In a 2010 article, Joscelyn Gardner writes about Caribbean women artists in the diaspora. [The article was written in response to the seminar Global Caribbean: Interrogating the Politics of Location in Literature & Culture, hosted by the Department of English, University of Miami & The Little Haiti Cultural Center, Miami, in March 4-6, 2010. It has been published in Art Etc Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 1.] Gardner speaks about her own work and other artists such as Roshini Kempadoo and Nicole Awaï. Here are excerpts with a link to the complete article below:
[. . .] Hosted by the University of Miami in association with the group show Global Caribbean: Focus on the Contemporary Caribbean Visual Art Landscape, the conference was held at the Little Haiti Cultural Art Center, a new complex dedicated to the art of the Caribbean region. This exhibition, initiated by Culturesfrance, and curated by internationally renowned (Haitian-born) artist Edouard Duval-Carrié, had the distinction of being placed on the official Art Basel Miami Beach program when it opened in December 2009 . [. . .]
[. . .] Prior to emigrating, however, I did not consciously acknowledge racial tensions on the island or the privilege that came with having a white skin. In the 1990s, my visual practice proposed an idealistic understanding of Creole identity that manifested itself in projects that suggested creolization as a ‘blending’ of historical difference that could be achieved through the symbolic shedding of skin in a process of spiritual metamorphosis.
Works such as In the Chamber of my Birth: A Repeating Voyage to my Self, conceptually based on Antonio Benitez-Rojo’s “The Repeating Island”, suggested the “rape” of the Caribbean by European conquistadors and the arrival in the islands of seaborne peoples from South America, Europe, and Africa, as an historical circumstance that needed to be overcome through acknowledging the benefits of creolization. Here, I proposed the Creole female body (my body) as a cocooned form shedding its skin in order to transcend the circumstances of difference brought to the islands by our fore-mothers in dug-out canoes (the Amerindian Goddess Atabeyra), caravals (the European Virgin Mary), and slave ships (the African Goddess Ezili).
[. . .] The two other Caribbean women artists invited to present at the Global Caribbean Symposium were Nicole Awai and Roshini Kempadoo. Based in New York and London, UK, respectively, each one brings a different point of reference to their visual practices based on their own spatial / political context and the complex relationality between these spaces and the Caribbean.
[. . .] Nicole Awai questions the marginalization of Caribbean populations within larger developed countries and explores how the experience of displacement influences how (black) diasporic people see themselves relative to stereotypes imposed on them by people in the host country. In her case, she speaks of black Caribbean artists being subsumed into the “African-American” context in the USA where racially derogatory objects and motifs of “blackness” from popular culture have been (historically) assigned to the Other. [. . .]
Roshini Kempadoo also addresses the notion of the “in-between” in her work; in particular, the idea of the diasporic subject not fully being either “here or there” in spatial or temporal terms (Bhabha). Drawing on history and memory, her photo-based / digital screen-based installations re-imagine and re-work historical legacies from factual and/or fictional viewpoints to create politically poignant statements which unseat stereotypical readings of (Caribbean) cultural identity. In the Virtual Exiles series, her subjects embark on a mythical journey of return to a “delusional sense of home”. Domino Effects, an ongoing collaborative project, comments on the social upheavals between the Caribbean, India, and Britain, following the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
[. . .] Caribbean women artists in the diaspora continue to weave a dissonant narrative, bringing their own multiple perspectives from various transient locations to bear on the interpretation of contemporary Caribbean identity. [. . .]
[Images: Top, Roshini Kempadoo’s “Sreen Still for amendments”; second, Joscelyn Gardner’s “Virtual Omphalos” (multi media installation); and third, Nicole Awaï’s “Mix More Media.”]