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Bahamian art: Presenting. Uniting. Educating.

Mixed Media Blog

What was the inspiration behind the NE9's theme "The Fruit and the Seed"

Holly Bynoe

Holly Bynoe: Can I say that it came to me in a dream? I feel that so many people get away with this answer. Honestly, it was a meditation that I realised had turned into words on repeat in my brain and heart for weeks. I had the map since the beginning of the year, saying it to myself in mumbles and hums then louder as the year progressed.  It is frequently how I work, listening carefully to the resonance of culture, to the whispers and the screams; to the things that fit, to those that clash and to the things that cause a disturbance.

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“The Fruit & the Seed” conjures up a kind of duality - the flesh and pith, something hard surrounded by soft, something immediately nutritious and then something that needs germination to come into being, to spring to life.

Then, of course, there is a way that these words are gendered; the connotation of something lush, pulpy and fecund, of a space so fertile, wild and ripe that you do not have to tend to it. However, you have to tend to the seed, to the soil to the way that you care for the land and care for the environment around this hard pith. I think a lot about this cultivation and landscape, especially within our culture and how it needs a different kind of attention and care. Something constant and faithful.

There is an inherent beauty and danger in what is created throughout the African diasporas, in particular, the Caribbean and absolutely, The Bahamas. There is softness and desirability to the veneers, patinas and aesthetics, but the closer you look all of that drops away and what remains is something harder to unpack, understand and something nuanced, idiosyncratic and expansive.

There is also an intimacy with the thematic of “The Fruit & the Seed”, and it is something that we can all relate to being in and from the tropics, even if it lingers. It hints to the ecology of the space and its fragility. Culture is genuinely married to transformation, and we have to have opportunities to engage in this articulation of change. And that for some artists might be a hostile, meandering, emotional encounter but this relationship makes us think differently about the image of ourselves. It might sound parochial to make this claim or a little backward, but so much of our material traditions and intangible heritage continues to be erased and eroded. It is therefore important to take the time to invent, to fantasise, to create, to nurture and to birth work to populate and counteract this loss, that speak about rebuilding the body of what we are, thereby creating an element of fleshiness in a structure.

Of course, as a Caribbean woman working in culture and being dedicated to fostering richness and value in The Bahamas and across our region,it is also very personal.Sometimes we forget the kind of listening and awareness that we need to practice. It is also a moment of having intimacy with self, our communities, the broader archipelago and all of the points that hinge from this space. To this end, I want to share this anonymous quotation that artist Dominique Knowles shared with me: “Know the difference between those who stay to feed the soil and those who come to grab the fruit.” Know that every day we are planting seeds, watering the ground and watching for new and continued growth. 

 

Alistair D. Stevenson completes Bachelor’s Degree in Ceramic Art and Design

Holly Bynoe

Alistair D. Stevenson (Bahamas) has just completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Ceramic Art and Design from the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute (JCI) in the world renowned porcelain capital of Jingdezhen City, China. Upon graduating, Stevenson was awarded a Silver Place Award for the 2018 JCI Outstanding Works Exhibition along with the First Place Award from the JCI International Students exhibition, again for outstanding work.

 Alistair Stevenson

Alistair Stevenson

Stevenson stated that although it has been a challenging and successful journey thus far,  he is extremely proud to have the honour of being the first Bahamian to have achieved a  Degree in Ceramic Art and Design from JCI.

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Despite five years of intense studies in China, Stevenson has also managed to maintain his own artistic practice by participating in solo and group exhibitions both in The Bahamas and China. He was invited to be the first Artist-in-Residence for the ExNihilo Artist Residency in New Providence for 2015, and he participated in two other international Ceramic Art residencies: one at Guldagergaard International Ceramics Research Center (Denmark, 2017) and the Kohila Wood firing Symposium (Estonia, 2018). In addition, he contributed to spreading cultural awareness about The Bahamas by representing Creative Nassau twice at the annual Jingdezhen International Ceramics Fair  in 2015 and 2017, and once as a representative during the UNESCO Creative Cities Sub-Network Meeting held in Icheon, South Korea (2018).

