On May 13th, 2013, founder and director of Fresh Milk Annalee Davis visited Casa Tomada is São Paulo, Brazil, to present the Fresh Milk platform and review residents’ processes and development.Founded in 2009, Casa Tomada is an independent space for practice, research and reflections of artistic nature. Concerned with the entire process, instead of focusing exclusively on the final work of art, Casa Tomada encourages discussion about emerging contemporary art, not only stimulating the development of artistic and theoretical practices motivated by shared experience, but acting as a catalyst for experiences and connections between artists, researchers, and other independent artistic initiatives. During these years, Casa Tomada organized 8 residences, 2 in partnership with Videobrasil, and one international exchange between São Paulo and London with the Delfina Foundation. Casa Tomada has also run other kinds of programs, all based on young artistic production, connections between different spaces and interdisciplinarity.
On Thursday May 16th, FRESH MILK presented a programme to group of visiting students from the department of theatre and dance at Northern Kentucky University, USA. Presentations were made by Barbadian artists Ewan Atkinson, Sheena Rose and Shanika Grimes, local playwright, actor and artist in residence Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell, our two international resident artists Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson, and our off-site resident artist Damali Abrams who joined us via skype. All of the participants engaged in discussion with the students on performance, and the many forms it can take in the arts.
All photographs taken by Mark King.
I remember as a student under Sonia Williams, she said that creating art is like satisfying your God complex. And the more I go into the work that I am doing, creating a piece despite the story being told before, I have my own vision of it. Adding layers and layers to the piece satisfies my God complex. I don’t want to add any “spoilers” to my work, but I think I’ve found the structure and formula to tell my story and every day of research and reading excites me more to this creation. Listening to Maggie Maloney in the documentary and talking to her personally, she has such a poetic way of speaking. Her words and inflections have to be duplicated and not modified in writing the script, so natural and poetic. Listening to her talking about her son and the memories, and then continuing to read, gave me the impression of Isis and Horus or Jesus and Mary Pieta. Therefore, the ancestral conversation between mother and son as a spiritual African concept should be embedded. That said, I am making it the story told through the eyes of the mother, son and the soul of the movement, a holy trinity. The most memorable play that I know that deals with this concept is ‘Shepherd’ written by Rawle Gibbons of Trinidad, in which the story centres around the struggle of the Spiritual Baptists and rise of new dispensation within the movement.
This week I was grateful to receive a book about Rastafarian Theology. Only few chapters into the book, and already I have more appreciation and respect for one of our Caribbean indigenous spiritualities. The history I was always informed about, the theology and struggle for acceptance is another. It always had me wondering why we as Caribbean people frown upon spiritual concepts that are not foreign and that are ours. I mean, I know why! Christianity and Islam were ‘forced’ upon us and defined our socio-economic status for hundred years, our tongue, ideologies and culture washed from our brains and forced to morph into a belief of ignorance. Not just Rastafarianism, but Spiritual Baptist, Revililism, Shango Baptist and many others. I hope we recognize and respect them as our cultural thoughts and spiritual connection to our heritage, even if we chose another spirituality to believe in.
Thursday evening, we, Fresh Milk artists were the host for 15 students from the University of Northern Kentucky. Telling them about my residency and what I was writing about intrigued them plenty. The students seemed genuninely interested in what I was writing about. The story about I’Akobi Maloney captivated these young thespians and started conversations about injustices or hate crimes against minority groups around the world. For other students, what interested them was the religion of Rastafarianism. Of course the obvious image for them would be that of Bob Marley, but what is it? Is everyone who has locs a Rasta? Who do they believe in? The students were also interested in Caribbean theatre, two young women came up to me to ask me specific questions about it. I honestly feel we are still defining the concept of Caribbean Theatre, as wonderful and amazing it is. They never saw or read any Caribbean plays. On the top of my head I listed a few – my favorites, of course. The two girls also asked me what was the difference between Caribbean plays and American plays, to which I said ‘the culture’, when you travel around the island and everything new and amazing you find in the way we live, talk, interact with each other, our music, our movement, and if you find it different from when you are in the US, then that’s the difference. I find it interesting that despite the fact that our young people may be bombarded with cultural intrusions from the US, their students were very interested in who we are. Be true to yourself; people find you more interesting when you are you.
