From the Collection: John Beadle “Mass Transportation”

Despite developing her artistic abilities in the classroom, Babbs had little familiarity with many of the country’s prominent artists prior to her internship. John Beadle was one of the names with which she became acquainted while at the gallery.

John Beadle. Mass Transportation

Beadle is known as one of the foremost artists whose works became popular with the post-independence generation. Known for his work in the Junkanoo community, Beadle is a well-respected Junkanoo designer. He is also recognized for his partnership with brothers Jackson and Stan Burnside in the former Burnside-Beadle-Burnside group and his work with Stan Burnside and Antonius Roberts in the current Burnside-Beadle-Roberts collaboration. Influences of the Burnside brothers and Junkanoo are heavily reflected in Beadle’s work, which also frequently responds to issues related to citizenship, migration and slavery.

His painting “Mass Transportation” is no exception to any of this. The piece occupies a wall in the NAGB’s permanent exhibition, Bahamian Domestic, and reflects on the violence of the slave trade and the kidnapping of Africans for the purposes of production in the Americas. The somber work hangs in close proximity to Beadle’s “Emancipation Day Boat Cruise”, an equally large painting notable for its vibrant colors and celebratory dancing.

The latter work appears a joyous one, commemorating emancipation with a boat cruise. However, the irony of the imagery of Afro-Caribbeans packed onto a boat with hopes for a brighter cannot be overlooked. The painting is intended to be considered alongside knowledge of the perilous journeys regularly undertaken by thousands of migrants who are in search of a better future in The Bahamas. Those who survive the journeys and reach their destination are often subjected to marginalization and discrimination upon arrival.

Elements of Junkanoo and evidence of African heritage, particularly masks, are present in both works.

Drawn to Beadle’s poignant juxtaposition of the slave trade and modern-day migration practices as well as the linkage between African heritage and Caribbean culture, Babbs selected “Mass Transportation” as one of the April artworks of the month.

John Beadle. Mass Transportation installed outside of the Inner Sanctum a.k.a. the “Project Space”

“To me, it symbolizes the struggles the slaves went through and how they died and were captured, as well as how they felt. He uses the color red to show the blood that was lost and the deaths that happened. It teaches you about history and our African descent,” she explained.

Discussions about John Beadle’s works often prove educational from both visual art and sociological perspectives. Several of his pieces, including “Mass Transportation” and “Emancipation Day Boat Cruise” can currently be found at the NAGB as part of both Bahamian Domestic and the Seventh National Exhibition, Antillean: an Ecology.