Bahamian writer Ethan Knowles shares his third blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. Ethan begins with an excerpt from a piece he is writing in Barbados, specifically after walking along south coast and observing people along the way – both locals and visitors – and imagining the thoughts that might be going through their minds. He also shares the outcome of his collage workshop ‘Dis We Tings’ held at Fresh Milk, which prompted a similar kind of introspection about Caribbean identity, and how we can express the many things that means despite being subjected to a touristic gaze. Read more below:
This week I walked along the south coast. I wrote the following at a café along the way.
I am walking along a Bay Street not unlike my own. It is not a long road, but it is – when travelling by foot. It traces the curve of Carlisle Bay, carrying me out of Bridgetown and into a place I have driven through but never before tread. It feels familiar, and yet I cannot be sure what waits around the corner. What building, business or bus stop comes next, I cannot say. That I am going somewhere – that I am on this walk – is all I know.
And on this walk, down (or maybe up) a street I feel I went to high school with some time ago, I see the same image. It repeats itself, though in different forms – always altered but somehow undeniably the same. I see backs: sometimes slouched, sometimes straight. Always shaded, and always, without exception, alone. And though I never feel isolation in these solitary figures, sat like anchors looking out at a sea they left behind, I do feel longing. Indeed, I feel a pining – a pining that could very well be my own – gathered up on these shaded benches without backs holding up backs.
I wonder where their thoughts go, these ocean watchers. Whether they drift to a life they hope to live, or a life they’ve left behind. Whether they wrap themselves up in what’s been going on in the news, or whether the present is the last thing that passes through. Whether they worry about money, or the mortgage, or if they’ll make it to their next vacation. Whether they’re eating enough. Whether they’re drinking too much. Whether they’re pregnant. Whether the rain will come, and the laundry will get wet. Or if they have good credit, or what good credit even means. Whether it’s worth it or, in the case of their house, it’s worth enough. Whether the dog needs to be walked or if that cashier was just being friendly or if the gas light, like the yellow traffic light, is really just a suggestion. Whether the crabs like it better on land or if they themselves would be better off at sea. Whether the bus fares will go back down. Whether to laugh. And, in rare cases, whether to lip sync. Whether this was the way it was supposed to go all along or if the guesses were all just lucky. Or unlucky. Whether the end was near or if there even was one and if it mattered anyway. Whether it was time to go. Or, as it often seemed on that walk along Bay Street, whether there was all the time in the world.
I am thinking of extending this piece further but am fairly content with how it’s already developed.
In other news, on Wednesday I facilitated “Dis We Tings”, a collage workshop exploring Caribbean identity, and I am very pleased with how it went. The workshop encouraged reflection on such questions as: What does it mean to be Caribbean? Who are we? Where are we going? And how are we working to construct our own images and identities in the face of increasingly pernicious touristic representations?
Using tourist brochures, maps and magazines, participants deconstructed one-dimensional representations of the Caribbean in order to craft collages which more meaningfully expressed their (cultural) identities. In this way, images produced with the tourist eye in mind were reconstructed by and with a focus on Caribbean people themselves, many of whom are disadvantaged one way or another by the industry.
Later in the week the whole Fresh Milk cohort met up at the exquisitely decorated home of local arts patron Dr. Clyde Cave for a wonderful evening filled with remarks on our time as residents, warm conversation, kind company, and delightful hors d’oeuvres. This week I am also proud to note that I ate what must be by now my eighth roti from Chutney’s! Fingers crossed I keep the streak alive.