Open Call: ‘White Creole Conversations’ – New ways of thinking about whiteness in a Caribbean context

Barbadian visual artist & founding director of Fresh Milk Annalee Davis shares an open call for participation in ‘White Creole Conversations’: New ways of thinking about whiteness in a Caribbean context, a forum for honest communication that begins to unpack issues and stereotypes while facilitating understanding about whiteness in the region. These sessions with the artist will take place from August 4 through September, 2015 in Barbados. For those not in the island, Skype meetings can be arranged to discuss participation. Learn more below:

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Where you are understood you are at home.”
– John O’Donahue [1]

The white Creole Caribbean voice has largely been silent or mis/understood in ways that suggest that the white community is monolithic, timeless, and homogenous. The context for this project is the small island of Barbados, where despite its diverse population, social life and kinship are predominantly lived in subtly separate racial spheres.

‘White Creole Conversations’ initiates a new dialogue privileging open and honest communication. Rather than asking ‘who am I?’ the question posed might be ‘who are you?’ The focus of the conversations will pivot on issues to do with race and class in this small post-colonial island space and will take place between the artist and the participant.

This audio project attempts to remove the mask of the white Creole, unpack stereotypes around whiteness and reveal the individuality and diversity of this minority population. Also, this project hopes to facilitate exchanges that challenge singular authoritative ideas to reveal different understandings of the white Creole with a desire to generate self-reflection, self awareness and fresh understandings.

The medium in this artwork is ‘conversation’ which in and of itself becomes an aesthetic device in understanding and shaping civil society. The assumption is that there are generally few opportunities for meaningful dialogue about race in Barbados.White Creole Conversations’ imagines that a more integrated society on a small island is possible when enabled by candid speaking and empathic listening.

Patterned on Theodore Zeldin’s ‘Oxford Muse’, who reminds us that, “the most important networks are those of the imagination, which cross from the conventional to the unconventional, refusing to accept that what exists is the only thing that is possible”, Zeldin writes that we are all wearing our masks.[2] It is now time to unmask ourselves.

Engaging in meaningful discourse is one way of developing empathy and affinity. A menu of questions from which the participant may choose to respond to might include the following: what is the most difficult conversation you have ever had? What is your relationship to the colour of your skin? Have you ever crossed race or class boundaries in love? Have you felt pain because of your race? Where do you belong? Define home? Who are you?

Given that little has been studied about white Creoles and understandings often operate as myth, one goal for this discursive project is to develop more complex renderings that inspire us to think about this minority in ways we might not have considered before. The recorded exchanges will be accessible as portals allowing listeners to enter the world of the speakers with a view to destabilizing the often fixed, narrow definitions of this minority group while offering more subtle and ambiguous understandings.

As an artist, my intention is to use this audio project to invite participants to respond to questions about their experience as a white Creole and investigate how race is privately/publicly experienced. Phase II will open up the dialogue to all members of the island community.

It seems to me that life becomes even more interesting when we know each other more intimately.White Creole Conversations’ may allow us to do so.

[1] John O’Donahue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, 1998
[2] Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity, 1995

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‘White Creole Conversations’: New ways of thinking about whiteness in a Caribbean context is an artistic project facilitated by the visual artist Annalee Davis who will coordinate and conduct the interviews at the Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc.

From August 4-21, 2015 individuals will be invited to participate in one on one conversation with the artist to speak about their ideas and experiences around the white Creole experience.

For those who are not in Barbados but want to participate remotely, an initial meeting via Skype to discuss the project can be arranged and responses to a menu of questions may be submitted in writing, audio or video files.

For more information and to participate in White Creole conversations’ from August 4 through September, 2015, contact the artist: Annalee Davis:
T. 435 1952
M. 230 8897
Facebook – Annalee Davis

Director: Annalee Davis. Photo credit: Charles Phillips of Monochrome Media

Director: Annalee Davis. Photo credit: Charles Phillips of Monochrome Media

About the artist:

Annalee Davis is a Visual Artist based in Barbados. She received a B.F.A from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and an M.F.A. from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her creative practice mines the plantation from the perspective of a white Creole woman. She is a part-time tutor in the BFA programme at the Barbados Community College and has been the founding director of the artist-led initiative and social practice project – The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. since 2011. An experiment and cultural lab, Fresh Milk supports excellence among emerging contemporary creatives locally, throughout the Caribbean, its diaspora and internationally. Located on a working dairy farm and a former sugar cane plantation, Fresh Milk is a nurturing entity; transforming a once exclusive space to become a freely accessible platform with programming supportive of new modes of thinking and interfacing through the arts. Through Fresh Milk she currently co-directs Transoceanic Visual ExchangeTilting Axis and Caribbean Linked, a regional residency programme.

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