Toronto-based artist Nadijah Robinson shares her second blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. She shares some of the struggles she has been having this past week, including beginning to reconcile feelings of longing for the Caribbean and displacement she has felt living in Canada with the reality of being in Barbados, and how this will manifest in her work. Read more below:
Unsettled. This week I got the flu. The week flew by, being on a few different cold and flu medicines and an antihistamine, much of it is a blur of trying to maintain a normal schedule, rest, stay hydrated and hope that it wasn’t dengue fever or chikungunya that I caught.
I’m starting to get homesick, which is an interesting feeling to get here. Homesickness is such a familiar feeling to get in Toronto, to long for a place that feels more affirming of your culture and identities, and feels safe and nourishing. As a second generation immigrant, sometimes that feeling is a cosmic joke. Plane tickets cannot take you to such a mythical destination. This longing is what much of my art centers on, along with the ever-present anti-black racism that is a part of my every day. More on that later.
I started making work. In a bit of a frustrated state at losing momentum due to being a human being vulnerable to viruses and attractive to mosquitoes, I decided to just start on something. I’m not sure what it is yet, but it is a collage/painting mixed media work.
I’m becoming aware of how much time there is left, that I am half way through my residency at Fresh Milk, and that I am two weeks closer to having to return to the beginning of winter in Toronto. This realization has me putting the pressure on in terms of making work, and doing research, but also getting down to the business of going to the beach. Not to mention that I was recommended the remedy of taking a sea bath by more than a few people. Rayanne and I spent this Saturday at the very calm Brandon’s Beach, which proved to me that Barbados is a blessed place. The water’s so warm; until now I had assumed that my distant memories of warm natural waters were something I’d invented, as every river and lake I’ve dipped my feet into in Ontario has left my feet numb.
This week, I’ve been struggling with how the stark difference of my surroundings here is producing ideas and themes for me that don’t directly relate to my context in Toronto. I worry (a bit) about producing work that will be an exception in my wider art practice. But at the core of this is the guilt that I’m not feeling the same level of urgency around my own and my people’s survival. I am still constantly receiving updates and new news about murders and police killings via social media, but no one around me is reacting. As Toronto heads into the coldest/hardest season, and as Canada heads into an extremely scary federal election on Monday, I’m at the beach and in the studio. It feels unfair. But this is something I’m currently trying to reconcile, allowing myself the space and time to focus on making work that is genuine, un-rushed, and about whatever it needs to be about.
This residency is supported by the Ontario Arts Council.