A report by Sir Henry Fraser for the Barbados Advocate.

“Art is the soul of the people” – Anonymous
“Art is the tree of life” – William Blake
“The art of a people is a true mirror to their minds” – Jawaharlal Nehru
“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilisation” – Frank Lloyd Wright

The artists of Barbados have risen to the challenge of CARIFESTA magnificently. The many exhibitions and events, some apparently organised at short notice, are impressive, and will provide locals and visitors alike with the richest banquet of Caribbean visual arts in a lifetime. As many of these great efforts have come together quickly, without much publicity in the general media, I want to devote this column to some of the really exciting things that no one with a soul should miss.

There are several signature exhibitions: first the Journey to One Caribbean – CARICOM Exhibition, featuring artists from across the Caribbean, on the top floor of the Norman Centre on Broad Street. Opening yesterday it runs until the 26th, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. It builds on a theme explored by curator Janice Whittle in an exhibition in 2007 to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. For CARIFESTA XIII she has expanded the idea of the gifts of the different cultures of the Caribbean and how we have grown into one Caribbean, unique and wonderful. The exhibition examines different aspects and influences of Caribbean life through the art of Juliana Inniss, Ken Crichlow (Trinidad), Killy (Haiti), Albert Cheong (Jamaica), Arthur Atkinson, Virgil Broodhagen and Denyse Menard-Greenidge (Barbados) and Nasaria Suckoo Chollette (Cayman Islands).

Near-by is the Photography Exhibition on the Wickham-Lewis Boardwalk – a novel display of enlarged photos, 3 feet by 2 feet, protected by Perspex and mounted on the lamp posts. It’s curated by Harclyde Walcott and includes photographers from around the Caribbean, and it’s sponsored by the Port Authority, the NCF and Cot Printery. The proximity of these two major shows is great. It would be wonderful if Broad Street, from the corner of Prince William Henry Street to Parliament could be a pedestrian way for at least a part of the day, e. g. from 4 to 8 pm, to take advantage of the art and bring people into the area. Imagine an after-work scene with a buzz of people enjoying the art and snacking from vendors in the Square or dining at the Waterfront and Chefette.

Tomorrow, Monday the 21st, The Barbados National Exhibition of CARIFESTA XIII has the official opening with artist talks and screenings immediately after, and it runs until Sunday the 27th. It’s at the Morningside Gallery, Barbados Community College (BCC) and the curator is Nerys Rudder. I understand it features contemporary artists – both established such as Joyce Daniel and younger artists such as Rupert Piggott, Russell Watson, Caroline Holder and Versia Harris.

Also at the BCC is the CARICOM National Exhibition, in the Science Block & Morningside Gallery … until the 26th.

A most interesting show, I expect, is the Masters Exhibition – History & Infinity, at the Queen’s Park Gallery, and I understand also at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank and the Synagogue Gallery. These three venues provide a nice walk between sites. They are three points on a heritage walking tour between the Synagogue, the Masonic Lodge and Queen’s Park House. It opens this evening and runs until the 26th.

But also of enormous interest are the many events classified as “Fringe” events. First, “Home”, described as the August Pop-up Exhibition, at Norman Centre. This is curated by the inimitable Oneka Small, Curator Extraordinaire, who has already performed miracles with amazing shows at Manor Court and Massy’s in Warrens; exhibitions which amaze and inspire, and echo and magnify the constant cry – our forty year-long pleas and prayers – for a National Gallery.

Then there is a series of events at the young, creative Barn Art Centre at Small Ridge Plantation in Christ Church: first a Studio Ceramics Exhibition, from the 14th until the 27th , featuring ten ceramicists – Adam Williams of Trinidad, Nakazzi Hutchinson from Jamaica (and Barbados), Gloria Chung, Ancel Daniel, Melanie D’Oliveira, Lynn Haynes, Akyem Ramsay, Juliana Inniss, Israel Mapp and Martina Pile Zahles from Barbados – works in a variety of clay bodies – stoneware, earthenware and porcelain, curated by Oneka Small. (Open 10 to 5 daily.)

There is also a mural project at the Barn, where a forty foot mural will be a spontaneous community effort, throughout CARIFESTA, directed by our brilliant local muralist Don Small.

There will be three artist talks, scheduled for today at 10 a.m., Wednesday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. while another community event is called “Bring ya monkey and come” – you’re invited to bring your monkey jars to add to a display of this unique feature of old Barbadian culture, illustrating the variety in the work of our potters over the years.

The Barn Arts Centre is dedicated to promoting and developing art-based learning, by providing a unique learning environment for diverse audiences, and a range of art based programs. The founders are Jo-Anne Johnson and Juliana Inniss. Jo Anne started doing ceramics as a hobby in 1982 and has operated a ceramics studio since 1987, providing services, supplies and teaching for people to do slip casted ceramics as a hobby. Juliana, after graduating from University pursued her passion for art through ceramics, developing skills in many techniques, including, most recently, Raku.

An exciting exhibition will be the display of heraldry by our uniquely gifted heraldic artist Ann Rudder at the Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels. “Come celebrate ‘we’ Caribbean Heraldry” is the title, and 17 magnificent coat-of-arms banners are exhibited, “proudly displaying flora, fauna, history and heraldry of our Caribbean Community”.

The North is not to be outdone, and the Gallery of Caribbean Art features 11 Caribbean artists in a group show – artists from Antigua, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad.
And there’s more. I’m disappointed, though, that almost everything appears to end by the 27th – it’s just one week to explore this banquet of riches. And what about our many other cultural treats, beyond the scope of this column … music, dance and theatre, literature, poetry and culinary arts? Will there be time to explore and sample them all? And to imbibe the work of our Tini-bagonian, Jamaican and other Caribbean friends?

Our recent explosion of local writers, the creativity of the journal Poui, the resurgence of BIM magazine, and many beautiful books – fiction such as Facing North by Theo Williams and autobiography such as Down Danesbury Gap by Austin Yearwood – all deserve to be shared. A really big one that springs to mind is the magnificent Barbados Bu’n Bu’n, by Rosemary Parkinson. Rosemary’s prodigious output spans the culinary arts, photography, visual art and writing, AND spans the Caribbean, from Barbados to Jamaica. This book and its author is quite extraordinary and the epitome of the fusion of Caribbean art and cultures. Following her award winning Caribbean Culinaria and the award winning Nyam Jamaica, Barbados Bu’n Bu’n has been celebrated with Best Cookbook of the Year, Best Self-Published Book, Best Historical Recipes, Best Self-Published Book in the World and other awards! So will our splendid books on food and cuisine, our traditional gastronomic treats and our award winning Barbadian chefs feature in a big way this week? I do hope so.

So many other Caribbean artists excel in several areas … Harclyde Walcott in art, photography and theatre, Patrick Foster in art and theatre, Akyem in painting and sculpture, Nakazzi Hutchinson in painting and ceramics But as the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, the mother art is architecture, and with the continuing dereliction of our UNESCO site’s built treasures, we’ve missed the boat on that score – sadly. But that’s another story.

Giving thanks: For being relatively spared by the upstart Hurricane Harvey, which “broke the rules” and strayed from the beaten path.


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