At the end of a productive and art full filling evening, we the artists hosts, myself, Mark, Sheena, Marla, Conan, Versia, Shanika and Juan…eerr I mean Ewan! went to Mojos. One thing I love, is hanging out with artists, no other people stir up stimulating, enjoyable and entertaining conversations like artists do. Oh, yeah we took the Canadians (Conan and Marla) to Oistins. I’m not a fan of crowds, so I won’t comment much about it except that I’m sure Marla and Conan appreciated the culture.
So the plan for week 3, complete the book, which by the way is entitled Rastafari Theology: From Garvey to Marley. Add the extra scenes that contain a hopefully warm ancestral conversation of the holy trinity. Keep writing, keep thinking, keep being grateful for all small mercies.
“…Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other…”
― Emperor Haile Selassie I
East coast/West coast
There is a strong contrast between the night and the day here. The contrast is not just one of light, though this contrast is severe. In the day the sun is blazing, but the darkness falls early and quickly, cloaking the island in darkness. Was there a moon the first week? If there was, we didn’t see it. The sounds and smells change; it is almost as if they are two entirely different places. There is a mystery to this island; it is felt most keenly at night. Perhaps we feel this contrast more being in the country and away from the lights and traffic of the city, but we feel that mystery, pulsing around us like the oceans and enveloping us in the darkness.
In conversations with the people here we’ve learned of the caves beneath us. As fellow resident, Mathew Kupakwashe Murrell pointed out to us, the whole island is formed over limestone caves. Is this a space where are puppet characters could come from? Have they bubbled up from the dark, damp, mysterious caves beneath to the lush, sun-filled land above? How long have they been here? How have they evolved to live on this island? They are taking on characteristics of the vegetation, animal, insect, bird and amphibian life above, but there is an unnerving quality to them, they come from that place of mystery. In the past two weeks we have jointly created a small ensemble of puppet creatures that will continue to grow but now we must listen to them, hear their stories and take them out of the studio and allow them to explore this island where they come from.
We had our own chance to explore this week, we were taken on an island tour by Joscelyn Gardner, the love of her homeland is palpable and contagious. A collector of stories herself, she shares a combination of local history and personal anecdotes with us. The tour turned into a double-night sleepover at the family’s cottage on the Southeast coast, where we had a mini-vacation and also experienced the deluge of a tropical rainstorm. The rain comes as quickly as the night, you fear it will never stop, but it can leave just as abruptly and replaced once again by the sun. The rugged Atlantic coastal landscape is such a contrast to the manicured calm of the Caribbean west coast; Fresh Milk is conveniently located in the middle of these extremes, a rural, hilly centre point. We want to take our puppets out into these contrasting landscapes.
The platform at Fresh Milk continues to be a hub of activity and a place of networking and interchange. We are finding our days are becoming more productive as we begin to feel at home here. Though no matter how hard we try, we cannot wake up early enough to start the day as early as the Bajans do! On May 16th FM hosted ‘A Performative Moment’ with Northern Kentucky University and we were happy to be included with the past and current residents of FM and to be given the opportunity to briefly present our individual and shared practice. Even though Annalee and Katherine are both abroad, we feel very looked after by the people (and pets) of Barbados. Winston Kellman dropped by FM one morning to return a book and see our progress so far. We had an interesting discussion about Barbados, we focused around the night/day contrast and as he left, he wished us “many more sleepless nights.”
Greetings and Blessings in the name of the most high, no matter how you see or revere him or her, my name is Matthew De Vere Andre Murrell, also known as Kupakwashe, but you can call me Kupa for short. I am young playwright, director, actor and the founder and Creative Director of Yardie Boy Theatre.
