Ark Ramsay’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Ark Ramsay shares their first blog post about the 2019 Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Residency, which for the first time is focusing on research and writing practices. Ark speaks about the anxieties and concerns they have around returning to Barbados after completing an MPhil in Chinese Philosophy in Shanghai, while embracing the possibilities this residency has to offer and learning to re-inhabit the role of “Barbadian writer”.  Read more below:

Sonia Farmer’s “A True & Exact History of Barbados”

Honestly, I was worried about coming to Fresh Milk.

In the weeks before arriving, I burdened the space with a whole pantheon of anxieties. There were the familiar deities: Will-The-Work-I-Produce-There-Be-Any-Good (horned, feral, a biter); Is-This-Work-Even-Worth-Producing-At-All (tentacled, perpetually bored), and Will-I-Make-My-Page-Count (incarnated as everyone’s least favorite Primary School teacher).

I set about packing up my life in Shanghai, trying not to take notice of the fourth entity–larger than the others, skewed by perspective until all I could make sense of were the cracks in a cloven hoof–How-Do-I-Really-Return.

When I left Barbados, I abandoned writing altogether. I thought: “I’ll make a fantastic something-else”. I ditched narrative, dumped characters, and abandoned plots. I dislocated from the part of my brain that thought of itself as a ‘Barbadian writer’.

Or at least I tried to.

I still bought journals. Still scribbled notes in them. Still planned and orchestrated worlds. I could not seem to discard the machinery I had oiled so diligently for a decade.

So I returned to the island in the dark of memory. I smuggled back entire ships, boardwalks, car crashes, love stories, robots (who walked the length of Bathsheba), and dysfunctional families. I did all of this like a cat burglar until there were clear partitions between myself and the island. There was Ark the writer. Ark the islander. I began to feel like a tourist in my own dialect.

Arriving at Fresh Milk, under old-growth mahogany trees, I ruminated on what I hoped to achieve (and not achieve as in the ‘I’ of productivity, but achieve as in the summit that you reach in tandem with someone else)–I came to a realization. I wanted to be inundated with influences. To be upended.  To walk the long path home.

On the first morning, Annalee handed me a red box.

Even the design mirrors Ligon’s–even the paper feels like this text

It was Sonia Farmer’s strip-mining of Ligon’s “True & Exact History of Barbados”. She took his ‘accounts’ and reworked them, using his own words to uncover the silent-underneath. She questions the audacity of a “true” and “exact” anything. It was a simple gift: a reminder that the way back is via new trails in the oldest paths.

It liberated me into the rest of the week. I realized that this could become an artist’s retreat. The sense of retreat as wound-licking/marshalling the remaining forces/recalibrating. I looked around to find that the space was peopled not by anxiety-gods, but cows, and Mica–who must be some kind of Obeah Dog–because her presence brings with it an overwhelming calm.

Guarded by Obeah dog, Mica

I began to devour the library. It seemed to contain the exact mixture of books that I needed. I was handed a captivating review of Paulo Nazareth’s work–particularly News from the Americas (2011-2012)–where he left the state of Minas Gerais and travelled by bus and foot, traversing 15 countries before arriving in New York. He did this, without washing his feet, until he reached the Hudson. He carried the Americas on his body. Art as dirt that can be washed away.

This flowed into “Learning to Die: Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis”, meditative essays that try to retool traditional Socratic virtues so that they’re useful at the end of times–when the dirt of man catches up to the rest of us. Dirt. Dust. Carried on our skins or washed away forever. I read, surrounded by impossible beauty (and the lowing of cows), trying to bank all of these impressions.

No longer thinking, will this be useful, but trying to trust in the process.

On Wednesday, we were visited by Ewan Atkinson (visual artist/most engaging person in a room), who showed off one of the pieces from his mind-bogglingly intertextual work, “The Neighbourhood Project”. He built a board game that is a kind of ‘found object’ within the narrative of this fictional neighbourhood. While setting it up he reiterated what had become gospel by this point, that the filtration process–the coming together of ideas–is a slow, slow burn. Something found today can be used in twenty-five years.

The “unbeatable” Neighbourhood Game, “Peregrination!” by Ewan Atkinson

The lesson of week one seemed to be: time.

