By Malika Pryor Martin
If you were there, you saw history happening live and in colour. If you missed it, you missed the opening of the year - not because other openings weren’t beautiful and special but because “Medium: Practices and Routes of Spirituality & Mysticism”, introduced so many new and amazing dynamics to the campus of this country’s National Art Gallery. Your NAGB. West St. was closed from Hospital Lane (more on why that matters, shortly), to West Hill St. Graycliff, one of the NAGB’s partners for the event, provided chocolates, and other confections, coupled with wine for the tasting.
Soon, the hour was upon us to begin the ceremony: the unveiling and opening of The Gate Commission, by master metalsmith, Tyrone Ferguson, who set the tone for the wondrous occasion. At the moment the gates were opened, the powerful and soulful drumming of Rhythm’N’Youth filled the air, guiding guests towards the NAGB Amphitheatre, a project that will work to unite and engage the visual and performing arts. The stage and bowl were washed with shades of blue and red and an enthusiasm that was palpable to all in attendance.
One could feel that this night was significant. The Minister of Youth Sport and Culture, The Hon. Michael Pintard called on members of the arts community and the NAGB more specifically to be “activists”, questioning and challenging government to think creatively and strategically - to hear the voices of the masses whose best interests our public officials should be compelled to consider.
Feelings of pride, joy and satisfaction illuminated from the incredibly diverse audience: the father who brought his daughters for the first time; lifelong art collectors; public servicemen and women; young UB students attending to experience the ambiance of their first truly grown-up party. Nothing was more special than the work on the walls and nothing more beautiful than seeing what was tantamount to a family reunion of artists gathered in galleries and on verandahs, our creative diaspora - home for the holidays. Hugs, smiles, and laughter abound or in other moments, expressions of deep thought, the conjuring of some newly imagined creative venture between creative collaborators.
Vocalists, both planned and spontaneous took the mic to the accompaniment of an amazing multigenerational band led by none other than Adrian D’Aguilar. Some singing a calypso classic, other a jazz or holiday standard, all filled with the spirit of the moment. Children skipped down red mulched paths, smiling for selfies and gazing at the installation, featuring the work of Nettie Symonette, in the NAGB Sculpture Garden. Exuma, the Obeah Man, rang through the halls of T2, the gallery housing most of the work of this incredibly powerful exhibition.
As Assistant Curator, Natalie Willis commented, “This is the first exhibition where the question of spirituality is taken on directly. We’ve seen it considered in an indirect way and of course in the works of artists, but never quite like this.”
When asked how they were enjoying the show, one attendee remarked that “Medium” was long overdue and a much needed exhibition. “To see the unification of our many spiritual beliefs here in The Bahamas…it’s beautiful.”
“Medium: Practices and Routes of Spirituality and Mysticism,” which opened on the Thursday December 14th, is on view at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas until March 11th, 2018. If you are a current member of the NAGB, featured “Medium” artist, Jace McKinney will be conducting a “spirited” sip and paint at the Gallery on Monday, December 18th, at 6 pm. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 328-5800 for more details.