Art Exhibition—“Antillean: an Ecology”


The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas presents their National Exhibition #7, titled “Antillean: an Ecology.” The exhibition, curated by Holly Bynoe and Michael Edwards, opens on December 11, and runs from December 12, 2014, to May 10, 2015. The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is located on West and West Hill Streets in Nassau’s Historic Charles Town District, New Providence, The Bahamas.

Description: For the past 18 years, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas has committed its programming to fostering local artists, who continue to push the frontier and foundation of culture across the archipelagic landscape. The institution assumes a critical role in the development of visual arts and a strong economy of thought and language that devotes itself to exchange; the shoring up of national identity, scholarship and education.

This year’s National Exhibition #7 titled Antillean: an Ecology supports the work of 47 visual artists and five pedagogues, and challenges Bahamian practitioners to respond broadly to the dynamics of race and class, issues that undoubtedly transcend fixed geographical and cultural boundaries. The platform has been generated to showcase how these important cultural signifiers have come to shape the collective consciousness of a post independent Bahamas.

St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott in his famed Nobel Laureate lecture claimed that, “Antillean art is a restoration of our shattered histories, of our shards of vocabulary, our cultural environment embracing the past and present.” Here we establish a starting point to frame a wider cultural conversation that is invitation to engage in critical discourse around the history of ideas about race and culture viewed variously through the social, intellectual, and artistic lens.

Within the visual fragments, we begin to pull together a shared understanding that will contribute to the spirit of inventiveness that is culture, politics, sexuality, and identity in the Caribbean. From this we have devised the Antillean as an active subject through which the complexities of contemporary notions of blackness, and by extension whiteness and the in between, will be reflected upon, interrogated, and activated within the wider national discourse.

The selected artists investigate, within broad interdisciplinary fields, the impact and implications of the dynamic codes and relationships that have been forged by issues arising out of identity politics. They have looked towards citizenship, migration, the landscape, slavery, religion, and the mélange of the Caribbean and the globalized world for inspiration and fodder. Antillean: an Ecology as a theoretical and practical framework squirms under absolutism; it works within the acknowledgement of a complex mythologized space. The artists, through various media, ask the difficult questions underlining their experiences, readying themselves to confront and extend the dialogue of an oftentimes-contentious relationship with race and class concerns.

What would that negotiation look like and is there room for counter narratives? How will these definitions of blackness, whiteness, and the dynamic range in between fit into the social diversity of a developing nation? What kind of shifts will this bring about in public and private relationships? Is there such a thing as “Post-Black” within a Caribbean discourse? Have we gone beyond the perimeters, or is it someone else’s discourse? Antillean: an Ecology will engage with these complex ideas of national identity; how they have been affected by social, political, and cultural global convergences that are seeking to determine representation and meaning.

[Photo above: Arnold Joseph Kemp’s Untitled, 2014, from series “Possible Bibliography.”]

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