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Bahamian art: Presenting. Uniting. Educating.

Mixed Media Blog

Blank Canvas: April 17th, 2019, Popeyes and Matthew Rahming

Katrina Cartwright

Tonight’s Blank Canvas is all about partnerships and the positive, far reaching impact collaborations can have on communities. Guest host Katrina Cartwright, NAGB Education and Outreach Manager, is joined by two representatives from Popeyes, Brand Manager Vashti Simmons and Marketing Manager AnnMarie Romer, for the first segment and for the latter segments, Matthew Rahming, Curatorial Assistant at the NAGB.  

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The Role of the Arts in Addressing Climate Change: Kendal Hanna explores the environment through abstraction

Natalie Willis

By Blake Fox. Currently on display through June 2, 2019, at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), the Permanent Exhibition “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean” focuses on how both verbal and visual language have shaped us as a country. One could argue that The Bahamas is a phonocentric culture, meaning speech is given precedence over written or visual work. Because of this emphasis on speech rather than written or visual work, it is no doubt that The Bahamas has a very rich oral culture. While Bahamians rely heavily on oral communication to pass down culture and traditions, visual and written works are just as crucial in communicating cultural beliefs and values in societies. This exhibition highlights Bahamian artwork that serves as a conduit to bridge the gap between our visual and oral culture in The Bahamas. 

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“Rafiki– more than just friends”:  Honouring and fighting for love.

Natalie Willis

By Kevanté A.C. Cash, NAGB Correspondent. I am reminded of the challenges of life, even in moments of sheer bliss, reminded of the ways we cannot be, even in moments we are. I am reminded of the complexities of living in love a as Black,  queer, artist, teacher, mother, sister, lover, friend, because it is all of these that comprise the human experience, yet none of these at all. I am reminded of themes of tried and proven love - over and over again in films such as Rafiki which in Swahili means “friend”. I would argue that the title itself was an act of intentionality and irony, as African culture, at a minimum, does not acknowledge the simple existence of queer love, in such coding lovers in terms such as “friend”. Above all of these though, I am reminded of just how boundlessly love can flow if given the space to manifest into something beautiful. Rafiki reminds me of the ways and trying times of love.

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The Black Woman Body Paradox: Joann Behagg draws attention to the struggle of Black Women of size and celebrates their strength.

Holly Bynoe

By Natalie Willis

There are certain things that should unsettle us, should bother us, should make us uncomfortable - but having to live in a world that tells you that you don’t belong means you must adapt, you must swallow it down, you must get accustomed to the uncomfortable to the point that it is your normal. It is an almost universal experience for marginalised people who find themselves struggling because of their gender, skin colour, class, religion, sexual orientation, or whatever sickening flavour of social discrimination is the order of the day. These are ideas that Black women in particular have been speaking to for years in social activism, and in many ways, Joann Behagg’s series of stoneware figurines depicting the “mammy” stereotype in its variations are a gateway to discussing these issues.

Installation view of Joann Behagg’s series of earthenware figures of women as seen in the NAGB’s Permanent Exhibition “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean”.

Installation view of Joann Behagg’s series of earthenware figures of women as seen in the NAGB’s Permanent Exhibition “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean”.

We see them instantly read as Black women, because of the full figure we associate with Caribbean women, but also because of the way these women mimic a familiarity we might associate with our grandmothers - the posture, the rollers, the warmth and nurturing bosom, the strength with which they sit and hold space. But there are other things we notice. There are exaggerated feet and legs to show a grounding of these earthy earthenware women, they are faceless because they could be any of us in some ways, and they are made humanoid and less human through it. This is the function of the mammy stereotype, but also of caricature. Being one-step-removed, having distance from reality by a hairline, can help to speak to wider issues with more ease and more openness. Sometimes, however, it can make it even easier to dehumanise people and situations and all the struggles that lie between.

