Trinbagonian artist Alex Kelly shares his first blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. In the first week, he has been observing his surroundings in Barbados, drawing parallels to his own experiences of his home Trinidad and Tobago and even to Aruba, where he took part in the regional residency Caribbean Linked III in 2015. These familiarities and shared histories, which manifest in different ways and yet connect the region as a whole, have already become a source of inspiration for the artist during his short stay. Read more below:
Exit the airport, navigate the roundabout and head past the rows of identical houses on route to your destination. Quick stop at a gas station convenience store to collect imported bananas, Blue Waters and a pack of Devon biscuits to hold you over for the night. At some point you pass cane fields and former cane fields only illuminated by the moon and by headlight. All the while you’re discussing economics; the collapse of the sugarcane industry and the ever present anxiety about the need for foreign revenue. One would be forgiven for assuming I was talking about Trinidad.
I have seen landscapes that take me back to Aruba, driven through memories of St George’s and Scarborough and I’ve walked back to my flat at night, under the blessing of a gentle shower of rain, looking over what I might mistake for the Queen’s Park Savannah, if I would only allow it. And in the distance, witnessed hills ablaze with light, as though I were admiring east Port of Spain from afar. And although I’ve developed a curious fixation on identifying the direction of Trinidad and Tobago from whatever spot on the island I might be occupying, I’ve discovered that I’m not so far from home.
I came to Barbados seeking to discover some connective tissue between the islands. I expected that it would be tight and pulled thin under the strain of decades of movement in independent directions. But at every moment I am reminded that I am in the presence of a people whose history is my own and who are shaped by the same education, so that no matter how opposing the forces of change may be, the direction of travel remains tangential to the same circle. The call of history rings out loudly in Barbados. It is a familiar tune, but one that I have never heard as clearly as I do on this island. Except for a few power lines, there are passages through cane fields where one is easily transported to 1816, and “their history” becomes my history.
These experiences are not nostalgia. Nor do they represent a longing to be elsewhere. Rather, they speak to the wealth of inspiration that I have encountered in my short stay. If I were to return home tomorrow, I would do so satisfied that the ideas given life here would bear fruit for some time to come. One can scarcely imagine what wonders the three remaining weeks will have to offer.
This residency is supported by Tridium Caribbean Limited