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Stevenson's approach to creating art stems from his life growing up in Long Island, Bahamas where he spent much time observing and appreciating nature. His work easily reminds viewers of ocean life by inducing the idea of its primitive, yet elegant beauty as well as  its relevance to modern day society.

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Stevenson’s goal is to continue his education this autumn at the China Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing where he will pursue a Master’s Degree in Sculpture focusing on Sculpture Materials and Concepts.

The D'Aguilar Art Foundation seeks volunteers

Holly Bynoe

The D'Aguilar Art Foundation runs an after school art program at Uriah McPhee each wednesday from 3:15-4:14pm throughout the school year. They are looking for 3 volunteers that can commit to volunteering for the majority of the classes for one school year from mid-September 2018 to June 2019.

 Art Club at the DAF. 

Art Club at the DAF. 

You would be joining Tessa Whitehead and her colleague Letitia Pratt to teach kids ranging from 4 yrs old to 10 yrs old. They prepare classes and have a fairly structured format that can be followed with an aim to have 8 students or less per volunteer.

If you are interested or know somebody else who might be interested and suitable, please give Tessa a call on 3767553 so we can have a little interview and discuss it further 

Remedies for Remembering: Darchell Henderson’s new mural on Hospital Lane reminds us of our histories of healing.

Holly Bynoe

By Natalie Willis

The history of healing in The Bahamas - indigenous medicine, African botanical wisdom, and hospitals - is a shifting and complex one. In her new public artwork for Hospital Lane - historically significant but also struggling from a particular kind of contemporary notoriety - Darchell Henderson gives us a brief look into some of the anthropology of this particular archipelago. The painted mural, entitled “Legacy” (2018), by a mere show of 3 faces gives excellent insight into some of the lineages of the majority population of this space: an imagined Arawak, modelled off of their First Nations cousins, a regal African tribesman, and a modern-day Black Bahamian. Our mixing of colonial heritage, first with the Spanish who decimated much of the Arawak, Lucayan and Taino population, and later the British who filled that vacuum with enslaved Africans and White British settlers,, combine with a melange of other migrated and nomadic peoples trickling in throughout the centuries, such as the Seminoles, who settled in Abaco along with freed African-Amercans in the 1820s, or historcal Chinese and Greek populations. All of this has impacted how the majority of Bahamians look, live and feel as we all deal with the weight of history in our landscape.

 1.     “Legacy” (2018) public mural by Darchell Henderson on Hospital Lane in Nassau, New Providence.

1.     “Legacy” (2018) public mural by Darchell Henderson on Hospital Lane in Nassau, New Providence.

Taking first the young man on the left of the massive wall painting, with the red-painted, flat forehead, we imagine The Bahamas in its inception of human activity, shifting from first and foremost being an indigenous space into our initial wave of Spanish colonial activity that grounded much of the written and historical views of the island in terms of health and wellness. Europe was fascinated with the West Indies after our Western “discovery”, but they were also ultimately terrified of this unknown land with its strange ailments - a parallel that was solidified by the British here later. Nomadic travelers like the Lucayans viewed the space as one of opportunity, but Spanish colonial settlers viewed us as a space of simultaneous opportunity and strange disease, with a sad irony sincethe Arawaks and Lucayans were close to eradicated not only through the horrific violence of the Spanish, but also the sexually transmitted infections brought from Europe, with which indigenous peoples’ genetics simply could not cope. There was of course not a single hospital, as we currently know them, but there would undoubtedly have been someone charged with medicine and healing in either camp.

Shifting to the adorned and regal tribesman on the far right, we enter the second wave of colonial activity with Britain and the story of how Hospital Lane got its name. The first true hospital would come in the late 1700s, around 1780 though the dates are not exact, and it was referred to as The African Hospital. For those scratching their heads, the construction of the hospital did not signal the first arrival of medicine to the islands, there were families with private physicians, but the general populace was largely left to fend for themselves. The African Hospital was built primarily for the treatment of enslaved Africans, from whom our Bahamian majority are descended. This was also a matter of protecting the investment of human labour more than humanitarian effort, but it is interesting to think that this space might have provided a merging point between traditional West African medicine and the European medicine of the time - a painful but poignant reminder of how this history lives on. In 1789, Chief Justice Stephen Delancey acquired 150 acres of land “behind the hospital” to form Delancey Town, and it was he who had arranged for the limestone ridge on West Hill Street to be carved out to form Hospital Lane.