So I tried to give myself time, and space, to hack away at what I am working on. Hack being the right word, but a cruel word. To move from short story writing, to novel writing, feels like stripping naked in Broad Street–but forgetting (halfway through) how buttons on clothes work. It’s a fumbling, stumbling, soul-baring process.

But this seems a good place to begin.

Most complex problems become solvable if you add a dog to the equation

Kia Redman’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Kia Redman shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency, reflecting as the 2019 recipient of the Colleen Lewis Research/Writing residency programme. Writing has always been something Kia wanted to explore more within her growing creative practice, and she is taking this time to immerse herself within the material the reading room has to offer, with a particular focus on ideas of ‘paradise’ and ‘escapism’ in a Caribbean context. Read more below:

Writing is not something I have ever done for myself. There has always been an assignment, an application or a job providing the catalyst for me to flip the switch in my mind from visual to literary. As such, I have never presumed myself worthy of the title of writer, despite how much I enjoy the process. A title can often grow to become part of your identity. I could not, in good conscience, claim one that I had not had the courage to actively pursue…until now.

While I am not yet ready to claim the title, perhaps I will gain new perspectives by the end of this residency. For now, I will just embrace the joy of being able to write for myself.

My first week as the first Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Resident at Fresh Milk was liberating. There is a peculiar kind of freedom that comes with having a vast expanse of knowledge at your fingertips and a vast amount of time with which you can peruse it all. It is somewhat akin to living while time stands still. The construct of days and hours lose all meaning. The change in time now only marked by the end of a chapter, the occasional pang of hunger, and the draw of my bed as the light shifts gradually darker in the sky. Throughout that time only one thought occupied my mind: How to Escape from Paradise.

The irony of the topic of my research was never lost on me the many times I laid in the hammock strung up just outside the studio, basking in the breeze and lush foliage, with one of the many books I felt compelled to read nestled in my hands. It has been a near constant topic on my mind since the final year of my studio art degree, two years ago, when I wrote on it as part of an assignment for Ewan Atkinson’s Contemporary Issues class. It almost seems like it was an inevitability that I would confront it again after he suggested that I would be interested in applying to this residency.

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive when approaching the topic. It had been ruminating around in my head for two years and I was nowhere closer to being able to translate my jumble of thoughts into something tangible. Moreover, I had somehow convinced myself that the topic was limited and there were not many avenues down which I could pursue my ideas. I was proven wrong within the first few moments of stepping foot in the studio. Before I even fully unpacked, Annalee graciously provided me with many starting points and perspectives that gradually turned into large stacks of books on my desk as the week progressed. While the jumble of information in my head did increase, the breadth of my understanding deepened and the constraints I had unwittingly placed on the topic, fell away to make room for new pathways I will enjoy exploring in the coming weeks.

One of my goals for this first week was to delve into the Colleen Lewis Reading Room Collection and engage with books that caught even an ounce my interest. I wanted to start with an open mind. My next goal was to explore the vibrant surroundings I found myself in and feed off of the tropical energy I’m attempting to translate into words. My final goal was to develop a structure for what I plan on writing throughout the residency.

The first goal was met within moments of the start, while the last two came to be on the last day of the first week: Annalee had just suggested I read a piece by Colleen Lewis, the namesake of the residency and very reason I found myself sitting amongst her treasured books. She rummaged around the shelves until she found “Pictoral Depictions of the West Indian Landscape in the 18th Century and Early 19th Century: The Sublime, The Picturesque, The Romantic” in the fiftieth volume of the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society and placed it in my hands. Within moments, her vivid descriptions of the history and form of the earliest means of paradise marketing in the Caribbean had me yearning to consume the words surrounded by all that she spoke of. I immediately grabbed the journal and said my brief farewells to Annalee and Ethan as I strode out of the studio with a fierce purpose. Seconds later I was back to grab my pen and notebook. It had taken me a moment to realize that the intense familiar calling I felt was inspiration. A couple hours and a few heated conversations with some cows later, I was back in the studio. I felt accomplished. I had not only come up with a structure for what I plan to write, but the walk and Colleen’s words in the journal had helped to solidify two years-worth of jumbled thoughts in my mind. I could finally start to see the form my visual work, under the same topic, will take.