Zora Neale Hurston, the Alabama-born American author, anthropologist, and folklorist whose work on the Black Atlantic’s spiritual cultural practices has proven seminal in our understanding of Blackness on this side of the Atlantic, has been advocating for the rights of Black women within Black activist movements for some time. In “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, the character Nanny, a former slave who suffered most forms of abuse imaginable, calls black women “de mule uh de world”. Hurston wrote Nanny’s words at a time when the rising tide of hope for African-American communities in the Black Nationalist movements and a growing pride in African heritage were taking root. She was also however, writing these words in the strong tradition of Black feminist thought, to critique the way that Black women have systematically and historically been sidelined in the movement for Black equity. For Hurston, Black women are the “mules” of the world because they often do so much heavy lifting, so much carrying of the burden, of the progression of Black people. Behagg’s grounded, salt-of-the-earth women, shaped from the ground itself, are in many ways a testament to this.

So too are the bodies of Black women of size made to bear burden. It is an interesting conundrum in this world, to be at once fetishiz=sed and derided, to be “too visible” and mocked but also invisible and not accounted for in movements for equality and care. Roxane Gay, an American intersectional-feminist writer of Haitian heritage, sums up the experience quite succinctly in its difficulty in her body-memoir entitled “Hunger” (2017) in saying: “As a woman, as a fat woman, I am not supposed to take up space. And yet, as a feminist, I am encouraged to believe I can take up space. I live in a contradictory space where I should try to take up space but not too much of it, and not in the wrong way, where the wrong way is any way where my body is concerned.” Black women of size such as Gay live in this liminal space, this floating and uncertain ground in the middle of the Venn diagram of “Black” “Woman” and “Plus-sized” that, not unlike the trope of the “mammy”, are desexualised and denied their own sexuality but with hypersexualised traits - because we know in The Bahamas bungee reins supreme.  

They are women who are told regularly that they are undesirable, yet also fetishised, and are often relegated to domesticity and nurturing by default without accounting for their own wants and needs. This is not to say that The Bahamas doesn’t have a certain love and space for women of size, but it is one that still remains quite shifting and quite fetishised, and Behagg’s figures celebrate this body type whilst still drawing attention to the tropes that plague the women who fit into this category. These women who so often do the emotional labour for us, tending to our feelings and wellbeing as it is regularly considered “a given”, who are the “mules uh de world” should not have to be strong all the time. The emphasized hands and feet of Behagg’s figures that represent the thankless work that Black women through time have endured for the betterment of everyone but themselves.  

Installation view of Joann Behagg’s series of earthenware figures of women as seen in the NAGB’s Permanent Exhibition “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean”.

Installation view of Joann Behagg’s series of earthenware figures of women as seen in the NAGB’s Permanent Exhibition “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean”.

To part, I will leave a few last words from Gay: “It's scary believing that you, as you are, could ever be enough.” Black women, big women, queer women, poor women - you are entirely and utterly enough and deserve to embrace your own shining, resilient, softest humanity.  

Behagg’s series of earthenware women are on view as part of the current Permanent Exhibition at the NAGB, “Hard Mouth: From the Tongue of the Ocean”, on view until June 2019.

 

POPOP FOREVER: The Current, Baha Mar Gallery  and Art Center, participates in Transforming Spaces 2019 in a transformative way

Natalie Willis

By Kevanté A.C. Cash, NAGB Correspondent . Since its inception, PopopStudios ICVA - an art gallery and studio space owned and operated by renowned Bahamian artist, John Cox - has been a home for many emerging artists who have passed through the doors of the T20 art classroom at the University of The Bahamas (UB).  Many remember Popop as being the pioneer for the art and wine concept known today as ‘Sip and Paint’ and initiatives like “Sketch 24.” The latter was a 24-hour art event that challenged art students to draw from live models, which resulted in an exhibition of works sold to raise money for the space.