 1.     “Legacy” (2018) public mural by Darchell Henderson on Hospital Lane in Nassau, New Providence.

1.     “Legacy” (2018) public mural by Darchell Henderson on Hospital Lane in Nassau, New Providence.

The remains of this site have recently been preserved and renovated as part of the campus at the NAGB. The transformation of this historic lot into a sculpture garden and amphitheatre required the movement of centuries of the sedimentation of Bahamian life - earth, pottery shards, and all manner of everyday detritus from yesteryear gave way to the current site. The idea of healing is integral to the development of this space as it is now. Weeds are replaced by all indigenous species of plants, primarily pre-Columbian where possible, and the amphitheatre, Fiona’s Theatre—where some remains of what could be part of the African Hospital have been restore—is made possible through the healing of a family remembering a daughter taken too early. The National Art Gallery itself, in the former Villa Doyle, is a reclamation of a space built by Black Bahamian ancestors. Healing takes remembering as much as it does re-writing and re-thinking spaces.

 Darchell Henderson, the artist for “Legacy” (2018) on Hospital Lane.

Darchell Henderson, the artist for “Legacy” (2018) on Hospital Lane.

This brings us to our third portrait on the mural. The young man looks like many modern-day Bahamians, but also contemporary African Americans, Jamaicans, Haitians, Bajans, Trinidadians. We in the Caribbean are this merging point of the world, and it shows in those who make up our population. Bahamians of African descent, Greek, Chinese, American, European, and all those migrations betwixt and between. Henderson wants us to not only consider our most recent personal histories, looking at our grandparents and great-grandparents but those who are our tenth-grands and those who first interacted with this land. “We mix up like conch salad! Don’t be so quick to neglect or turn a blind eye and think that the original Bahamians are not part of your history. We didn’t just have a migration from the West. The South came first.” Portraiture, especially busts and headshots, are a way to give the grandeur back to these faces, for Henderson, “I would put all of them on our dollar bills”. “This is where it started; it did not start with Milo Butler and Queen Elizabeth, these people were here first. We didn’t start with Queen Victoria.”

When asked what she wants viewers to walk away with, the answer is simple: “Pride.”  

Friday Night Live draws great crowd in spite of the rain: Jazzing up the summer!

Holly Bynoe

By Malika Pryor-Martin

The NAGB’s Friday Night Live! (FNL), which the NAGB is pleased to announce is now powered by ALIV, was again a fun-filled night for event goers. For the price of admission ($7 for locals, members are always free), a person in attendance could make a handmade notebook or draw in the Permanent Exhibition, “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean”, inspired by Bahamian masters, Amos Ferguson, Maxwell Taylor as well as accomplished younger artists. Once done creating, attendees could make their way to special tours of “Traversing the Picturesque; For Sentimental Value”, with our curatorial staff, including Chief Curator, Holly Bynoe.

 Jazz Etcetera performing to the FNL crowd

Jazz Etcetera performing to the FNL crowd

The featured exhibition, in its very final weekend made FNL the last opportunity to tour the show featuring works, created pre-independence, spanning more than a century. Guests could also visit the contemporary exhibition “We Suffer to Remain”, a deep exploration of The Bahamas and the broader Caribbean’s connections to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, including a powerful installation inspired by the Scottish role in the historic travesty. Although both exhibitions are now closed, a catalogue of the latter is available as well as texts featuring works from the former at Mixed Media Store, located inside the NAGB.

 1.     Two friends drawing in the galleries of our Permanent Exhibition.

1.     Two friends drawing in the galleries of our Permanent Exhibition.

In spite of the heat and then the rain, the weather eventually gave way and “Jazz Etcetera”, a talented quartet of experienced musicians based in Nassau, blessed the stage with smooth jazz sounds and upbeat funk and reggae rhythms. Fiona’s Theatre, the NAGB’s newest addition to the campus, seems to sway to the beat as it filled with guests who’d been anxiously waiting for the show to start. Holding specialty drinks from the bar, they grooved to the band. Even when the music had ended though, the night hadn’t. Four specialty food vendors were available for your enjoyment. Whether you wanted to cool off with a local fruit popsicle from PopStop 242 or get your sweet crunchy fix with Nutty Bavarian Bahamas, treats were aplenty. However, if you were in need of something a bit more substantial, Cassava Grille or POW! Brunch were available. From fried chicken and waffles to shrimp or vegan wraps, the choices seemed endless. It appeared as though every guest either had a drink or a plate - or both.

