Nyugen Smith’s Residency – Final Blog Post

US-based interdisciplinary artist Nyugen Smith shares his final blog post about his recently completed residency at Fresh Milk. Nyugen’s last post takes the form of poetic musings, looking at experiences he had in Barbados and how they informed his views and his work. Further images and texts expanding on some of his performance pieces – including an intervention held at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in collaboration with Barbadian artist Llanor Alleyne and a live performance done at FRESH MILK XXI – will follow. Read more here:

FRESH MILK XXI – Photo by Dondré Trotman

Day 26

Everyday –
Rising just after the sun
after four maybe 5 hours of rest,
my body follows mind into action
as I ask the day for all that’s good.

I am going home.
-soon.
it was about a month of
open receptors
toward the external
and internal.
what has happened
in the twenty-eight days?
what have I learned?
what have I given
shared
created
destroyed

in the process?

I remembered to rest
to eat well
to drink plenty water
to carry water

-each day-

the sun showered bodies
moving
in the outdoors.
some sought shade in bush
-in ways their DNA recalled.
i’m still thinking about them
side
by
sturdy-bodied
side.

body of man + body of woman

quiet they sat
on concrete curved
holding the walk way.

their faces leaned close
to the broad leaves
and more leaves
rose above their heights and blocked light.

they were cooled.
~as if by blue light~
they were cooled.

just across the bridge
they were
a little distance from the fairchild bus depot-
where a steady stream
of loading and unloading

travelers

jostled to the tune
of signature horns
and conductors who
shouted down
man woman child
to the chorus of
multiple destinations.

load ’em up
load ’em up.

the twin seats always had three
and the ledge behind
the passenger riding shotgun
usually sat two.
the conductor stood
hunched over perspiring heads
they inhaled (usually) him
sometimes her ~(only once I saw)~

collecting crumpled cash
handed over
like the act
was powered by contempt
or ambivalence
or coolness
like the bills had little value
no matter the color.

though the rush
of the journey
in and out of town
fueled my spirit and
grounded the work
made there and
created sparks for more to come,
i was ready to be home.

**my residency culminated with a new performance in the fresh milk studio that was informed by much of what i had learned and experienced during my time in barbados. i also created and intervention at the barbados museum and historical society in collaboration with bajan artist, llanor alleyne. images of both are being organized to be coupled with writing and will be uploaded to my website soon**

thank you to the fresh milk team for the wonderful experience and for the invaluable network and resources provided. i am eternally grateful!
-One Love

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This residency is supported by the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts

Letitia Pratt’s Residency – Final Blog Post

Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt shares her fourth and final blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Letitia’s last week involved a combination of rejoicing over the coming together of her project, conquering her fears to share the fruits of her labour with the public at the FRESH MILK XXI event, and finally being able to breathe, relax, and consider the value of her time spent in Barbados fondly as a growing experience. Read more here:

FRESH MILK XXI – Photo by Dondré Trotman

This week was a time for reaping. It was a time for gathering the spoils of my words and presenting them for consumption. These words are small but they were ripe with potential; in this place, I bore fruit that were heavy with past traumas. They fell into my hand as I walked (in circles) under trees, hands out, waiting for them to fall down on me.

I had to prepare for a presentation of my work on Wednesday, June 28th. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not the greatest of public speakers, and this is something that, quite honestly, scares me a bit. It is the great irony that I got into writing because I did not like speaking in the first place, but here I am, forced to open myself up to a room full of strangers. It is my eight-year-old self’s worst nightmare. Anxiety consumed me as the day approached, and I distracted myself by editing and rewriting my poems. It was a good distraction. I let the hag woman sing her songs to me for relaxation. I settled my racing thoughts with each line of my work.

On Wednesday, I learned that I should project more. As I read the work, I forgot that there were people there, listening. My voice was lost under the weight of the song I sang. Afterward, I was happy to receive kind words from some of the spectators, but I was also made aware that some people (in the back) could not hear me. My speaking voice, I learned, is something I should work on. Overall, though, the presentation went well, and I really enjoyed it! The Fresh Milk team were so supportive of my work and ideas, and really tried to make me comfortable about the event. I was lucky to have them on my side.

My final weekend, as a treat to my hard work, I spent time with my good friends Meghann and Alex who are both here in Barbados for their master’s degrees. They took their time to show me their perspectives of the island, and we enjoyed beaches and movies over the two days I spent with them. It was a wonderful distraction from all of our work! I really enjoyed my time with them; they made me truly consider buying a house that is a ten-minute walk from the beach.

All in all, the experience I had at Fresh Milk was invaluable. I was able to live as a writer for a month, exploring, seeing new things, meeting new people – the people I met here were so kind, so accommodating, and I really thank you all for making me feel at home. And thank you so much for having me, it really was a life-changing opportunity. Thank you Annalee and Katherine for your mentorship. I will always remember my time at the platform as the month I found my words.