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Sitting Pretty Political: Amos Ferguson’s contribution to the reclining women of art history

Natalie Willis

By Natalie Willis  One of the key poses for women in classical painting is the reclining nude. It’s become such a huge part of the canon of European historical paintings, no doubt in part to the patriarchal obsession with the naked female form. Nonetheless, it’s been rich territory for many an earth-shattering painting in art history: Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” (1532-34), Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ “Grande Odalisque” (1814), and Manet’s infamous “Olympia” (1865), all of which changed the art world’s reading of the pose each time. It should come to us as no surprise then that Amos Ferguson, our beloved (and often misunderstood) intuitive painter from Exuma, might want to make his own mark in such territory, though perhaps more conservatively given his very religious background.

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NAGB Travel Grant in collaboration with Tilting Axis 5

Holly Bynoe

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas in collaboration with Tilting Axis 5 is pleased to present a travel grant to support a Bahamian artist, art historian, cultural worker, researcher or curator to attend this year’s conference at the Memorial ACTé in Guadeloupe. The B$1500 grant will be used to underwrite the cost of travel and accommodation to attend the annual meeting.

Tilting Axis 5 “Beyond Trends: Decolonisation and Art Criticism” will explore the theme of decolonisation to think beyond its currently popular usage as cultural and institutional critique. Unlike its application to specific sites and processes, has decolonisation been a constant and ubiquitous practice in the Caribbean? This gathering will re-consider the currency of these discourses, identifying site-specificity within the Caribbean. For example, what does it mean for art institutions to negotiate decolonisation after postcoloniality? What different approaches can be deployed in decolonising discourses-specifically in relation to art criticism–and made more visible in spaces where their prevalence renders them invisible?

Examining the roles of artists, curators, educators, arts managers, scholars, art writers and critics, arts managers and policy writers, etc., we will consider how to strategically involve discourses on decolonisation that are useful for the Caribbean’s cultural sector.

Applications must contain the following:

  1. A 300-word biography

  2. A 500-word statement of interest

  3. Resume - max 2 pages

The deadline for applications is April 15th, 2019, please send all applications to tiltingaxis@gmail.com with the subject NAGB Travel Grant Application.

 In 2018, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas vowed to support a travel grant to support the attendance of a Bahamian art professional and is happy to continue its support of this crucial cultural initiative as an associate partner.

The applications will be reviewed by the Tilting Axis Core Team and the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

The Blank Canvas: April 3rd with Saskia D'Aguilar and Alex Timchula

Holly Bynoe

For the last week of "NE9: The Fruit & The Seed”the “Blank Canvas” welcomes the artists Saskia D’Aguilar and Alex Timchula.

L-R: Alex Timchula, Blank Canvas host, Amanda Coulson (NAGB director) and Saskia D’Aguilar.

L-R: Alex Timchula, Blank Canvas host, Amanda Coulson (NAGB director) and Saskia D’Aguilar.

Both artists have created sculptural objects—using very different media—that speak both literally and metaphorically to the influx of non-native species and the issues of both crossing borders, transplantation, and belonging. Timchula, and American artist, who has been coming to The Bahamas for over 50 years and who lives and works between the two spaces, created a massive sculptural object for the NAGB’s burgeoning sculpture garden, which is populated by plants both native and non-native which are encouraged to grow together into an object of beauty and inspiration.

Saskia D’Aguilar—probably better known as the founder and director of the D’Aguilar Art Foundation and wife of Minister of Tourism, Dionisio D’Aguilar—speaks of her lifelong passion for the arts and how she blossomed into a practising artist over the years. Born in Switzerland to Dutch parents, but with her childood spent in Taiwan and Singapore, she often crossed borders and lived in places that—by her nationality alone—were not her “home.” In her piece she observes how seeds and plants can move freely, crossing oceans and borders, and are often welcomed and considered “ native” (such as the beautiful Poinciana trees, which come form Madagascar) when, in fact, they are invasive

The "Blank Canvas" airs weekly on Wednesdays 6:30 p.m. on 96.9 FM Guardian talk Radio.