 1.     Event goers participating in the notebook making drop-in workshop 

1.     Event goers participating in the notebook making drop-in workshop 

One particular highlight was the notebook-making workshop, led by UB student and NAGB intern, Amaani Hepburn. Initially intended to last for only two hours, the workshop became an all-evening affair and participants loved it. From selecting from the colorful papers available, to the process of binding each original book, at any given moment, three generations of Bahamians were toiling away, assisting each other with designs while receiving direction from their instructor. Small gifts, like this one, are the kind that inclusive events like Friday Night Live! bring to our community and to the NAGB’s campus. They are proof that art lives and is loved by all ages. The success of FNL only supports the NAGB’s desire and intention, as recently shared our first annual Open Community Forum, to engage with renewed energy and depth with our many communities in Nassau and beyond. Furthermore, with the incredible support of corporate partners like ALIV, Friday Night Live!, and other events like it, will only grow in number and excitement with time.

Boiling: Field Notes on Loss and Belonging

Holly Bynoe

By Ethan Knowles

In the weeks following Aunty Mary’s decision to stay, a time when cement volcanos seethed on doorsteps and goats outnumbered residents fifty to one, the truth enveloped me like a vile perfume. It followed me everywhere I went, tightening my throat and summoning tears to my eyes. Even as I hauled plywood, stacked shingles, and negotiated piles of nails, it grew ever thicker and more blinding. There was no looking past it: I had been lied to my entire life.

 Southwest view from Duncan Town, Ragged Island. Photo by Ethan Knowles.

Southwest view from Duncan Town, Ragged Island. Photo by Ethan Knowles.

It was true, Grandpa had gone to great lengths over the years to keep my mother’s affair a secret. But his efforts had swiftly collapsed over the course of one afternoon. It took but three hours for news of the reveal to come marching in like ants to every household on Ragged Island. And once all thirty inhabitants had been informed (excluding Uncle Freddy who would find out the next day upon returning from his fishing trip), they would each begin to change in unexpected ways. That is, except for Grandpa, who for some reason refused to acknowledge a word of my parents’ extramarital affair had ever escaped his mouth.

Aunty Mary, on the other hand, content that the truth had finally been revealed, initiated a new epoch in our relationship. On most evenings after the day’s work had been done, Aunty and I would stroll through town until it got dark. Sometimes we would drift aimlessly. Others, when Aunty Mary was feeling particularly adventurous, we would drop by a relative. More often than not, that meant a visit to Uncle Freddy, Aunty Mary’s younger, more upbeat brother. Without exception, Uncle Freddy offered us benny cake and beer each time we visited, a proposition that never failed to make me laugh because it was widely known that Aunty Mary never drank and, so long as I was in her company, neither did I. Much to my surprise, the news had actually made Uncle Freddy take a new interest in me – one I was deeply relieved came free of guilt and full of warmth.

By far, however, my favourite walks were the ones on which Aunty Mary told me about my mother. A glowing film would eclipse her eyes as she told me how my mother was unlike anyone she had ever met: dangerously unpredictable, inclined to disappear for hours on end without a word of notice, and shrewd, almost intimidatingly so. I cherished these descriptions and collected them like loose change, storing them away for darker times when they could be gathered up to bring relief. Something inside me knew those times would soon come.

 A lone fishing boat tied down off the coast of Exuma. Photo by Ethan Knowles.

A lone fishing boat tied down off the coast of Exuma. Photo by Ethan Knowles.

