The National Exhibition 9 "The Fruit and the Seed" opened on Thursday, December 13th, 2018 and will run through March 31st, 2019. A socially curious project, “The Fruit and the Seed” centres around how artists are working to define their space and experiences. Whether it be through the lens of race, gender, parity and class as a way to clarify cultural, social and aesthetic decisions, the art-making process is used as a tool to bring to the fore ideologies on activism and advocacy, leading to a more empathetic and understanding culture.
In July 2018, The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB) issued a call for works for the ninth National Exhibition, more affectionately referred to as the NE9. The call which solicited over 100 submissions, presented under the theme “The Fruit and the Seed,” resonated as a socially unique project, centring around how artists are working to define their space and experiences.
A six-member jury—comprised of Derek Rolle, the Deputy Governor of The Central Bank of The Bahamas; John Cox, Former NAGB Chief Curator and current Artistic Director at The Current Studios at Baha Mar; Allan P. Wallace, local artist and instigator; andinternational jurors, Naima J. Keith, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Programs at the California African American Museum (CAAM); and independent LA-based curator Diana Nawi, former associate curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM); along with the NAGB’s own Chief Curator, Holly Bynoe—were tasked with making a selection from the over 100 submission. The 38 artists’ works supported over the next three months in “The Fruit and the Seed,” is a testament to a social uprising and deepened awakening.
As we continue to advance the thinking and impetus behind the National Exhibitions (NE), we have used this platform in the past to honour contemporary works that are grounded in the advancement of practice, dialogue and social engagement. This year the attention is no different, as an incubator, laboratory and site of curiosity, the NE presents an opportunity for us to test the temperature of our artistic, cultural and social climates. Whether it be through the lens of race, gender, parity or class as a way to clarify cultural, social and aesthetic decisions, the art-making process is used as a tool to bring to the fore ideologies on activism and advocacy, leading to a more empathetic and understanding culture.
“The Fruit and the Seed” is an acknowledgement of the binaries in which we exist, paying attention to the fertile creative space we inhabit, its nuances, contradictions and complexities. The analogy of the fruit and seed conjure up very explicit things—from the religious and poetic, to the agency around cultivation and harvest, possibility and outcome. The fragile nature of our ecologies in the age of climate change and the Anthropocene is calling for a radical shift in how we tend to our ground and lives.
As the world around us contracts and becomes more conservative, populist and reactionary, we see the conversations that art provokes as a way to negotiate, to understand and to find commonalities. We also see these conversations as a way to demystify social stigmas and to unfix the dogmas that keep our humanity and compassion from being a part of the broader national and global dialogues.
So here we turn to the many untold stories that lay nascent but ready within our culture, the secrets and fears, the achievements and triumphs, to break old habits and welcome a new awareness of self and others.
With contributions from 38 artists, performers, writers and academics, the NE9 presents a vibrant and dynamic series of programming events including a main exhibition across the upper galleries, artists talks, readings, screenings, performances, education workshops and panels through the end of March 2019. We invite you to stay with the work, to seek out the questions at the centre of these practices and to find answers that resonate and uplift you.
“The Fruit and the Seed” call for works had several new facets to it including prompts that lead to greater cultural and social engagement through art. The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB), a world-class museum with a passion for knowledge and a drive to push cultural boundaries, is looking for ways that its public can come to acknowledge and use the institution as a safe space and haven and site for the contesting of rooted and burdened histories/ideologies and speculations about our futures.
With that, we engaged the creative community with several questions around how they make work; the context and the function of said works which included:
How are they diversifying experiences and thoughts through art? What language/devices are they using to speak about (re)presentation? How are they unfixing colonial understandings of our society and decolonising spaces with new ideologies and narratives? How are they working with The Bahamas’ vulnerable geography to advocate for the environment? How are they encouraging colleagues and peers in this creative ecology? How are they defending and protecting those that continue to be stateless? What do the paths of resistance look like in their lives, families, communities and the expansive country? How are they making space for themselves and for others that share differing perspectives, and the like?
Onsite, the NE9 supports the works of Melissa Alcena, Gabrielle Banks, Ian Bethell-Bennett, April Bey, Jenna Chaplin, Cydne Coleby, Saskia D’Aguilar, Sonia Farmer in collaboration with Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan, Kendra Frorup, Tamika Galanis, Yasmin Glinton, Jalan Harris, Charlotte Henay, Allan Jones, Rashad Leamount, A.L. Major, Anina Major, Jodi Minnis, Jo Morasco, Letitia Pratt, Eric Rose, Heino Schmid, Dave Smith, Tiffany Smith, Edrin Symonette, Alex Timchula, Natascha Vasquez and Averia Wright.
Offsite Angelika Wallace-Whitfield has activated various sites across Downtown Nassau including the campus of the NAGB, several spots across the Over-the-Hill communities, PopopStudios and NINE in Chippingham, the University of the Bahamas (UB) and other public spaces with her powerful project “Hope is a Weapon.” UB educator and chemist turn wood-worker, Danny Davis, the Artist-in-Residence in collaboration with The Current at Baha Mar for the past three months, developed a series of tea boxes which speak towards the vestiges of colonialism and ritual making across the island archipelago.
Throughout the coming months, we bring to life Fiona’s Theatre with words, stories, movements, deliberations, debates and rituals from Ivanna Giator, Princess Pratt, Ide Thompson, Martysta Turnquest, Christine Wilson and Xan Xi.
The NE9 unveils intriguing, exciting and mindful works that catalogues and challenges our contemporary moment, giving breath to our spaces, evolving culture and social critique which are central tenets as we move towards greater self-determination, autonomy and enlightenment.