Saucy Expressions presents ‘Riddim n Tingum’ for the National Exhibition 9

Natalie Willis

By Kevanté A.C. Cash, NAGB Correspondent . Artists Princess Pratt and Christine Wilson curate a night of poetic cultural expression to align with the theme of “The Fruit and The Seed” . Just when you thought the Ninth National Exhibition could not get any saucier—with artworks of daring themes brought forth to challenge the norms of a Bahamian society— poetic duo Saucy Expressions, represented by Princess Pratt and Christine Wilson, curates an evening of “Riddim n Tingum,” featuring rebellious words from Bahamian poets, musicians and writers, for a literary take on NE9’s “The Fruit and The Seed.”  One of the two event organisers and performance poet, Princess Pratt, says her interest in wanting to organise an event like this stemmed from the fact that she had never seen a National Exhibition that featured performance poetry before. She wanted it to be an apparatus that bridged the gap between these seemingly separate worlds of artistry. So when the call came out, she and her creative business partner, Christine Wilson, conceived and presented a proposal to utilise the NAGB’s amphitheatre—Fiona’s Theatre—as a space for what would be called “Riddim n Tingum” for the NE9.

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The Weight of the Tide: Lynn Parotti’s “Time Under Tension” in Review

Natalie Willis

By Letitia M. Pratt,The D’Aguilar Art Foundation . Lynn Parotti’s Time Under Tension was a compact exhibition that communicated a profound message in its simplicity. All of the work shown was a homage to The Bahamas’ aquatic environment, which – according to ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – is suffering major damage because of coral bleaching, a direct result of global warming.  Nestled carefully in The D’Aguilar Art Foundation’s (DAF) intimate gallery space, Parotti’s new series of works, “Bahama Land” is a vibrant epitaph to the beauty of the Bahamian coral. Her seascapes are illustrated from the point of view of somebody who is just above the water looking down (perhaps over the hull of a boat), or right above the ocean floor.  When confronted with the vibrancy and electric colours of these spaces, which are depicted with such indulgent, viscous applications of oil paint, the works speak like relics of the past. 

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The NAGB takes the ITE to Grand Bahama

Natalie Willis

By Katrina Cartwright. The Inter-Island Travelling Exhibition brings an intense week of activities to the second city. On April 2nd, 2019 the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas’ Inter-Island Travelling Exhibition (ITE) lands in Freeport, Grand Bahama, bringing with it an extensive community outreach agenda inclusive of our public mural programme, free workshops, a curator’s talk, school visits (primary and secondary) and donations of museum literature for art teachers, schools and public libraries. The NAGB was last in Grand Bahama in 2016 with “Max/Amos”, which was showcased at the Charles Hayward Library. Now in its fourth year, with a new exhibition, "Trans: A Migration of Identity”, the NAGB team is taking the travelling exhibition to our second city, where it will be on display at the Rand Nature Centre from April 5th - 26th, 2019.  

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Transforming Spaces 2019 Exhibition: POPOP FOREVER

Natalie Willis

To pay homage to their partnership in recent months, The Current has curated the newly renovated Popop Studios for Transforming Spaces 2019. The team invited Popop alumni artists to submit works that encompass the show’s theme POPOP FOREVER. Artworks within the exhibition reflect upon each artist’s time at Popop Studios: whether it be older works created at Popop, or more recent works that recall a style or series connoted with their time at Popop. Also included in the exhibition are artworks that make visual reference to Popop’s physicality, residents or the transformation process. Overall, this body of work reflects a system of sustainability within the art community over decades, while speaking to Popop’s role in facilitating the sustenance of numerous art practices and careers.

Transforming Spaces (TS) 2019 is gearing up for its annual art bus tour which will be taking place on Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, with tickets available at the NAGB, Doongalik, and  The Place For Art.

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Snakes + Ladders: Recording and visual artist Rashad Leamount makes a musical comeback with new single

Natalie Willis

By Kevanté Cash, NAGB Correspondent. “Snakes in the garden keep me guarded // my price is critical” are the opening lines of the latest Bahamian song to hit airwaves this month, written and executively produced by recording and visual artist Rashad Leamount. Though it is not typically “Bahamian” sounding with melodies of classic Rake N’ Scrape, this soft and sultry vibration is accompanied with lyrics so salty in taste one is almost made to believe he is ‘coming’ for them. But, perhaps he is?