Some days later, Grandpa invited Aunty and me in his fishing boat. Pleased with our progress in repairing the house and conscious of our exhaustion, he thought it a well-deserved treat for the two of us. Grandpa was then understandably dispirited when Aunty Mary swiftly declined the offer, stating that she had been on enough boats in her lifetime and that the only one she’d ever step foot in again was the mailboat when it came time for her to return to Nassau. To me it seemed like a perfectly valid response, but I would later realize Aunty Mary’s maritime aversion was nothing more than a ploy to get me and Grandpa to spend some time alone together. Even she had noticed a rift forming between us – the rift I felt grow wider and wider inside me, the rift that reorganised my organs and applied pressure to my chest day by day. It was her hope that the open ocean would force Grandpa to confront the facts of my birth by giving him little else to focus on but me. In the end, I accepted Grandpa’s offer and, as this seemed in part to restore his zeal, began wondering what might come of our day at sea.

I abandoned all hope of reconciliation when I saw Grandpa’s fishing boat. It was a blistering day; the tar fumed under our flip flops as we made our way down to the dock – lines, bait, nets and knives all in hand. I had just rested Grandpa’s fishing pole on the first bleached plank of the dock when I looked up and saw it. I could not hide my horror. The boat’s off-white hull, once immaculate as an eggshell, had been consumed by a thick algal skin. Mobs of throbbing barnacles, tightly-packed and glued together, now swelled like boils in the slimy flesh. Meanwhile, rotten mangrove branches littered the bow, ornamented by foul berries that lay dying idly in the midmorning sun. Parched leaves blanketed the fourteen-foot interior, burying ancient animal corpses. Loathsome odours spoiled the air. Decomposers gorged themselves. But the boat, the boat was still floating.

Grandpa noted my reluctance and got straight to sweeping up the leaves. Not much could be done about the barnacles, he told me, but the algae would file away with the waves once we were at full speed. Grandpa then looked me straight in the eyes and lifted me by the hand into what moments before was the nautical equivalent to a zombie. I gazed in disbelief as the motor croaked and wheezed into the world of living, and soon enough we began navigating our way from the calm harbour at the heart of Ragged Island into open ocean.

He was careful to depart an hour or two before high tide, so as to avoid damaging the motor on the shallow banks during our return journey. Recently, many fishermen had met such a fate. Pressed to make ends meet, they would extend their fishing hours in hopes of greater profit, only to find themselves further burdened by boat repairs. Grandpa said that channel was the only employer left on Ragged Island, but it was sure to be declared functionally bankrupt by the end of the year if someone didn’t come down and dredge it up. And since the fishermen were sick of waiting for help from the government, they gradually began to accept that likelihood. They waited every day for the tide and wind to coincide; but they wouldn’t waste time waiting on a miracle.

Ethan Knowles is the NAGB attaché and is working with the collectives Expo 2020 out of the University of The Bahamas and Plastico Fantastico on this year’s Double Dutch project titled “Hot Water” set to open on Thursday, August 23rd at the NAGB. Knowles will further anchor the exhibition’s context with writings and field notes further clarifying the relationship of the environment to our humanity.

 

 

Blank Canvas: August 8, 2018, Mixed Media Art Summer Camp in Review

Katrina Cartwright

On tonight’s Blank Canvas, guest host Malika Pryor-Martin, Communications and Development Officer for the NAGB is joined by Katrina Cartwright, NAGB Education Officer, Abby Smith, NAGB Community Outreach Officer and Reagan Farrington, UB art student and summer camp counsellor, to discuss the aftermath of the museum's amazing Mixed Media Art Summer Camp (MMASC).

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The art of living in the tropics. Part II: Hand come, hand go

Natalie Willis

By Dr Ian Bethell-Bennett, The University of The Bahamas. Exuma blue recedes into Ragged Island sargasso and green.  Sole inhabitant of Buena Vista Cay, Edward Lockhart, a reminder of Hemingway’s Old Man and The Sea (1952) has pulled up alongside and tied his boat to the MV Captain C and now stands with the others on the deck.  Sun pounds down as the heat of living in the tropics feels much hotter than it has in forever. Art is always somewhat less strange than life, as stories come and go and fight to retain their place in a global village quickly being overtaken by overwriting of colour-blindness and leadership that throws women and minorities and their voices under the bus.  Ironically, there is this romantic notion about “going back to the island”, it will all be better there, by and by.  The irony is that hidden in this discourse of nostalgia for the island, is an erasure of the same island we long for.

