Dorothea Smartt’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Barbadian-British poet and live artist Dorothea Smartt shares her first blog post, expanding on her time in the Fresh Milk residency programme. With Barbados being Dorothea’s second home, it did not take her long to settle in, connect with the community and begin reaching out to those she hopes to collaborate with, as well as getting to know her fellow resident artist for the month, Danilo Oliveira. Read more below:

I arrived on Thursday, my bruthafren met me at the airport and drove me up to Fresh Milk where we were met by a warm and welcoming Katherine. We followed her car slowly up the pot-holed driveway back out to the main road, driving the short stance to the lodgings. Danilo welcomed me like a an old friend with a shot-glass of smooth premium cachaça, and bonded with my bruthafren over a mutual interest. Next morning, I settled myself into my spacious room, making it my own with a few adjustments to the furniture.

Katherine came to take me grocery shopping. On the way out, a parliament of twenty (I counted) guinea fowls (the Brazilian translates as ‘Angola birds’), leisurely crossed the driveway as Katherine waited for them to cross. It’s been a week of synchronous events. The two best bits of news were that Lauren Craig, one of my collaborators, was coming out later in the week, and would be able to spend some face-to-face time with me here at Fresh Milk. And I was delighted to learn that Iya M. Jacqui Alexander had arrived the same day as me to spend a few days in Barbados, with her former student and my future PhD Supervisor Yanique Hume. It’s been almost 10 years since I saw Jacqui in New York during the last days, death and funeral of my dearest friend and mentor Myrna Ilare Bain – who introduced me to Jacqui and Santeria back in the 1980’s.

Danilo and I shared food, cooking, conversation and XO Mount Gay rum like practised housemates. Iya Jacqui and Yanique came by the studio, and left their good energies singing in the air. The ‘New Partner’ Angel card I’d drawn over the weekend at my bruthafren’s place near the beach, had told me a chance meeting would send me someone who I’d recognise by my “sense of familiarity, comfort, and safety”, “an answer to my prayers.” The cat at the lodgings attached herself to me from my first night. The large African snail slowly crossed our doorway. On her visit, Lauren helped me by organising my video cameras and my old Olympus OM 10, charging them up and checking batteries. Over an early dinner I‘d cooked that morning, I read her a poem-in-progress I’d shared with my potential collaborators. She was particularly drawn to it because it had emerged and was titled for a live art workshop we’d both done in London with Stacey Makishi. ‘Death For Beginners’  is my attempt to write something of the claustrophobia  and censoring of women & girls I experienced growing up in my Bajan house in London and had heard and seen here in Barbados. The characters of Olive Senior’s short story ‘Window’ had provided a (November!) setting.  The Sunday visit to the Farmers’ Market at Holder’s Hill gave me gifts of ‘leaf of life’ and the delight of a stall-holder’s toddler son who had attached himself to me, and was set on helping me with my shopping. He picked small yellow flowers and presented them to me.

The first part of this week I was able to finish and submit a funding application to a fellowship offered by the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at CUNY Grad. Centre. The late night task to meet the deadline created an opportunity to review the impetus and previous Arts Council funded research I intend to build on during my time at Fresh Milk. Phone calls, messages and emails to my artist friends/collaborators will hopefully open the door to their contributions and feedback via Skype/WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger in the coming weeks. I set up a shared Google Calendar.

My weekend back at my bruthafren’s was an opportunity to play, party, dance through the night, re-connect with Bajan poets, freestylers and spoken word artists, and sing karaoke in Holetown after seeing Mannequins in Motion do their fabulous Sunday night show. More signs, as the Angel Card had said. A beautiful Super Full Moon (the closest a full moon has been to the Earth since 1948), playful children, the warm sea off Lower Carlton, and lush countryside of St. George, let me know there’s beauty, love and laughter in this world (now being dumped with Trump as President). Always.

Maferefun Egun. Maferefun Orisha.

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