For my first entry, I would like to show respect of two men today as I write this blog (May 11th). R.I.P to the honorable Robert Nesta Marley, who passed on this day in 1981. I read a few days ago that the kind of music a child grows up listening to, determines his taste, my mother against her father’s wishes was an avid reggae music fan, and so am I. Listening to Bob’s words and music has influenced me in my art and ideologies. R.I.P. to the Father of Reggae and a powerful Caribbean cultural icon. R.I.P. to I’Akobi Tacuma Hembadoon Maloney, a young prodigy of the Rastafarian faith whose life was cut short and whose spirit cries out for justice. I have never met you, but I feel as if I’ve known you all my life. RASTAFARI LIVE!
Just my first week in Fresh Milk was a humbling experience. Living on the south coast of Hastings, trying to write without hearing ZRs, a stray gunshot, loud music and whatever noises that fumigate the air makes it a task to concentrate. But being in the clean air of St. George, seeing the abundance of foliage, hearing birds, cows and the lyrics of Bob in my ear was the prescription I needed.
My first day, I had no idea how to start, many ideas came into my head about this play. I just didn’t know how and where to start. I wanted to write a piece, yes about I’Akobi, his life to his unfortunate crossing, but I want a deeper message. My message to people is that this situation is NOT just a Rasta ting! It is human ting! We have seen how the system claimed many of our people, from Emmitt Till, Trayvon Martin, Walter Rodney, I’Akobi Maloney and many more. So hence my stance ‘I AM I’AKOBI’. After posting the above picture on Facebook, I received so many great responses. Herbal Specialist Everton ‘Heru’ Holligan, did two videos of his kids with the same stance, Margurita Maloney, mother of I’Akobi Maloney said “GIVE THANKS for ALL of your support my SUN Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell, ’BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY’!!! May WE ‘eventually’ get the legislative reform WE seek” and “You know, there are times when I ‘feel sooo alone’ and THEN……THIS…GIVE THANKS for ALL of my comrades who ‘CARE’!!!”. The picture garnered over 12 shares from Barbados and across the region to the USA.
So far my research comes the literature of Marcus Garvey, ‘The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey’, ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney, ‘Rastarian Theology: From Garvey to Marley’ and the DVD ‘The I’Akobi Maloney Conspiracies: A Mother’s Perspective’. I’ve already meet Maggie, I’Akobi’s mum, and I plan to meet her again, along with Mandela, his younger brother. My great friend and “twin sister” Ayesha NuRa, already has her foot on board to help me with anything I need in my research and development in this piece. Ayesha knew I’Akobi personally and they were the best of friends.
So far in the script, the piece has taken many different shapes and forms as I am still trying to formulate the script. I’ve tinkered with the mode of ‘totality theatre’. The most commonly known play I can think of right now which emulates that idea is ‘For Coloured Girls’. I’ve done it before in other plays like ‘JAHovah Witnesses’, ‘De Angry Black Boy Tantrums’ & ‘Demons in Me’. I’m incorporating poetry, as I’Akobi was interested in poetry, as well as the music of Bob Marley.
I chose this topic because it spoke to me. I’Akobi Maloney and I are both born the same year, 6 months apart. Two weeks after his crossing, I remembered being stopped and harassed by a policeman for no reason. At the time I had an afro which I wore wild and drove a car many wouldn’t be proud seeing. But like I’Akobi, I was an intelligent young man scrutinized not for what is in my head but what is on top of my head. I do believe in the work of ICAR, The Justice Committee and the Maloney Family to fight for justice. This could happen to anyone’s son and anyone’s daughter. Many Barbadians, I noticed, didn’t join in actively or speak out about it, because of the feeling that it was a Rastafarian affair with the police. Then so, what about Trayvon Martin and Emmitt Till? Was that only an African American thing? What about Brenda Belle? Is that only a female thing? Anne Frank? Only a Jewish thing? It is ALLAWE!!!!
“…until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned. That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; that until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained..”
Emperor Haile Selassie I
Fresh things are starting to happen already. We arrived on May 1, a little groggy after travelling all night without sleep. But the warm welcome we received from Blue Curry who met us at the airport and Fresh Milk’s dynamic duo of Annalee & Katherine certainly gave us energy. The people are not the only warm thing about this place, the heat envelops you and we welcome that after the frigid winter and chilly spring we left behind in Canada.