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The Importance of Intimacy: Jodi Minnis shares moments of vulnerability through figuration

Natalie Willis

By Natalie Willis. The brush of a hand, a comfortable silence, the ability to show tears freely. All of this encompasses the idea of the word intimacy, and this is what Jodi Minnis is exploring through the historic, heavy tradition of oil painting. There are certain images that come to mind when we think of oils: grand halls and gilded frames showing mythic men and genteel women. Very rarely, however, do we think of Black faces amidst the magic and trickery of traditional figurative oil paintings, taking the texture of our 3-dimensional world into the 2-dimensional canvas plane - and we certainly do not think of Caribbean ones. Minnis, finishing up her studies in Fine Art at the University of Tampa, is trying her own hand at shifting this narrative for a new show, “Intimacy” opening on August 10th at 6:00pm at the Central Bank of The Bahamas. We managed to catch her for a few words.

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Rebirth: Field Notes on Loss and Belonging

Natalie Willis

By Ethan Knowles: Summer Intern for Expo2020 for the upcoming Double Dutch, "Hot Water".  It took three days before Aunty Mary decided to stay. To stay, not merely till the next mailboat, but for the next month. This revelation came as a great shock not just to the enduring community, all of whom had seen my aunty pack her bags and run off to Nassau the second Pa Elmer turned a blind eye, but to Pa Elmer himself, my grandpa and guardian, who had never known his daughter to show a sense of attachment to this tiny rock at the foot of the Great Bahama Bank in all his life.

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Exhibition Opening: "INTIMACY" by Jodi Minnis at the Central Bank of The Bahamas

Natalie Willis

The Central Bank of The Bahamas shares: Please join us on Friday, August 10th, 2018 from 6pm - 9pm for INTIMACY, the first showcasing of oil paintings and photographs by Jodi Minnis, at the Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Gallery. Minnis graduated from the College of The Bahamas with an Associates of Arts in Fine Art in 2015. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's of Fine Arts at the University of Tampa. This exhibition will be in support of her last semester at The University of Tampa.

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Blank Canvas: August 1, 2018, Tilting Axis

Katrina Cartwright

Blank Canvas this week focuses on the roving Caribbean art conference “Tilting Axis,” co-founded by current NAGB Chief Curator, Holly Bynoe (far left) and Annalee Davis, founding director of Fresh Milk, Barbados. Tilting Axis brings together artists, curators and other arts professionals from the region and diasporas to network, speak about best practices, open forums and break out sessions to troubleshoot topics ranging from curatorial practices to creative ecologies, all to better connect our region and professionalise our teams. Bynoe speaks to the meeting's creation in 2014, and its continued development and iterations over the last four years in its various locations: Barbados, São Paulo, Miami, the Cayman Islands and most recently in the Dominican Republic.

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The NAGB wins awards for exhibition catalogues: Pushing design forward

Natalie Willis

By Holly Bynoe. The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) was recently awarded three awards for the production and design of two catalogues for its 2017-2018 exhibitions, namely the retrospective catalogue for "Thierry Lamare: Love, Loss and Life" and the collective showcase "Medium: Practices and Routes of Spirituality and Mysticism" which closed earlier in the year.  At the NAGB we have the unique opportunity to create a container of research and curiosity to support the life and dissemination of works that live for a much longer time than exhibitions. With this we have an opportunity to use our resources in powerful ways to inspire and share the wealth of Bahamian visual art.

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MYSC Summer Youth Programs: Giving youth a sense of hope

Natalie Willis

Emma pushed the curtains back to play make believe with her friend Jessica whom she hadn’t seen all summer. She was busy playing make believe elsewhere. This elsewhere place? A theatre and performance arts camp facilitated by none other than Lynn Terez Davis-Nixon, otherwise known as Miss Daisy, a Bahamian icon, family comedian and the Cultural Affairs Officer at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC). “Youth development through the arts summer camp has been an initiative of the Ministry [of Youth, Sports and Culture] for about six years now. I’m passionate about this programme because it’s important we teach creative kids that the arts are lucrative; that you don’t have to be a doctor or lawyer to make money; that doing what you love is enough to make a living,” Davis-Nixon says with enthusiasm.