Nyugen Smith’s Residency – Third Blog Post

US-based interdisciplinary artist Nyugen Smith shares his third blog post about his recently completed residency at Fresh Milk. Nyugen reflects on part of his time in Barbados and the sensitivity of some of the issues he is attempting to unpack through his work, as he begins to navigate the history of the island in conjunction with the contemporary realities and nuances of its complex culture. Read more below:

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Day 6

I pity them greatly but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum?
-William Cowper

Every night is a time to reflect on the events of that day, yesterday, and the day before that.

Today (6/9/17) is one day short of a week that I have been here in this place where there weren’t many places for a runaway to hide. Flat land. Coral rock holding points of pressure always a reminder that one day, almost all of this, if not the highest point of this mass, will look upwards to refractions of light filtered by a mix of salt and fresh water. I see shells at my feet in places that provide an overview of flowering fields, marveling at the magic produced by the perfect length of day. There isn’t much soil here. So I’ve heard. I couldn’t help but wonder how one buries the dead. My mind ran through the file of flora and fauna my eyes have registered since landing. To think that their roots do not run deep. Or maybe they possess the strength and capacity to carve their way through the limestone floor because they must.

I wondered. Every time that I see banks of this almost rock that flank the roads I travel, I want to measure the depth of dirt that rests atop like frosting on sponge cake slices. I am curious. Six or seven inches of soil is all it takes for “white gold” to situate itself in this part of what Andrea Stuart referred to as a “European world”, to the south and west of England’s winter.

…continued on 7/6/17 post-residency…

“It’s Complicated”… is a phrase that became popular on social media platforms as a way to describe relationships between two individuals when either one or both parties dance between acknowledging the other as a romantic/committed partner and not doing so. This could be due to reasons that may or may not include external pressures, unresolved prior romantic/committed relationships, apprehension to absorb one another’s “baggage”, lingering questions regarding long-term effects on one’s social status, fear of personal sacrifices that are inevitiable for the relationship to work, and or unaddressed psychological trauma that hinders one or both parties from being able to commit to the “long-haul” together.

As a guest in Barbados, the home of 285,750 people, I quickly became aware of topics of conversation that if spoken of, would complicate the weather underground and perhaps prompt the removal of lavalier microphones with a muttering of “we’re done here…” This early awareness was not derived from my own assumptions or conclusion drawn from tangential musings, but directly spoken to me by Bajan citizens. There was no mistaking the message bottled in the words…

f-f-f-f-f-f-fear
sen-s-s-s-s-sitive
am-m-m-m-ne-e-e-e-sia
e-e-era-a-a-sure
den-i-i-i-ial
protective-v-v-ve
in-secur-r-r-r-re
sus-s-s-spicion

…these words are like the togetherness of flies on a pile of shit
bothered by strong breeze
and boots barely too close.

bothered for good reason.
if spoken (topics) they do a number of things:

they
carry a threat of a future removal of the flies’ feast

they
add pressure that spreads the feast thin over a wider area, making it easier for more to take part in the spoils

they
carry the scent across a distance simultaneously attracting more to buzz about in the mess and causes others to close off parts of themselves as to not absorb any

they
smear the pile taking with them a trail wherever they go. at least – a small sample ends up in the home of the hot stepper

Despite the words of caution and warnings, I, the guest, stepped in the pile.
I, the guest, was smearing, spreading, and stirring up the mess with the work I was doing.
There was one instance in particular where I was asked to stop.

To speak the name,
Barbados
is to spray the air
with a mist of sea salt and
the smell of green-
for bush and deep waters are never far.

To speak its name
is to swaddle the body with hospitality
and rock it with musical vibrations of the region.

To speak its name
is to draw from its wells of intellectual tradition.

But you cannot speak the name,
Barbados
without the bitter taste of
black death soaked
in the juice of Saccharum officinarum
lingering on lips
warmed by the Caribbean sun.

For sugarcane to have earned the moniker “white gold”, scientific means had to have been employed to develop and improve its quality, while maximizing its production. There were people at the helm of this scientific research. Parallel to this timeline that ensured the success and longevity of the sugarcane industry, existed a systematically constructed labor force comprised of enslaved Africans and their descendants. The success of the plantation system (slavery) in Barbados was a model for the colonies in North America. As sugarcane was and is selectively bred, enslaved Africans and their descendants born into slavery in Barbados were also bought and sold-their value determined by their physical attributes and skills. I am intrigued by the historical and contemporary societal relationships between the two and plan to investigate this and the sensitivity of these matters more in my practice.

Engaging in conversations about this, is not for the ill-prepared. Preparation is a must. Patience must be had, composure maintained and its important for all engaged parties to be present with a willingness to bridge gaps of understanding within “the complicated”. If not now… when?

