Fresh Milk is pleased to be hosting Toronto-based artist Nadijah Robinson for the month of October 2015. Take a look at her first blog post about her residency, which has seen her reconnecting with her Bajan heritage and reflecting on what that means, both personally and for her practice. Read more below:
first day, no wifi
a little panic
beautiful skies, at sky mall,
the sky was immense
saw a tiny lizard at the entrance to my bedroom
it crawled up the door frame
on the drive to fresh milk, i saw a sign that said The Pine, in St. Micheal. That’s where my fam grew up, I think.
this week I’ve been thinking about my self being here in this place.
i’m very visible here. when we landed, i remembered that i look like a hipster. i’m being watched by myself as well. having the time and space to think, and live in my head full-time, and absorb absorbabsorb and then reflect reflectreflect feels a lot, at times, like navel-gazing. we are taught that this kind of self-indulgence is not to be encouraged. this is the first time, in a long time, that I’ve had this much time to devote to my practice.
i spent most of the week reading and writing, taking pictures, and making notes.
the first night, around the table with wine and Rayanne, Natalie, and Katherine (the latter two Fresh Milk staff members), i was asked what kinds of things I’m interested in learning or exploring, so they could facilitate me reaching the right resources.
what i said was something like
– talking to my family, and their understanding of their identities as bajans
– plants and traditional uses of plants that grow here
– the history of Barbados
what i meant was something different like
– i want to understand what bajan means to different people, how the diaspora relates to that and whether they share my sense of lack, void, and longing to fill in all the historical gaps and wasteland.
– my body’s composition is part bajan, for at least a few generations. my body is allergic to most things in Canada: grass, flowers, trees, pollen, nuts, wheat, sometimes the fruit. i want to know what home my body can find here. what relief, what therapy can be found in the plants, medicine.
– i want to know how long back my blood was here. what did it pick up along the way. why is the trauma so deeply felt. what traumas lie there (in the blood).
sometimes i feel like an ethnographer, because even though i am bajan, i am not from here. and so my first reading was Hal Foster’s “The Artist as Ethnographer” just to check that what I’m doing here isn’t ethnography. it raised interesting questions, but no answers for me, as I expected.
a morning was spent trying (unsuccessfully) to identify plants around the residency site. I had more luck looking up plants mentioned in my third reading, in my second reading, to see what they looked like and their descriptions and properties.
third reading: “The True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes 1657” by Richard Ligon… which was difficult, and I suspect not as “true and exact” as Ligon would have liked people to believe.
second reading: “Wild Plants of Barbados” by Sean Carrington
i’ve started to read this book of poetry “Barabajan Poems” by Kamau Brathwaite, and it is giving me life. poetry does to my brain, what no other things do. so far, Brathwaite’s describing his childhood but also leaving Barbados and living in England and how lonely and alienating that felt. how he was made to feel like bajan culture was lesser than, was something barbaric, and that he and his peers would only ever find acceptance and success in their craft elsewhere. a lot is resonating with me, despite our different experiences. i’ve only begun to read this book, so I’ll leave it there.
This residency is supported by the Ontario Arts Council.