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Unveiling Ceremony for Lewis St Mural Project!

Natalie Willis

We're excited to welcome you to the Unveiling Ceremony for Dream Wall of Respect on Saturday, March 30th 2019 from 11am at Lend a Hand Bahamas on Lewis Street, Nassau, Bahamas. In September 2018, Transforming Spaces (TS) established a partnership with Lend a Hand Bahamas (LAHB), a registered nonprofit organization formed in 2014 to bring local, national, and international opportunities and activities into the community by running a core hands-on curriculum centered on 4H programming. 
TS, under the leadership of Bahamian master artist Antonius Roberts, integrated art and culture into the LAHB programme and invited artists to create murals along the Wall of Respect  that was initiated in 2014 by community resident and Junkanoo artist, the late Deon McHardy, aka ‘Slime’ whose artwork remains as drawn in his memory. 

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Considering culture: More than a smile

Natalie Willis

By Dr Ian Bethell-Bennett, The University of The Bahamas. The art of expression is as much a part of culture as is the art of weaving or straw work, yet we often overlook this.  When someone says, “I ga beat you into next week,” the local colour is present, but the violent subtext is usually edited out. In Jamaican novelist, dramatist, critic, philosopher, and essayist Sylvia Wynter’s work “We must learn to sit down together and talk about a little culture” (Jamaica Journal, 1968) we see the commodification of art and culture.  Yet, we have apparently progressed to the post-independence point where most pre-independence problems are ignored or cured by the shift.  But the exploration of sitting down together demonstrates that we have not moved beyond the problems nor have they disappeared. Violence and violent dispossession remain realities, often ignored.

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DOONGALIK STUDIOS PREPARES FOR TRANSFORMING SPACES 2019

Natalie Willis

Doongalik Studios is eagerly preparing for the 15th anniversary of the annual Transforming Spaces art tour taking place on Saturday and Sunday, April 6 & 7. Doongalik’s response to this year’s “SUSTAIN” theme is encapsulated in the African adinkra symbol of  the sankofa bird that adorns its entry wall. Entitled “Embracing the Past to sustain the Future,” Doongalik’s exhibition will focus on Bahamian Straw, and patrons will be treated to a journey that will take them back to the past and forward into the future via the present utilizing a variety of art mediums from multiple creatives who will proudly expose this extremely important part of Bahamian heritage.

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Talking to the Dead: Tamika Galanis' repatriates materials from the Alan Lomax archive and brings them home.

Natalie Willis

By Natalie Willis

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” ― Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God 

“Homecoming: Talking to the Dead” by Tamika Galanis becomes an answer to a much older question. Galanis’ work, in her careful, tender sifting-through of the Alan Lomax archive (consisting of a host of images and sound from his expedition to The Bahamas in 1935) at the Library of Congress became a response to Lomax’s curious call and questioning nearly 100 years ago. A Library of Congress Fellow, Galanis may be best known to some as “the lady with the shirts” - those Lignum + Tingum tees that serve up Bahamian dialect and lists of local flora and food - but for others she is far, far more - an artist, researcher, documentarian, and a seeker of truth. Coming across materials from this collection while she was undertaking her graduate studies, Galanis saw a letter from Lomax reporting his findings from his time in Nassau back to the Library of Congress (LOC), the start of her time following this thread that would lead her to a surprising connection to Zora Neale Hurston.

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Caribbean Art Initiative shares two new open calls for creatives!

Natalie Willis

Caribbean Art Initiative is pleased to announce two open calls at Residency Unlimited in Brooklyn, US, and another at Gasworks in London, UK. Application Deadline: March 31, 2019. The Caribbean Art initiative was established in 2019 as an independent, non-commercial program and network, working to foster the development of the arts and culture across the entire Caribbean region. Raising awareness and promoting a worldwide dialogue remains a central focus and driving force of the initiative. As part of this mission, the residency aims at enabling an artist from the Caribbean Region to pursue their work outside of their local context, thus bringing Caribbean art into an international environment/discourse.

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