I Am Bahamian. I Eat Conch Salad. July 2010

May 2010

…And I am granted the Commonwealth Connections award, and artist award of the commonwealth foundation. Lovely! I look forward to getting involved in many projects in Nassau- Bahamas…getting immersed in the art, the beautiful blue waters and the people.

I will work with Antonius Roberts, and I will base at Popopstudios right amongst many interesting artists.


- Being creative is about finding fresh grounds – the unbeaten path. This is exactly what we seek! This is not about an individual artist, but about the group, and about the Bahamas; and perhaps Africa. We hope the participating artists will continue to grow (collectively or individually) after this project.

The story of I am Bahamian. I eat Conch Salad is being written this week. It grows, and shall come to light by Saturday July the 10th.


Highlight

Then I spend some time researching on this country’s history, politics, and religion. One thing of interest is the discovery that about one score and a half years after the Fall of Columbus, almost the entire population of the native Bahamians was exterminated from the Bahama Islands. Hence, many of the cultural influences that make up the present Bahamas have come from other lands, and blend to form a unique identity; one identity of yet many constituents. What does it imply to be Bahamian? Am I an individual of varying identities, or one, of one identity: the Bahamian identity?

- The whole curiosity in these facts, and its’ significance, makes it become important for me to make, with this Bahamian society- through the artist community in Nassau-, a collaborative intervention of interdisciplinary nature. Coming from Nigeria, I feel some connection with the Bahamas (the places and the people). There is considerable similarity in some aspects of the Bahamian culture when compared to that of Nigeria. I cannot help but wonder if it has something to do with heritage, or with the effects of colonialism?

For one of these reasons, I am then led to compose this collaborative experience with Bahamian artists and designers. It is noteworthy that the creative people participating in this project speak for Bahamians who might feel some sort of kinship to Africa. Therefore this intervention is also a voice from Africa, and on the other hand, a message to Nigeria.

Another reason for choosing to make an artistic statement of this nature is to, through this installation of artworks, present the mixture: Bahamians, a people made up of an incorporation of cultures and races; as is usually said, the melody of Europe and the rhythm of Africa. But what about the Arawak Indians? Hence, this special kind of cohabiting lifestyle and communal accommodation amongst Bahamians becomes quite a striking education for me. I do learn this for my country, but unfortunately, it cannot not be implemented as a law, but is rather a lifestyle to be emulated.

I would like to learn the views of more people from participating artists through their artwork, and from other people through comments. I hope that this process of working might also be cathartic one on a topic such as this. I hope also that the public would find art to spend time with, come to terms with, admire, appreciate, and learn through. I am interested in reflecting on original cultural identities, and in providing a platform for visualising a future where more and more people, as migrants and permanent travelers, are becoming part of original nations, where nations in turn are becoming ‘unoriginal’.

Is cultural identity still determined by geographical origins, ancestry or biological disposition? Perhaps it is increasingly becoming a hybrid construct that an individual can determine or change.

In my home country Nigeria, this reflection on sustainable cultural dialogue should begin to pose questions as well as find answers.

This intervention presents a body of work to be exhibited in Nassau, an art experience for everyone, rather than a solo exhibition of my work. I believe this method of working supports participation and encourages sharing of ideas and knowledge.

I am interested in exploring fresh challenge, whilst looking to bring to the fore the feelings and voices of Bahamian artists: some of who have spoken a language I understand and through whose works I can feel some connection.

Each artist is acknowledged, where their ideas on the project is discussed and documented in exhibition accompanying texts and publicity materials.


Press Release Commonwealth Connections

International commonwealth connections artist collaborates with Bahamian fashion designers and visual artists in an ‘International art and design experience’ .

Apryl Jasmine Burrows/Aprly Jasmine Design Studio,This is a special media announcement on the exhibition by Nigerian Amarachi Okafor, bringing in eight Bahamian fashion designers:

Harl Taylor(Harl Taylor BAG),

Percy Wallace(Garfi Designs),

Jeff  St. John(House of  St John),

and visual artists:

Kishan Munroe,

Kendal Hanna,

John Beadle,

Tyrone Ferguson

in an art intervention  resulting in an art installation comprising of these artists integrated ideas on the subject matter.