The first few days were spent in a whirlwind of meeting some members of the art community here in Barbados, including past resident Mark King, Ewan Atkinson & Allison Thompson (who proved an excellent and knowledgeable tour-guide). We enjoyed the generous hospitality and tours of impressive art collections of Leandro Soto, Mervyn Awon & the historical Colleton House as well as studio visits to Winston Kellman & Ras Ishi. It’s been a bi-coastal extravaganza! We find the lively scene here in Barbados invigorating and encouraging. We are delighted to be included among the artists in ‘A Performative Moment’ happening next week with the Northern Kentucky University visitors to Fresh Milk and we enjoyed meeting the local artists who will be presenting their work at a group meeting. We also got to attend BCC’s graduation exhibition of both the Fine Art and Foundation students. On Monday, playwright Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell began his residency at Fresh Milk and we look forward to a continued and on-going dialogue with him.
Since our arrival we’ve been on sensory-overload. The sound-scape here in Barbados is very unlike anything we have at home and it took some time to adjust to the singing frogs, alarm-sounding crickets, mahogany tree bombs and new bird calls as well as the farm sounds of the cows and roosters! Even when inside, the surrounding landscape is ever-present, there is very little separation between outdoor and indoor space, the windows all open wide allowing nature to be seen, heard, smelled and sometimes even entering your space. The grounds surrounding Fresh Milk are a sensory feast. We are drawn to the repetition of long narrow tendrils and laying in the landscape. Our work began in earnest last week. We are using Fresh Milk as a platform to experiment with new ways of working. Though we have known each other for many years, this is our first journey into working collaboratively. It is not without challenges. As individual artists we are used to processing and working though our ideas independently and privately, we are still adjusting to this new way of working. The first couple of days we set up at opposite ends of the studio, but have gradually begun shifting our things together and working jointly on some initial puppet pieces. There are obvious references forming in the work to the vegetation, insect, bird and animal life that surrounds us.
Annalee’s dogs have appointed themselves our chaperones, though we think they are just using us for the chickens they hunt after assuring we are safely home. We spend most evenings at Prendoma, reading through items borrowed from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Our walks home are filled with the seductive smell of ylang-ylang blossoms.
Caribbean: Archipelagos for Thought, May 14 2013, at 8:00 pm São Paulo time
To the Martiniquais writer Édouard Glissant, the geography of Antillean archipelagos represents a template for thinking a “creole world” whose dealings with the others are no longer outlined by instances of multiculturalism and compartmentalized identities, but rather by coexistence and dissolution processes. Glissant builds on the Antilles’ insular multitude to propose a model of “archipelago-thinking” as opposed to “continental thinking,” whose nature is hegemonic or homogeneity-inducing.
Annalee Davis, director of Barbados’ Fresh Milk independent center for art practices; Andrés Hernandez, a Cuban-born, Brazilian-based curator; and Mirtes Oliveira, a member of the G27 study group will convene at São Paulo’s Ateliê 397 to relate the notion of “archipelago thinking,” coined by Glissant, with their own contemporary art practices.
This initiative will usher in a new phase in Videobrasil’s audience interface, featuring horizontal, collaborative, investigative, and debate-oriented platforms.
Featuring: Andrés Hernandez, Mirtes Oliveira, Annalee Davis. Mediated by Sabrina Moura. English and Portuguese will be spoken. No simultaneous translation available. On the occasion, issues of ARC Magazine dedicated to Caribbean art, will be available to public consulting.
About the guests
Andrés I. M. Hernández is a curator and independent producer who holds a master’s in Visual Arts. He was coordinator of the exhibition department at Wilfredo Lam Contemporary Art Center (which hosts the Havana Biennial); the executive coordinator of the curating department at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art; and recently the production and institutional relations coordinator at Luciana Brito Galeria.
Annalee Davis is a Barbadian visual artist whose work addresses the Caribbean’s postcolonial heritage. She was the founder of Fresh Milk, an independent Barbados-based association that supports research exchange initiatives and fosters productions by contemporary creators. She is a part-time professor at the Barbados Community College’s baccalaureate program. As an artist, she has featured in the São Paulo and Havana biennials (both in 1994), among other shows.
