Guyanese artists explore migration, culture in Harlem exhibition

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A review by Tangerine Clarke for Caribbean Life News.

Guyanese art enthusiasts and friends turned out on Nov.17, to celebrate “Liminal Space” an exhibition on view at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), 120 E 125 St., in Harlem, New York, which explores migration, culture and displacement from 16 Guyanese artists’ point of view. The show ends on Nov. 30.

Curator Grace Aneiza Ali, and featured artists attended the evening’s reception, co-hosted by the Queen’s College of Guyana Alumni Association New York, and CCCADI, in the center’s intimate second floor gallery that is adorned with a variety of media including photography, painting, sculpture, installation, video, textile and mixed media.

Ms. Ali, a QC alumna and member in the Department Art and Public Policy at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, said Puerto Rican-Caribbean, Martha Vega, Ph.D, founder of the 40-year-old CCCDAI, who is supportive of the work she is doing with Guyanese artists, invited her as guest curator to showcase the 16 Guyanese artists based in Guyana and the United States.

Ms. Ali said Liminal Space brings together these artists who explore the relationship between migration and the liminal — from Latin, limens which means threshold, a place of transitioning, waiting and unknowing. While working in a variety of media, the artists bear witness to what drives one from their homeland as well as what keeps them tethered to it.

She first curated Guyanese works at Aljira — a center for Contemporary Art in New Jersey, in her continued efforts to create more platforms for Guyanese artists, and to convince institutions to bring Guyanese art to galleries.

“More Guyanese need to come out and view, support, and buy the work of Guyanese artists. It is a sad thing that not many people know of this artistic production of Guyanese,” said Ali, founder and editorial director of “Of Note” an online magazine focused on global artists using the arts as catalysts for activism and social change.

The evening’s event also raised funds to aid CCCADI’s Puerto Rico hurricane relief. Monies raised will go towards the purchase of generators for citizens who are still without electricity on the island.

Victor Davson, world-renowned painter and co-founder of Aljira, is inspired by anti-colonial politics of the Caribbean, and as such, his paintings are specific to the cultural celebration in Guyana.

“The temperature in those paintings are how I relate to, or connect to the Hindu cultural expression. Bamboo flags were put up after a Puja, a cleaning ceremony, I am not literally trying to make jhandi flags, I, translated that into a formal framework because I am a painter. I think those resonate with me personally, as I connect to my friends, the people I grew up with, my generation that were Indian, in a very special way,” said Dawson.

“This is an ongoing project, minding what I consider my experience as a Guyanese living very close to, my Indian neighbors. I said to Grace, the Jhandi ritual and the Jhandi flags are mine too, I don’t have to be Indian. I have lived in that space, that’s what makes me not African-American, that’s what makes me Guyanese.”

Sen. Roxanne Persaud, Guyanese-born, applauded the artists for the exhibition that she said made her proud.

Karen Wharton, president of QCAANY, called on Guyanese to view the exhibition, and thanked Dr. Vibert Cambridge, retired professor of Ohio University, School of Media Arts & Studies, for his introduction to Grace Ali.

“I love the space and the work from Guyanese artists and first generation Guyanese artists that speaks about migration,” said Wharton, who connected with Christine Neptune’s painting that tells the story of an African American nurse’s aide.

“So many of us were nurse’s aids regardless if you were from Guyana, like my mother who worked as a nurse’s aid on weekends to send me to college.”

“I am glad that Guyanese and friends came out tonight to celebrate the amazing work the people of our country are doing,” lamented Wharton, who expressed gratitude to members of QCAANY for having the confidence in her as president, to develop programs for both Guyana and New York.

The president thanked actress Ingrid Griffith, for her one-woman Demerara Gold presentation that resonates with the Liminal Space art exhibition. She also acknowledged Sister Cuisine Restaurant of Harlem for the delicious food that was served at the reception.

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