The exhibition is titled I am Bahamian…I eat conch salad and will open at the HUB Gallery, East Bay St.,  Nassau on Saturday, July 10, 2010 beginning from 12noon. It will run till 6pm Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

Amarachi Okafor who is based in Nigeria, has been in The Bahamas since May 16th as a result of winning the very important 2009 Commonwealth Connections international arts residencies. She is one of only six artists out of 430 entries from around the Commonwealth chosen to receive this prestigious award which is funded and administered by the

Commonwealth Foundation.

Formerly the Commonwealth Arts and Crafts Awards, the Commonwealth Connections residencies are awarded to artists who have shown exceptional promise in their own country and who would benefit from the opportunity to work internationally.

The scheme has since 1987 supported nearly one hundred artists from 32 different countries in passing on their techniques and knowledge, as well as imbibing new ideas and skills. Artists are chosen on the basis of their artwork, which must be strong, original and have its own voice, but also on their personal qualities.

Commonwealth Connections is part of the Culture Programme of the Commonwealth Foundation, along with other schemes such as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.

Funded principally by Commonwealth governments, the Commonwealth Foundation works to make civil society organizations stronger, so that they are in a better position to support citizens and governments. It works in four programme areas: culture; governance and democracy; human development; and communities and livelihoods. The Commonwealth Foundation was established by Commonwealth governments in 1965 and is guided by the principles, values and priorities of the Commonwealth.

Amarachi takes specific interest in Igbo (her ethnic group in Nigeria) civilization, for her work, and therefore is very keen on the Bahamian culture. According to this artist on the project, “…another reason for choosing to make an artistic statement of this nature is to, through this Installation of artworks, present this fascinating mixture which is the Bahamians- a people made up of an incorporation of cultures and races as is usually said -the melody of Europe and the rhythm of Africa. But what about the Arawak Indians? Hence, this special kind of cohabiting lifestyle and communal accommodation of one another becomes the most striking education for me. I learn this for my country, but unfortunately, it is not a law to be implemented, but a lifestyle to be emulated.”

She not only reflects on original cultural identities, but also tries to provide a vision of a future in which more and more people, as migrants and permanent travelers, are becoming part of original nations, where the nation in turn becomes “unoriginal”. Is cultural identity still determined by geographical origins, ancestry or biological disposition? Perhaps it is increasingly becoming a hybrid construct that an individual can determine or change.

These artists have all brought on their ideas feelings about their Bahamas to this project with their works, reflecting on themes of the Bahamian lifestyle, strengths, longings, and more commentaries.

For further information about Amarachi Okafor please contact: Popopstudios and the HUB gallery both in Nassau, The Bahamas.

ABOUT THE OTHER ARTISTS

Kishan Munroe

Kishan has an M.F.A. in Painting, from the Savannah College of Art and Design from 2003; and a B.F.A. in Painting and Visual Effects also from (Savannah College of Art and Design), Magna Cum Laude. He has been on several trips around the world making art, especially too, a project he titles ‘the universal human experience’.

Tyrone Ferguson

Tyrone as an artist/blacksmith has harnessed professional training in welding and metal fabrication into the practice of the craft handed down to him. He has developed his own style of working in iron, bronze, copper, stainless steel, aluminium and found materials. He is known for imaginative approach to functional items such as doors, gates, railing panels, furniture, chandeliers and signage.

Apryl Jasmine Burrows

Apryl Burrows interned with New York designers and worked as a freelance illustrator before returning home to The Bahamas to debut her unique style and fashionable vision at her Apryl Jasmine Design Studio.  Her designs have multicultural influences from architecture to sculptures to ancient works of art.

