Torika Bolatagici’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Melbourne-based Pacific artist Torika Bolatagici shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Coming to Barbados with three main goals in mind – to understand the local arts ecology, meet contemporary Barbadian artists and make new work – Torika has spent the first week acclimatizing to both the physical and intangible environment of the country, drawing connections between the region and the Pacific islands and delving into the Colleen Lewis Reading Room to continue her research on contemporary Caribbean art. Read more below:

I am still processing my first week in Barbados. The past 7 days have been a chaotic and exciting mix of books, sweat, introductions, discoveries and breastfeeds in air-conditioned hire cars. Like previous resident Halcyon Macleod, the journey from Australia was a long series of delays and missed connections, and we also lost our portacot. But 7-days in and we’re starting to find our flow here. This week I swam in the Caribbean Sea and dipped my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. I have explored the east coast to Bath Beach and the west coast as far as St. Peter, and I learned a new word – plantocracy.

So, I arrived at Fresh Milk with three main goals; to understand the arts ecology here; meet contemporary Barbadian artists and make new work.

On my first day in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, Annalee gave me a tour of the collection. It was so wonderful to finally be able to read publications I have only seen from afar including the early issues of ARC Magazine, Pictures from Paradise and See Me Here. ARC magazine was the main influence when I initiated the publication Mana Motu for the Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival in Australia. I have admired the work of Fresh Milk from a distance for some time and am eager to know more about how the space has developed and to find out more about arts education here.

I have a thing for Reading Rooms and art libraries. In 2011 I spent a couple of weeks at the Stuart Hall library at the Institute of International Visual Arts. As a result of that experience, I created the pop-up Community Reading Room in Melbourne, using my own collection. When I found out (via ARC) about the Colleen Lewis Reading Room Residency, I knew immediately that it was a space I wanted to engage with.

I have spent my first week getting acquainted with the collection in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, in an effort to understand the development of the local arts ecology. The collection is incredible, and during my 4 week residency, I will just be able to scratch the surface.

Some of the main texts I have been looking at this week are:

  • Art in Barbados: What Kind of Mirror Image?
  • Caribbean Distpatches: Beyond the Tourist Dream
  • Caribbean: Crossroads of the World
  • Curating in the Caribbean
  • Developing Blackness: Studio Photographs of “Over the Hill”: Nassau in the Independence Era
  • How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness
  • Paulo Nazareth
  • Pictures from Paradise
  • See Me Here

I came to Barbados with a desire to identify points of connection, overlap and departure between the island cultures of Barbados and Fiji. There was an instant feeling of familiarity stepping into the thick humidity of Grantley Adams International airport last Saturday, and although I travel frequently to Fiji, I think it has taken me a week to acclimatize to Barbadian heat. Annalee and Katherine, have made me (and my family) feel so welcome at Fresh Milk and I look forward to chatting with them about their respective practices.  Another highlight has been meeting local artist Anisah Wood, whose work I find compelling.

Anisah and I spent Day 2 getting to know each other and our conversation covered matters of indigeneity and belonging; deculturation, transculturation  and assimilation; migration; climate change; national identity; local politics; Indonesia and West Papua ; The Dominican Republic and Haiti; foreign investment and student loans. I’m learning so much from Anisah, including how to play the game warri as a part of her Quid Pro Quo residency outreach and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next 3 sessions unfold. I’ll be leading a session in the final week of my residency.

And so I am discovering that there are some obvious similarities between Fiji and Barbados. Colonial history. Indentured labour. A sugar industry. Tourism. Rum. Protex. Mahogany. Coconut water. Expats. Poverty. At the moment I am reading more about the military history of Barbados. One thing that frames my experience of Fiji, is the overt presence of militarism. My practice-based PhD explored the spaces in which the dialectics of race, embodiment, masculinity, globalisation, militarism, colonialism and agency meet, diverge and collide in a Fijian context. So I am intrigued by the size and invisibility of the Barbados Defence Force… this is an area I want to explore further in the coming weeks…



This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

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