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This residency is supported by the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts

drea brown’s Residency – Final Blog Post

US-based poet drea brown shares her final blog post about her Fresh Milk residency, which took place from April 19 – May 10, 2017 as part of a new partnership between  Fresh Milk  and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Although there is a kind of finality in her writing this closing blog, it also comes with the knowledge that her time in Barbados was the start of something special; what she learned and the bonds she formed are sure to bring her back to the island in the future. Read more below:

I’ll begin with a confession. I think it has taken so long to write this final blog because in doing so, I have to admit the world I’ve returned to, full of its own responsibilities, is not a longwinded dream that I will wake from rocking in a chair on porch surrounded by blues and beauty, and the occasional mooing cow.

My last week of Fresh Milk was filled with serenity and laughter, with art and bold amazing voices. I found myself waking with pieces of poems in my mouth that stumbled onto scraps of napkins while coffee brewed. I rambled to Fresh Milk artists/team about all of these imaginings, all of these stories that kept unraveling. I shed layers and layers of fear, and leaned into the encouragement, and openness of those I’d come to cherish and respect.

A few days before leaving Barbados, I went to the Barbados Community College BFA portfolio art show, a major event in town, and walked around with my mouth gaped in a amazement from the intense beauty on those walls, the dismantling of taboo and stereotype, inquiries of identity, music, color, masculinities, sisterhood.  That night, those walls, the sounds, the film shorts, still buzz in my head. I am eagerly anticipating what comes next for the bold emerging artists.

My last evening with Fresh Milk was also the night of artist talks and a gallery walk. Kraig Yearwood’s creations and residency experiments lined the walls and posed in corners. And, I was so inspired by the way he let go, and let his art decide the journey. There was such truth in that, surrendering to the will of the work. I was learning something similar, how to listen, how to see, and let my hands move as they desired. I read from new poems that night, and there were moments where I found myself surprised by the words I’d written, but they needed to be shared. And there is more to come.

I write this knowing I will be back. It feels impossible not to return. There’s more to be done.

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This residency is supported by the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies

Kraig Yearwood’s Residency – Final Blog Post

Barbadian artist Kraig Yearwood shares his final blog post about his Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Residency 2017, which took place during March this year. Kraig gives an overview of the residency and final thoughts on the experience, including the workshop he held with Class 3 students at Workmans Primary School, and his participation in our public event FRESH MILK XX, which took place on May 9, 2017. Read more below:

A view of the Colleen Lewis Reading Room as well as a few of my reading materials

The Lost Blog

Okay, the title is a bit of a misnomer – I guess it’d be more accurate to say that life got in the way of writing this final blog post.

Once again, I can’t believe how time flies. As I cast my mind back to when I started the My Time Residency, it’s strange to imagine that my 1st week at Fresh Milk seemed to drag on endlessly and I was in a constant battle with myself about not doing enough. This was despite my using this week to work on possible directions as well as researching some of the materials I was hoping to work with.

A few of the experimental pieces which were made during the 2nd week of my residency

I’ve stated previously, on commencement of my residency, that I had no solid ideas other than I’d known I’d wished to play with materials I’d never used before and also wanted to explore the use of collected trash items. As I got deeper into my stay, I started to focus on exploring themes of materialism, mass production, excess and what we leave behind.

Knowing that I still had to develop ideas for the social outreach component of the residency, I decided to create an environmental awareness programme which would be geared towards primary school students. The aim of this workshop was to educate the children on the importance of proper waste disposal, drawing attention to local and global environmental issues, community activism and the importance of teamwork in tackling such issues. Workmans Primary was selected mainly due to having a very limited arts programme as well as the existing relationship between the school and the residency platform. The workshop began with a with video presentation focusing on environmental awareness and recycling tips, and was followed by a question and answer segment. The children were then split into groups where they were invited to colour and collage bits of trash items on to a poster which was illustrated by myself, depicting an appropriate method of waste disposal as well as the consequences of litter. To conclude, the class was given a smaller version of the poster to take home, as well as a handout which included interesting facts on the environment and a small activities section.

The poster for the “This! Not This” campaign

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FRESH MILK XX Event

On Tuesday May 9th I wrapped up my time at Fresh Milk with a showing of the work made or conceptualised during this stint, as well as participating in a Q & A with international curator Pamela Lee. Pamela also delivered an eye opening presentation on the connections between the areas of Art and Science. This well attended event was brilliantly capped off by the then current resident, US-based poet drea brown, who spoke on her residency experiences which was followed by an engaging poetry reading.

Although this might be the 1st time that I’ve perhaps failed to complete a body of work, I do believe that the Fresh Milk platform has provided me with an invaluable experience. It has allowed me some much needed time to focus on making artwork, experiment and introduce new materials into my practice in a new and supportive environment.

Much thanks to Annalee Davis and Katherine Kennedy.