As a prelude to developing a new research proposal for 2019, and beyond, CARISCC’s principal investigator (Dr Patricia Noxolo) convened and hosted a planning and consultation event at the University of Birmingham, 12-13th September 2018. The two-day programme included presentations of research papers and portfolios of creative practice that catalysed important and wide-ranging discussions about the complex relations between in/security and creative agency in people’s everyday lives.
An overview of the presentations given by three guest contributors from the Caribbean region are summarised below.
(1) ‘Who are you? : Finding identity in Post-independent Barbados’ – presented by museologist Kevin Farmer, Deputy Director, Barbados Museum & Historical Society.
In this presentation Kevin Farmer discussed the founding of Barbados Museum and Historical Society in 1933, the development of the institution’s extensive artefact collections and a review of its nationally and internationally significant archival holdings dating back to the 1600s. He also discussed the museum’s changing role as a post-independent space for presenting and discussing difficult histories, as well as how heritage professionals within Barbados and the other islands and nations of the wider Caribbean region are responding to the inter-linked geo-political, socio-economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Kevin commented on how issues concerning people’s changing personal and collective sense of identity have been key discourses before and since colonisation, and that many museums in the region (including those like BMHS established during the colonial era, as well as post-independent institutions, such as the People’s Museum of Craft and Technology, Spanish Town, Jamaica, established in the early 1960s) are now emerging as important heritage spaces where such narratives can be presented and explored in all their pluralities, and viewed through what was referred to as “the lens of structures created for colonial and post-colonial representation of self.”
The presentation concluded with details about international partnerships and projects already established with universities, other educational institutions and heritage organisations in the region, and beyond. BMHS archival holdings pertaining to histories of enslavement and emancipation in Barbados – as detailed online in the UNESCO Memory of the World listings concerning the ‘Documentary Heritage of Enslaved People of the Caribbean’ – were highlighted as particularly significant research resources for future collaborative work between BMHS and CARISCC network members.
For further information about Barbados Museum and Historical Society, please see the website: http://www.barbmuse.org.bb/web/.
(2) ‘Kibri A Kulturu: Arts and Culture for Development’ – presented by Surinamese contemporary visual artist Marcel Pinas (via Skype from the Netherlands)
Internationally renowned visual artist Marcel Pinas joined the consultation session via Skype from Amsterdam, and gave an illustrated talk about his portfolio of watercolour paintings, collages, sculptures and mixed-media installations. Examples of his artwork were presented alongside information about the Maroon history and heritage of the Ndjuka community in eastern Suriname from which he hails, as well as updates about a number of important educational projects, cultural festivals, sustainably funded arts and crafts initiatives and other community development programmes he has helped to establish in the Marowijne district over the past few decades.
The artist’s early career began at the Nola Hatterman Art Institute in Paramaribo, followed by studies at Anton de Kom University, Paramaribo, and a three-year scholarship at Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica (1997-1999). Marcel’s residency in Jamaica was described as pivotal to the development of what has now become his signature technique of creating paintings and sculptures inscribed with Afaka symbols – a West African inspired syllabary of 56 characters, named after its Surinamese inventor Afaka Atumisi that was researched and developed in c.1910 to formally document the Ndjuka language.
Since the mid-1990s Marcel has taught fine art at Nola Hatterman Art Academy, and has also presented a number of high-profile solo and group exhibitions at galleries and biennales in Guiana, Cuba, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Successful fundraising initiatives achieved through partnerships with charitable institutions and revenue from the sale of his own artwork enabled Marcel to set up the Kibii Wi Foundation and TAS – Tembe Art Studio in Moengo in 2010 to provide training and support for emerging local artists from this area. His entrepreneurship and strong commitment to arts education also encouraged him to develop a series of cultural festivals promoting the music, dance and visual arts of Moengo to national and international audiences.