Katherine Kennedy: Reflections on Caribbean Linked V

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In “Do you take this region?: Reflections on Caribbean Linked V,” Katherine Kennedy does much more than reflect on the experience of spending time in an artist residency program in Aruba, where everyone bonds and ends up “really loving each other.” She delivers a detailed, comprehensive and lovingly described inventory of the fascinating work produced by very talented artists in a very special space and a view of how much they have to teach one another (and us!) about the Caribbean. Here are just a few excerpts. I highly recommend reading the full text at Caribbean Linked.

In 2016 when I returned home after Caribbean Linked IV, I remember an artist and friend of mine in Barbados asking me “what exactly goes on in Aruba” at this residency, because “Caribbean Linked people seem to end up really loving each other.” I just laughed, and replied that of course I love them. They’re family.

Caribbean Linked (CL), co-managed by three artist-run spaces – Ateliers ’89 in Aruba, The Fresh Milk Art Platform in Barbados and ARC Magazine – has been running since 2012, evolving into an artist residency and exhibition programme for young and emerging artists from across French, Spanish, Dutch and English speaking territories of the Caribbean region. Since I have worked with both Fresh Milk and ARC for many years now managing administration, residencies and communications and co-developing programming with the respective founders Annalee Davis and Holly Bynoe, I have always been involved with this initiative – albeit from a distance, working remotely from Barbados – and thought I had a full appreciation of its value. I did not realize that my understanding was still at a surface level until I attended CL IV in in person, fully submerging myself in an environment that I am still in awe of when I am reminded of how rare such opportunities are in the Caribbean. The effortless bonds the participants cemented with one another were so genuine and unique, that even though I knew it was a reoccurring programme, I felt sure they could not be replicated… then in 2018 I fell in love with a whole new circle of remarkable individuals at CL V. [. . .]

There was a playfulness tying this group of artists together; you could see it in their shared observations and the outcome of the work. In the Caribbean, we sometimes use humour much like the spikes of a sea urchin or cactus; a defense mechanism that deflects others from getting too close – preventing ourselves from getting burned under the guise of nonchalance. [. . .]

[. . .] It is my hope that programmes like CL, that platform the lived experiences of artists and cultural activists in the region, can show that our cultures are on a spectrum rather than a hierarchy; they are real and diverse, indefinable and in constant vacillation. In the face of this, the testimonies and feedback of CL alumni are not empty vessels with which we blindly praise the residency. They hold agency, they are critical, and they are full of undercurrents of regional truths. Adam already said it best: “it’s not about models, following models or dropping everything we have – it’s about identifying and isolating where we fall short, filling those gaps in our ability with the shared knowledge of the region.”

The love at Caribbean Linked is not a honeymoon phase; we all come from countries that have known and continue to know complicated existences and difficult relations. Though performance and masquerade were employed by some artists through their work this year, we did not mask these truths from one another in our frank daily exchanges. Throughout Caribbean Linked, we have held one another for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and despite parting ways for now, vowed this separation will be temporary. Gwladys taught us her favourite way to say “goodbye” in Martinican Creole: a an lot solely, translating roughly to “til another sun.”

Please read full article (and see complete photo above) at https://caribbeanlinked.com/editions/caribbean-linked-v/critical-writing/katherine-kennedy/

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