Art of the Month: Shanty Town Tea Service

By Jodi Minnis

Gallery Assistant

On my way to work, I noticed that a familiar town had been demolished. Boards and other forms of structure that once housed a community lay broken on the ground.

I’ve always known that the town enclosed by trees and bushes was there, but when it was exposed, the size and difference of the town was a shock. I was looking at another way of living, another standard of living; how certain groups of people lived.

July 2nd, 2014, Tracy-Ann Perpall, also known as TAP, released a documentary on YouTube called Bwapen: Village Documentary. This documentary gave insight on the burning of a ‘shanty town’ village off of Joe Farrington Road and the Haitian-Bahamian situation in the Bahamas. Perpall’s investigation into this tragedy unearthed tensions between Bahamian landowners and ‘shanty town’ residents, the true conditions of said ‘shanty towns’, and ended by questioning the public. “Does real change occur with dismantling Bwapen, or is it just a band-aid attempting to cover the symptoms of underlying problem” – Tracy Ann Perpall.

Over the past year and a half, the government has been working to effectively address and act upon the issue of growing shantytowns within New Providence. Over the past year and a half, the island has experienced a mass exposure of those towns, several fires of buildings in the towns, and demolition and plans of demolition for some areas. These issues of immigration and the living standards of some immigrants and poor Bahamians in the Bahamas have not popped up over night.

In 2011, Jeffrey Meris, a graduate of the College of the Bahamas and a Popop Junior Prize Winner, constructed Shanty Town Tea Service, which is on display in the Bahamian Domestic exhibition. As a Haitian-Bahamian, Meris comments on the Haitian-Bahamian situation and the view of said people through the manipulation of clay. The class of a tea service is not often compared or associated with standard of shantytowns. Contradictory in some senses, some may say. The standards of shanty towns deemed as “environments that incubate horrible, horrible health challenges,” by Duane Miller does not compare with the dainty, polished China set utilized during tea parties.

In 2011, Jeffrey Meris was concluding his studies at the College of the Bahamas. He commented on the social structure of shantytowns within the Bahamas. In 2014, Tracy-Ann Perpall exposed the social structure of a forgotten shantytown in her documentary. At the later part of 2014, the relevance of the conversation still prevails. During the late part of 2014, on my way to work, I noticed that a familiar town had been demolished.

Jeffrey Meris, “Shanty Town Tea Service”, (2011). Dawn Davies Collection.