John Beadle

John Beadle lives and works in the Bahamas. He is a founding member of the art group OPUS-5, a founding member of the B.C.A.U.S.E., a member of the investigative group B.B.B., and a designer and a Sculptor in the Junkanoo festival group, One Family. Several of his series are about the despair of the illegal migrants who arrive by boat from Haiti.

Harl Taylor

Harl Taylor grew up in Nassau but then left for the states to study interior design at New York’s distinguished Parsons School of Design. When Taylor realized his heart was in fashion, he left for Paris, where he worked on several internships and had a position as lead design assistant for the Couture House of Rochas. Harl Taylor established the Harl Taylor BAG designer label.

Percy Wallace

Percy Wallace has lectured at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute for 18 years, where he was the head of the fashion design department between 2003 and 2007. He is the proprietor of Garfi Designs, The Bahamas. He has won the award for the wardrobe for Ms commonwealth Bahamas for the miss world pageant for the years 1994-1998.

Jeffery St. John

Jeffery St John is from Nassau, The Bahamas. He has won “The Designer of the year award” both in 1982, and 1998. He studied between 1968 and 1981 at Trade Technical College in Los Angeles.

Kendal Hanna

Kendal Hanna is an abstract artist and sculptor. Hanna was trained for two years from 1958 at the Chelsea Pottery under the direction of David Rawnsley, in Nassau- Bahamas, where he exhibited ceramics and paintings in several group shows. Kendal Hanna is the first abstract expressionist in the Bahamas.

Being creative is about finding fresh grounds – the unbeaten path. This is exactly what we seek! This is not about an individual artist, but about the group, and about the Bahamas; and perhaps Africa. We hope the participating artists will continue to grow (collectively or individually) after this project…

The story of I am Bahamian. I eat Conch Salad is being written this week. It grows, and shall come to light by Saturday July the 10th (The Bahamas Independence Day), and be open to the public for 10 days. Afterwards, there would be nothing exactly like it as it can never be tangibly available anywhere.

The 8 artists proposed to participate in the making of this intervention are:

Amarachi Okafor(Nigeria),

Kishan Munroe (Bahamas),

Tyrone Ferguson (Bahamas),

Apryl Jasmine Burrows (Bahamas),

John Beadle (Bahamas),

Harl Taylor (Bahamas),

Percy Wallace (Bahamas),

Jeffrey St John (Bahamas),

Kendal Hanna (Bahamas).

There might be adjustments as we move along…

This project is about collaboration, that results in an art intervention. We work on a major statement with contributions based on our individual ideas, but with focus on the one theme. Here, our individual artworks combine, and are interwoven to form one body of work; one art piece rather than several pieces of artwork. This is not a competition among the artists. This is collaboration. Think of it as one song, sung by a choir of many participants, but then it is still just one song – harmonized by many.

The major theme, a metaphor of the ‘Conch Salad” alludes to a mixture of a people (The Bahamians) who nonetheless are one people. It also comments on the harmony that is  very present in this mixture. Even though the people do appear different from one another (physically), each and every one of them is ever proud to say: ‘I am Bahamian!’ ‘This clear unity, or any possible lack of it lurking beneath, is my fascination.

The intention with the project is to build a body, where participants contribute in the building of a whole – being how we (as people connected to Africa) see, feel, and might otherwise describe The Bahamas. Each artist and ambassador in this project contributes with artwork, design, or idea through by one of  a group of topics, that combine to celebrate the main theme:

1.    Our Pride as Bahamians
2.    Our Lifestyle
3.    Our Strength
4.    Our Joys as a people
5.    Our desires and Longing as Bahamians, and for the Bahamas
6.  Gaps/Commentaries on our unity – By this I allude to possible alternative feelings the artist might have concerning the (apparent) unity, and peaceful cohabitation found within the mixture of Bahamian people and cultures. It is also about alternative energies and inspirations the artist (a messenger, and a prophet in his society) might perceive based on the topic.
7.    Our History
8. Our Future/Message for the future – The future of the Bahamas/messages for the future, to Bahamians.

We grow, this week, as we make…