Natalie Willis reviews Kendra Frorup’s work in “NE9: The Fruit and the Seed,” the ongoing national exhibition at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. Here are excerpts; see full article at The Nassau Guardian.
Though artist and educator Kendra Frorup may be using the imagery of the banana flower in her work in “NE9: The Fruit and the Seed”, this is anything but a literal interpretation of this year’s theme. Frorup cleverly takes the image of the banana plant – whose fruit is rife with symbolism in the Caribbean and the world over – but takes on its less represented anatomy, the flower, and gives this to the audience for consideration. The plant that has become iconic in the region with slavery and plantations, as well as the more base and salacious hypersexualised iconography emerging from the difficult tropes the slavery era brought forth that we are still forced to contend with today.
Inflorescence/Influence (2018) sees Frorup taking the lived (and living) environment of The Bahamas and re-presenting it for our consideration. Works like this are an important exercise in thinking critically about the landscape we live in that sustains us, but that has been so affected by its past. Bronze casts of banana flowers, often referred to as banana hearts, hang from old rope in the center of the NAGB Ballroom in a cascading chandelier of pointed, weighted flowers. Rather than the phallic and masculine-associated icon of the banana, the feminine flower is the focus here, leading us to change tack and consider more the state of women surviving in this environment for a moment rather than that of the hypersexualised Black Caribbean man. Both are ripe territory for investigation, and have been the centre of much of the region’s scholarship respectively, but to use what is so often a ubiquitously masculinised image and association (the banana plant) and turn it around to its more feminine origins is a pointed and important shift. It speaks to not only womanhood and its history here, the survival through colonial eras, but also to fruitfulness, to abundance, to life brought forth – and also, to life lost.
[. . .] Outside of the acknowledgement of the hard history, she looks to the banana’s inherent sense of regeneration, and even of community in the cycle of its life, taking her experience with artist residencies as a point of departure.
“Appreciating the skills of regional artists and interacting with them… I have rediscovered the social, cultural, historical, and intellectual resources of The Bahamas. Like the banana plant, from my root will come more trees through this collaboration and true exchange. During this time, I may have encouraged and influenced my peers through dialogue, techniques and skills, but I have also experienced a deepening of my own cultural awareness and sense of self,” she said. [. . .]
For full article, see https://thenassauguardian.com/2019/01/19/strange-fruit/