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A De-colonial Soundclash: The cacophonous chorus of the post-colony marks the end of “We Suffer To Remain”

Natalie Willis

For the closing event and finissage of the exhibition “We Suffer To Remain” -Sunday, July 29th–we are left to critically, crucially, question the work of language. “I suffer to remain, Saint of a wild mad Land”. The Caribbean has transitioned from this “wild, mad land” of disease and mystery into the tropical Eden we ubiquitously see in media today. But just what makes this place what it is? Who suffers to remain, and who are the saints and sinners? Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the cacophony of voices in the history of this region. In a place suffering from the silencing of so many, it is harder still to discern what voices are speaking - be they loud, soft, deafening, or a whisper. 

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The Fruit and the Seed – Part One: A conversation with the NAGB’s chief curator, Holly Bynoe, on the upcoming 9th National Exhibition.

Holly Bynoe

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) holds a national exhibition every two years where all Bahamian artists and artists who reside here–irrespective of how their practice is defined–are invited to submit their work for selection. The 2018 National Exhibition will be the 9th edition (shortened to NE9) of this exercise which acts as a barometer of sorts on what is affecting and inspiring, being thought about and worked upon, developed and defined by individual creators in the Bahamian art community.

This year’s national exhibition, entitled “The Fruit and the Seed”, is an invitation to all artists within the community to think about what risk-taking, truth-telling and innovation can do in a space that is still becoming.

 Holly Bynoe, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas' Chief Curator. Image by Jackson Petit-Homme.

Holly Bynoe, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas' Chief Curator. Image by Jackson Petit-Homme.

Bahamian Art & Culture eMagazine had an opportunity to ask the NE9’s curator, Holly Bynoe, a few questions on her hopes, reflections, and curatorial plans for this year’s national exhibition.

BAHAMIAN ART & CULTURE: What kind of work are you and the jurors hoping to see for the NAGB’s 9th National Exhibition exercise? What conversations are you hoping to discover?

HOLLY BYNOE: It is clear from the intention of the Call for Works that we are moving into a moment where we want to acknowledge the social aspect of art practices and how truth-telling can be an essential part of how we come to understand artistic practice and ourselves. Whether that be through inquiry, media exploration, narrative building or other devices to provoke and evolve the traditions that we are comfortable with.

It is specific to note the call and response built into the theme is seen as a way to open up a conversation, rather than a way to prescribe artists–or fix thoughts and actions to a specific area. The questions and points of consideration are broad to help prompt expansion, excitement for the times that we are living in and rework how we are engaging with our surroundings and dreams. At once there is an inward and outward looking, in the language of the call, so there is hope that this double consciousness will permeate the submitted proposals or works.

 Holly takes in a piece created by Bahamian artist Anina Major from the exhibition "We Suffer to Remain."

Holly takes in a piece created by Bahamian artist Anina Major from the exhibition "We Suffer to Remain."

Selfishly–and I cannot speak towards the jurors' sentiments as we are still waiting to identify key participants–what is unique about this is that it allows for an organic expansion of ideas to also emerge during this jury process. Other points of view can come to the fore and contextualise practices in significant ways. I can say that we were looking at curators who are actively working to shape and shift their cultural and social spaces since that agitation is so necessary and not only in a global context, but locally as well.

As post-colonial thinkers, makers and tinkerers we have to figure out new ways of sustaining ourselves and the circulation of minds that can add to our already dynamic cultural expressions could provide critical feedback and momentum for artists who are ready for that push.

 “Remember” (2016) by Bahamas resident artist Sue Katz-Lightbourn for the 8th National Exhibition.

“Remember” (2016) by Bahamas resident artist Sue Katz-Lightbourn for the 8th National Exhibition.

As ever, we hope for the National Exhibition to set professional standards for what visual art and its supporting elements can be and what they can achieve. We hope to see media and narrative development expanded, tropes attacked and or debated in the emergence of work for the NE9, and this can work in tandem with a motion towards countering complacency, shallowness and comfort.

