The fourth stage of CARISCC’s touring display – ‘Negotiating Caribbean In/Securities through Creativity: A Research and Art Exhibition’ – was hosted at Union 105 (East Street Arts), Chapeltown Road in Leeds, between Monday 23 October and Friday 27 October 2017.
This stage of the tour was particularly important because it marked a return to the city of Leeds, whose Caribbean diaspora communities had helped to inspire the development of a newly commissioned sculptural installation by contemporary visual artist Sonia E. Barrett when she visited the city earlier this year.
Sonia’s thought-provoking installation piece – ‘The Difficult Conversation’ (2017) – was the focal point of the art exhibition, and featured pieces of wooden chairs, deconstructed and suspended from the ceiling to create a representation of human corporeality that poignantly signified the fragility and precariy of lives held in suspension by factors such as poverty, social exclusion, injustice, political marginalisation and the traumatic impacts and legacies of racism.
Other works featured in the exhibition were presented as part of a PowerPoint of images projected on the wall, and also as part of a looped sequence of video clips, photographic stills and digitized reproductions playing on a TV monitor in the exhibition space. Individual pieces by twelve contemporary visual artists with Caribbean heritage who had submitted entries for the CARISCC Art Competition during 2016 were shown in this digital display, including: figurative photo montage pieces and film-based installations by Sireita Mullings; the painting ‘Stick-Lick Dancers Parade’ by Paul Dash, featuring representations of street carnival masquerade performances; mixed-media collage work by Gina A. Smith, using the shape of a goat as a silhouette around which different images were layered to reference the impacts and vulnerabilities of global changes on the agricultural sector in the Caribbean region; and excerpts from the documentary film ‘Shashamane’ by Giulia Amati, which recounts the story of Rastas who have returned to continental Africa from Jamaica to live in the promised land of Shashamane, Ethiopia.
A launch event for the exhibition was held on Monday 23 October, attended by (among others) local artists and other residents from the Chapeltown area, scholars and students from the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University, organisers and contributors to Leeds Carnival, representatives of the Leeds West Indian Centre Charitable Trust and alumni from the nearby Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
Following introductory presentations from CARISCC’s Principal Investigator, Dr Patricia Noxolo, and CARISCC Network Member Dr Anyaa Anim-Addo (Lecturer in Caribbean History, University of Leeds) the attending guests also enjoyed an inspirational poetic performance by local writer, theatre producer and spoken word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim.
One of Khadijah’s current creative writing projects involves researching the history, cultural legacies and spiritual practices of Obeah in Jamaica, so the audience heard a reading from a recently drafted prose piece by her, titled ‘Duppy know who fi frighten!’ This excellent presentation (read in English and Jamaican Patois) was performed as a ‘Call-and-Response’ piece, with guests invited to join in with the refrain. Khadijah’s work subsequently catalysed wide-ranging discussions about how African-influenced and syncretic spiritual practices in the Caribbean – such as Obeah, Santeria and Rastafarianism, etc. – have continued to inform and inspire the ever-changing hybrid forms of artistic and creative expression that exist in the islands and nations of the region today, as well as throughout the wider global diaspora. Some examples discussed at the event included the way styles of music, drumming practices, dancehall choreography, spoken word performances and contemporary manifestations of street carnivals – from Junkanoo through to Jouvert [J’ouvert] – celebrate the spiritual and affective/emotional experience of transcendence into alternative (and many would say ‘higher’) states of being.
As with all the previous stages of the touring exhibition, the CARISCC Network established links with important contacts in Leeds who are actively involved in developing African and Caribbean diaspora arts and culture initiatives. Some examples of the organisations with which Network members are now in contact include:
- Chapeltown Arts, managed by visual artist Sandra Whytes – http://chapeltownarts.org.uk/
- Remember Oluwale – a charitable organisation who are fundraising to build a Garden of Hope in the centre of Leeds, in memory of Nigerian migrant David Oluwale who died in the city in tragic circumstances during 1969 – http://www.rememberoluwale.org/
- Organisers of the Leeds Carnival and contributors to the new book ‘Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival,’ by Guy Farrar, Tim Smith and Max Farrar (with a foreword by Arthur France MBE, founder of the Leeds Carnival) – http://www.leedscarnival.co.uk/.
The final stage of the CARISCC touring art exhibition will take place at the Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham during May and June 2018.
For further information about CARISCC, please also feel free to write to Dr Carol Ann Dixon (CARISCC Network Facilitator) c/o C.A.Dixon@bham.ac.uk.