The gap between exhibitions was
not enough to prevent a room from filling at the National Art Gallery of The
Bahamas this past Tuesday, when the inaugural talk of a series of discussions
presented by some of the country’s foremost sociopolitical activists was held.
The series is the result of
collaboration between the College of The Bahamas (COB) and the National Art
Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). It is one of several joint initiatives
undertaken by the two institutions, which recently signed a memorandum of
understanding to promote each other’s mission.
The brainchild of COB Dean Dr.
Ian Bethell-Bennett, the series is a mandatory component of his Race, Gender
and History in 19th
and Early 20th
Century Bahamas class.
Bethell-Bennett hopes the talks will serve as both an introduction to the NAGB
as an educational resource and national institution as well as a chance for his
students to hear from some of the country’s most valued leaders.
Speakers were jointly selected by
Bethell-Bennett and NAGB Director Amanda Coulson for their contributions to the
country’s progressive social movements.
“I think that there are some
people who are underutilized in the public, who have a lot of information and
knowledge about history, and the students really don’t know anything about
that, so it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement,” explained Bethell-Bennett.
The talks were originally
conceived as a complementing program for the Seventh National Exhibition, which
examined issues of race, class, identity and gender. Bethell-Bennett was a
participating artist in that exhibition, which opened December 2014. His work
examined the inherent segregation existing in the present-day relationship
between developments from foreign direct investment and local Bahamians.
He is hoping that, through the
lecture series, students develop an appreciation and understanding for the
progression the country still needs to undertake.
“I’m hoping they take away the
losses or the erosion that has happened in civil liberties, in The Bahamas.
While women may have gotten the vote, they are worse off now than they were
before; they’re underrepresented in Parliament,” he explained.
Cultural critic, academic and
writer Patricia Glinton-Meicholas, presented the first talk titled “Boxed in:
Reflections of Bahamian issues of race, gender, politics and old-time
religion”. Glinton-Meicholas is known for her anthropological contributions,
and has presented a series of satirical works on cultural observations. On
Tuesday evening, she married a selection of personal anecdotes with decades-old
formal and informal cultural traditions, including the racial and physical
construction of neighborhoods and the polyamorous lifestyle in Bahamian
society. She delved into the acceptance of domestic and gender-based violence,
even in parliamentary halls, as recently demonstrated by one member of Parliament
and his supporters.
She concluded her discussion with
reference to images of ‘Bahamian art’, beginning with early 20th
century artist Winslow Homer, whose works were some of the first to feature
black people, but merely as incidental elements of the landscape. She went on
to feature contemporary artists, like John Beadle, whose work references
immigration and discrimination toward poorer blacks, and Dionne Benjamin-Smith,
known for her work confronting taboos like gender-based violence and racial
constructs of beauty. For many of the students, it was their first time
understanding the links between fine art, history and culture.
The next talk in the series will
be held on Thursday, October 15 and led by activist Alicia Wallace. The
discussion begins at 6 p.m. at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and all
members of the public are invited to attend free of charge. For more
information, call the NAGB at 328-5800.