How this would manifest in physical form is hard to say, however, we are excited by the emergence of photography, moving image, spoken word and performance art to expand how the younger generations are coming to know expression, language and their voices. In many ways, they are a lot more fearless, and it is critical for the institution to support works that don't feel safe. Works that feel tenuous, charged and biting.

They inherently offer a challenge to representation and the status quo. Seeing that there is a strong tradition of painting in The Bahamas, we would like to see more innovative works using technology and alternative public spaces with a performative element considered. With the birth and arrival of Fiona’s Theatre, we have the means to stretch our bones a little more and take the work off of walls and develop experiences so that our public has a new understanding of exchange and the museum.

The NAGB has always used the National Exhibition (NE) as a platform for more in-depth conversations and debate – it is our litmus test if you will, and this call is no different. With that, we hope that artists feel challenged to advance their practices especially with works outside of the museum walls. It is always challenging to figure out what a good fit would be or what would be most useful or possible given the lack of potential partner spaces. However, that being said, I believe as Bahamians we have a kind of resourcefulness, tenacity and “biggityness” which means that we can almost always get away with transgression, misbehaving a bit and asking for more than we are comfortable with.

 Bynoe moderating an Artists’ Talk at the NAGB for the exhibition "Medium: Practices and Routes of Spirituality and Mysticism".

Bynoe moderating an Artists’ Talk at the NAGB for the exhibition "Medium: Practices and Routes of Spirituality and Mysticism".

Artists–emerging and seasoned–are aching for moments of exchange and even though at times it feels as though most actions happen in an “art vacuum,” the NAGB is growing and becoming an institution that values risk-taking and being courageous.

It is hard not to think that the jurors would want to see authentic and poignant work that articulates a particular understanding of the present and speculation about the future. The kind of cadence that would resonate depends on the stories being told and the devices chosen. Whether personal or political—although at times it is hard to think that both can ever be separate—it is an ongoing debate in some camps. There are ways for work to retain a beauty, craftsmanship and eloquence. For the works to have agency yet be alluring is the balance I would like to strike for this year’s NE.

Come back next week for a continuation of BAC's conversation with Holly.

The Hon. Minister Lanisha Rolle visits the campus of the NAGB

Holly Bynoe

On Thursday, July 19th, the recently appointed Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture,  the Hon. Minister Lanisha Rolle visited the campus of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas to see its expansion, tour our permanent and temporary exhibitions, learn more about our programming and meet the staff. She was accompanied by Director of Culture, Mrs Rowena Poitier Sutherland. Photographs courtesy of Eric Rose.

Blank Canvas: July 25th: Sonia Farmer, Jason Evans and Yasmin Glinton

Holly Bynoe

On tonight's Blank Canvas, guest host Malika Pryor-Martin talks with artist and writer Sonia Farmer about her practice, what inspires her to use established narratives to write new stories and more.

 NAGB Development and Communications Officer Malika Pryor Martin with Sonia Farmer

NAGB Development and Communications Officer Malika Pryor Martin with Sonia Farmer

As a wonderful preview to the finissage of NAGB exhibition, "We Suffer To Remain", Farmer's work, "A True and Exact History", featured in the show and originally imagined and presented in book and installation formats, will be given new life as sound piece that includes 11 speakers. Jason Evans and Yasmin Glinton (not pictured here) grace the mic, sharing just a small portion of this dynamic presentation as well as a snippet of what they're doing in their own respective worlds as accomplished artists.

Join us every Wednesday at 6:30 pm., for Blank Canvas on 96.9 Guardian Talk Radio and be sure to attend this very special performance of "A True and Exact History", this Sunday, July 29th, at 4 pm at the NAGB.

Jodi Minnis's Solo Exhibition Intimacy opens at the Central Bank of The Bahamas

Holly Bynoe

On Friday, August 10th, 2018, Intimacy, a small collection of oil paintings and photographs, will open at the Central Bank of The Bahamas Art Gallery. Intimacy explores the responsibility of an artist's gaze and the cherished relationships between loved ones. 
 

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The work will be accompanied by a performance piece  (in the lower gallery) and relief and digital prints (in the upper gallery). The exhibition will open at 6pm and close promptly at 9pm. For more information, please feel free to contact us at jodi@jodiminnis.com