when the bonds of small social units like village and family were dissolving and authorities needed to find other ways of connecting a large number of people to each other. The invention of tradition is a method for using collective memory selectively by manipulating certain bits of the national past, suppressing others, elevating still others in an entirely functional way. Thus memory is not necessarily authentic, but rather useful. (Edward Said ?Invention, Memory, and Place? Critical Inquiry Vol.26, No 2 (Winter 2000) p. 179)

The pain and loss, or torture and gain of independence and partition are concisely discussed in The New Yorker (2015) by William Dalrymple. The nationalist project in fractured post-colonial states is alive and well in defining how we see our traditions. It is interesting that, as Said points out, the small and unified communities began to disappear through the island to capital or rural to urban migration, we see the creation of a unified Bahamian tradition that attempts to erase the individuality of all the island communities and their unique experiences. Usually, we are cast under a deeply problematic Victorian shadow that never allowed individual identity, but insisted on a strict moral code that continued to exclude non-whites. E.M Forster?s A Passage to India so splendidly captures the shadows.

Much like the partition of India into Bangladesh and Pakistan as it received its independence from Britain, the territories went on to live through decades of violence and tradition making that justified and promoted further ethnic and religious violence. Postcolonial nations are built on a feeling of loss and trauma without understanding why because so little is discussed. The idea is to silence opposition to and awareness of the events. Both BBC and Al Jazeera provide excellent histories of the partition and the independence event. However, the former seems to eclipse the latter, but they create an interesting if not comfortable coexistence of countries that were once regions governed under the Crown.

It must also be remembered that colonization was not about being a benevolent and loving patron of a people but a company ready and happy to extract all the wealth it can from the space it sets up shop in. Such was the case in India, where the Royal East India company began business as a private trading company. The BBC has provided excellent coverage of this before it becomes a ?national? interest. It must also be remembered that tradition was formed or create India, and that was the creation of tea, of hunting, of spices but also of controlled savagery or an interesting term from Homi Bhabha ?Sly civility?. Without India, Africa and the colonies in the Pacific, there would be no tea, something that has become so quintessentially British. Many of the images that we still identify with because we understand that it was better in the old days are imposed or created traditions, such as sugarcane processing. There would not have been sugarcane here albeit on a small scale compared to the other (former) colonies; the photo of the ?Native Sugar Mill? is a tradition imposed on the space by colonization, imperialism and slavery.

As the two outlived the latter, it is not unthinkable that the impact of the former will be that much more in depth in the psyche of people. The trauma of living under the whip and of facing unjust laws that made one less than human in what would be considered one?s place of origin speak loudly to this reality. Living in the shadow of Empire is in great part all of that. The images of civilized colonial tropical living as presented from the gaze of colonial history would always entrap one?s ability to be. There would be no tea without British colonization, as much as there is far more coffee in the rest of the Caribbean islands colonized by Spain is instructive of a past that has never ended and has continued to inform the traditions of today.

While it is important to understand and remember the reality of the past, as bell hooks notes, living in the margin as a site of resistance, not as a site of limitation, as so many colonizers may consider it to be. In The Bahamas, the margin created by segregation has all but vanished, though the legacy and the weight of the segregation and the demarcation of space has not. In fact, the weight of the margin and the marginalization of particular groups who inhabit those areas once seen as exclusively black is now even more pronounced. Though we no longer see it as racialized, in fact, the class and race of it go hand in hand. The racialization is far more nuanced and subtle as was evidenced in 2016 with the Paradise Beach Protest that was dismissed because it was carried out by a group of violent young black males who could not ?manage themselves and so needed to be treated violently as the photos on the front page of the Tribune attest.

Fast forward to the protest over the fire at the one time Harold Road dump, now known euphemistically as the landfill, earlier this year during the IDB conference at a yet unopened Baha Mar, where the scathing criticism of light-skinned and white people who could obviously not be from here. These vestiges of knowing one?s place deeply entrenched and long lasting from colonialism and imperialism allow people to be othered in very interesting and disturbing ways. Both criticisms challenged the group's? national belonging, of not knowing their place and of being out of order.

