Everybody is hoping for something

Angelika Wallace-Whitfield talks NE9 public project ‘Hope Is a Weapon’

by Kevanté Cash, NAGB Correspondent.

“Hope is an optimistic attitude, a feeling of trust, of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. But, what is hope without action? We have become desensitized to the word “hope” in its overuse. The strength and assurance hope once offered us has been replaced with a generic and diluted brand of hope, based on a desire that something may turn in your favor. As a result, hope has been rendered useless in the battle against fear… This public project is how I plan to remind people to employ hope as action again.”

Angelika Wallace-Whitfield’s excerpt from NE9 public project ‘Hope Is a Weapon’  

Angelika Wallace-Whitfield adorns the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas’ space with her NE9 public project “Hope Is a Weapon”. Images courtesy of the artist.

Wallace-Whitfield, like many of the 38 artists exhibiting or participating in the Ninth National Exhibition (NE9), hopes for her work to drive home the message of “The Fruit and The Seed”, the theme of this National Exhibition (NE). Although this is not her first time showcasing works within a NE, this is her first time delivering a concept independently. 

After three years of studying abroad to receive her Bachelor of Arts (honors) degree in the History and Philosophy of Art from the University of Kent in Canterbury, U.K., she has had much time to think and reflect on what it means to be an artist in the Caribbean and in The Bahamas; move in spaces with her identity, observe the build-up of the arts community and deterioration of artistic venues that hold nostalgic memories of her becoming. She has had time to love, lose and hope for again. These experiences have given her the space to explore herself artistically, professionally and personally, and have allowed for us to witness her here in this moment and time to give birth to her public project ‘Hope Is a Weapon’ for the NE9. 

With this, she has tagged the phrase “HOPE IS A WEAPON” in black spray paint in relevant and thought-provoking spaces in Nassau.

I sat with Wallace-Whitfield to gain a better understanding of how she interpreted the theme and went about “spreading love and spray paint”.

Kevanté Cash: Describe to me the feeling you felt when your proposal for NE9 got accepted.

Angelika Wallace-Whitfield: It was an incredible feeling. I remember being in high school attending the first set of National Exhibitions and being in awe of the amount of works at such a caliber in The Bahamas. Being a part of it is sort of a rite of passage for artists, and validation for your most relevant, infinitely sized projects. I collaborated for the last NE with Christina Wong, which was awesome, but this is my first year in the NE as a solo artist.

KC: How did you interpret the theme of this National Exhibition?

AWW: It resonated with the idea of the process for me; the idea of becoming and the acknowledgement and appreciation for different stages of becoming. 

Wallace-Whitfield adorns the Popop Art Studios, one of the places contributive of her becoming, with “Hope Is a Weapon” NE9 project.

KC: What has the process been like for you thus far?

AWW: I’m working on a public project so it’s been a really fun experience, tagging different places on the island. I participated in the Over-the-Hill Walk with the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) and was able to learn so much more about the areas I sought to tag, as well as dialogue with members of the tour and community about my project.

KC: What are you learning about yourself as an artist as you sink deeper into your practice with this particular project? 

AWW: People are listening to what artists have to say or share. I’m learning the responsibility of an artist and how what we produce or say, the visuals we relay, matter. This may be a personal experience as I am doing a public project, but there’s a genuine interest in what and why we are producing what we produce. 

KC: What are you learning about your community/ Bahamian society?

AWW: That everybody is hoping for something.

KC: What are some of the responses you’ve been receiving as you’ve been tagging?

AWW: It’s all been really positive. I’ve had gyms, schools and other gallery spaces contact me to come tag their property. It’s interesting to hear the different interpretations of the phrase. They’re usually romantic interpretations of hoping for love or reciprocation, financial hope, health and emotional hope. 

KC: What will attendees see on the day of the opening of the exhibition – photos, videos, anything along those lines?

Wallace-Whitfield adorns the Popop Art Studios, one of the places contributive of her becoming, with “Hope Is a Weapon” NE9 project.

AWW: On the day of the show, my tag will be seen around NAGB’s property and “HOPE IS A WEAPON” shirts will be on sale in the Mixed Media Museum Store for $25 inclusive of VAT. The shirts will allow me to share this project a little further with the public. Enthusiasts will spread the message visually and carry it with them throughout their day.

The NAGB is grateful to support artists like Wallace-Whitfield with works inspiring and conspiring for change within this National Exhibition. If you are looking to encourage Wallace-Whitfield further in her artistic practice and within this project’s message by purchasing a T-shirt or having a space tagged with can paint, you may connect with her at [email protected].