Mirtes Marins de Oliveira was the coordinator of the Baccalaureate in Fine Arts (1997-2006) at Faculdade Santa Marcelina (Fasm), and the implementer and coordinator, from 2003 to 2013, of the master’s program in visual arts at the same institution. Presently, she is a professor at the masters and doctoral courses in Design at Universidade Anhembi-Morumbi. The G27 group, of which she is a member alongside Ana Maria Maia (Tomie Ohtake Institute), Regina Parra (FAAP) and Tainá Azeredo (Casa Tomada), studies the manifold aspects of curating processes and practices, by means of historical research on art and design shows held since the emergence of 20th century vanguards.
About Ateliê 397
Founded in 2003 by a group of visual artists (Bruna Costa, Rafael Campos Rocha and Sílvia Jábali), Ateliê 397 promotes the diffusion, production and exhibition of contemporary art. It holds art shows and interdisciplinary events involving video art sessions, performances, happenings, music concerts, publication of artist books, and other forms of contemporary art experimentation. Currently coordinated by Marcelo Amorim and Thais Rivitti, the facility plays the role of spreading debate, creating opportunities for artwork to be shown, and presenting productions by young artists from across Brazil.
About Associação Cultural Videobrasil
Associação Cultural Videobrasil is an international reference center on art from the Southern hemisphere. Created by curator Solange Oliveira Farkas, the former director of the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia, Associação maintains a partnership with SESC. The two institutions have jointly promoted a biennial International Contemporary Art Festival, focused on the geopolitical South circuit, and exhibitions such as Isaac Julien: Geopoetics (São Paulo, 2012), Joseph Beuys – We are the revolution (São Paulo and Salvador, 2010/2011), and Sophie Calle – Take care of yourself (São Paulo and Salvador, 2009). Other ongoing productions of the partnership include the Videobrasil Residency Program; Videobrasil Authors Collection, a series of documentaries; and Caderno SESC_Videobrasil, an annual contemporary art publication. Devised as a platform for production, dissemination and discussion of contemporary art from the Southern hemisphere, by means of partnerships and dialogue with curators, artists and other institutions, Associação also maintains a network of residency partners and educational actions aligned with the Festivals and exhibitions it conceives.
This meeting is an opening activity of a series from the Public Programming segment, a new Videobrasil’s front, dedicated to foster platforms for widening of access and research on contemporary arts and culture.
Fresh Performance is an experimental documentary that I am working on through a seven-month off-site residency with Fresh Milk. Each month I will interview one artist in New York City and one in the Caribbean concerning different aspects of performance in their respective practices and post the videos online. I will then edit them all into a full-length documentary. My intention is that as artists we can connect with and learn from each other through our work. In my own practice, I use my art as my therapy, my school, my playground and also my surrogate when I need to communicate things that I do not know how to communicate otherwise. Through this project I am studying performance via conversations with a group of exceptional contemporary artists. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with Fresh Milk and all of these talented makers.
Art itself is a nebulous concept that eludes definition. Performance art is that much more precarious. I am drawn to performance because it can encapsulate just about anything else from any medium or discipline. It seems to be somewhat lawless and anarchic. But that is my own personal definition. In chapter one of Fresh Performance, artists Sandra Vivas, originally from Venezuela, currently living in Dominica, and Nyugen E. Smith from Jersey City, share their own definitions.
I met with Nyugen at 59th and Columbus in New York City on a very chilly early Spring day. It was far windier than expected and we scouted around for a location that would not provide too many audio challenges. We tried inside of a mall, a hotel lobby and finally Nyugen suggested a tunnel at Central Park. It turned out to be perfect.
Sandra Vivas and I met on Google Hangout. Despite many technical difficulties, she and I had a very warm conversation. It was more like speaking with a friend I had known for years rather than someone I was meeting for the first time online. Sandra shared that while she enjoys living in Dominica, she feels very isolated creatively and has not done any performance art there.
This project is a work-in-progress and as stated above, Fresh Performance is intended to remain an open discussion so please feel free to share any questions, comments and critiques.
- Damali Abrams