These are huge legacies of colonialism that we do not see or hear because they have been normalized by the shadow of oppression. It is not coincidental that most of the population will not understand how to challenge the discourse that posits them as non-nationalistic when they try to speak up for themselves. This is when the common space and spatial justice is denied to people. While many will not notice this subtly deployed message of social control and order, it is clear: light-skinned people are non-nationalist and black people are violent and disorderly, all threaten the national fabric of the country; all must be controlled. We know better than they. The superior attitude of those who rule through ascent, and legacy, but who have never thrown off the colonial vestiges.

We do not understand the weight of history and the legacy of imperialism. It is clear that most do not know or have never read Bahamian history where control was maintained through seriously destructive and divisive laws and policies like the Vagrancy Act, and ?A Modified Form of Slavery: The Credit and Truck Systems in The Bahamas in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries? as Howard Johnson notes.

History and its knowledge are essential to a real sense of self. It is also necessary for a population to be able to read and write, count and think in a manner befitting of citizens, not subjects. When names of historical landmarks are changed, and spaces shifted, land sold off and erased, burial sites excavated and living memory erased, we become a history less place and people.

Said states it well when he writes about the erasure of Palestine for the creation of Israel.

?These territories were renamed Judea and Samaria; they were onomastically transformed from "Palestinian" to "Jewish" territory, and settlements-whose object from the beginning had been nothing less than the transformation of the landscape by the forcible introduction of European-style mass housing with neither precedent nor basis in the local topography-gradually spread all over the Palestinian areas, starkly challenging the natural and human setting with rude Jewish-only segregations. In my opinion, these settlements, whose number included a huge ring of fortress like housing projects around the city of Jerusalem, were intended visibly to illustrate Israeli power, additions to the gentle landscape that signified aggression, not accommodation and acculturation?. (Said, p. 189)

The shadows are very dark spaces where it is extremely difficult to become one?s self. The shadows always cover any individuality and identity that does not fit with the imperial project. Art continues to provide an excellent window into the past, in the shadow and what imperialism and colonialism looked like in the Caribbean or so often called the West Indies. It is also interesting to note that those who were intricately involved in the creation of the new India through partition, with the influence of Lord Mountbatten who is also so much involved in the early development of Bahamian land, as he and many of the Royals received handsome land grants, to which we still pin our identities. Eleuthera and Harbour Island are spaces specifically spatialized in this way because of their history of settlement. This resonates with what Catherine Palmer (1994) sees as tourism in The Bahamas depending so much on colonialism and its landmarks. When land grants were handed out, and as the special on Slavery produced by the BBC underscores boldly after slavery ended those slave owners who suffered loss were handsomely compensated for their losses. They gained exponentially through a change in the law that never ended the impact or the shadow of slavery. When the policies and laws remain rather similar or unchanged more than one hundred years after emancipation, how can we truly believe that we do not inhabit the shadows of Empire?

India and Pakistan, as well as Bangladesh now exist as independent countries, but their spatial identity and their social occupation of those spaces now rest heavily in the aftermath of partition and the violence it imposed. The creation of independent countries and identities is fabulous, but the legacy of violence and distrust is even deeper, heavier and more long-lasting. Here I quote from Dalrymple?s story where he cites a book by Nisid Hajari: ?Nisid Hajari ends his book by pointing out that the rivalry between India and Pakistan ?is getting more, rather than less, dangerous: the two countries? nuclear arsenals are growing, militant groups are becoming more capable, and rabid media outlets on both sides are shrinking the scope for moderate voices.? Further, the power of nostalgia to block the possibility of true post-colonialism is amazing.

When nostalgia rules the day and England or some parts thereof still think of the colonies as quaint places where uncivilized plebeians remain and should be civilized, and this is a glorious moment for us to retake our position of leadership, then we understand that Empire holds tightly clenched fists around the potential for development free of its shadows. Dalrymple states it thus:

The current picture is not encouraging. In Delhi, a hard-line right-wing government rejects dialogue with Islamabad. Both countries find themselves more vulnerable than ever to religious extremism. In a sense, 1947 has yet to come to an end.

Shadows are usually dark and frightening places/spaces of deep-seated fears, insecurities, anger, hatreds and often trauma. The shadows seem to be poised to consume all potential, unless and until we can deconstruct the legacy and remove the lack of speaking across foreign-created boundaries and barriers that have scarred peoples and places for millennia.

 

 

 


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