The next following weeks will find me exploring:

  • The link between Paradise and Escape
  • The methods and motivations behind the creation of the Caribbean as a Paradise
  • The realities that have paralleled the Paradise throughout the centuries
  • Paradise as an exotic escapist destination
  • The physical aspects of Paradise as a tool for escape and concealment, as seen with the Maroon societies, runaway slaves and escaped prisoners in more modern times.
  • Paradise as a prison, for indentured laborers and slaves
  • Paradise as a banal reality for those who live within its lush bounds and the means by which they indulge in their escapist fantasies.

It was a great first week. I can’t wait to begin the next!

Fresh Milk contributes to the 2019 Understanding Risk Caribbean Conference

The 2019 Understanding Risk (UR) Caribbean Conference took place May 27 – May 31 at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus, Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI) in Barbados. This conference brought together representatives of government ministries and national disaster management agencies, disaster risk management practitioners, urban planners, insurance industry stakeholders, private sector organizations, academia, multilateral development banks, regional partners and donors to discuss the core theme ‘From Risk to Resilience: A Foundation for Action’.

Janot Mendler de Suarez, a consultant with the World Bank, most recently the Caribbean Technical Programme of GFDRR’s Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance initiative, and Pablo Suarez, Artist in Residence, National University of Singapore – Lloyd’s Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk, invited Fresh Milk to co-develop three artistic interventions for the conference. These projects acted as a way of translating and communicating key factors about environmental risks in the Caribbean into a visual language, as well as showing tangible examples of resilience within our culture and landscape in Barbados.

Photographs by Dondré Trotman unless otherwise specified.

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Risky Timelines:

Concept: Janot Mendler de Suarez & Pablo Suarez
artists: Akilah Watts, Alanis Forde, Anna Gibson in collaboration with Kia Redman and Kraig Yearwood
With thanks to: Harclyde Walcott, Joseph Spagnuolo, Kerri Cox, Mary Boyer, Rashmin Gunasekera, Thibaut Humbert, UWI EBCCI

Photo by Dondré Trotman

This project, conceived by Janot Mendler de Suarez and Pablo Suarez and created by Barbadian artists Akilah Watts, Alanis Forde and Anna Gibson with Kia Redman and Kraig Yearwood, saw the depiction of natural disasters which have taken place in 33 countries across the Caribbean in the form of a large data sculpture.

This piece showcases a timeline of these events spanning from 1990-2019, and communicates the breadth and impact of these catastrophes on the region. The artwork creates a visually intuitive juxtaposition of natural hazard data – on hurricanes from category 1 to 5, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods – with impact data on the number of people affected, the number of lives lost, economic losses and the amount of money invested in response and recovery efforts.

‘Risky Timelines’ was installed at the EBCCI between May 27th – June 3rd, 2019.

The Making

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The Installation

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The Finished Work

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Sargassum and Coral Reef Benches

Concept by Janot Mendler de Suarez & Pablo Suarez, Photography By Nadia Huggins & Data Story Layout by KAtherine Kennedy
A collaboration with Adopt A Stop Barbados
With thanks t:o Shelly-Ann Cox and Hazel Oxenford of CERMES, UWI Cave Hill Campus

Photo by Dondré Trotman

As an extension of our Fresh Stops public art project in collaboration with Adopt A Stop Barbados, the design and production of two benches to be permanent fixtures at the EBCCI were commissioned by the World Bank for the UR Caribbean Conference through Janot Mendler de Suarez.

Telling the stories of ‘Risk and Resilience’ within the Caribbean’s oceans, the backs of these two benches feature data stories about the properties and importance of coral reefs and Sargassum seaweed. These graphics were designed by Barbadian artist and Fresh Milk’s Communications & Operations Manager, Katherine Kennedy, using information largely provided by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), UWI Cave Hill Campus.

The fronts of each bench showcase photographs by Vincentian artist and photographer Nadia Huggins, depicting modified versions of photos related to her Transformations series, which she describes as “[exploring] the relationship between my identity and the marine ecosystem.”

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(Bush) Tea Plots – A Decolonial Patch

A Work by Annalee Davis in collaboration with Ras Ils and Kevin Talma

Photo by Dondré Trotman

This artwork by Barbadian artist and Founding Director of Fresh Milk Annalee Davis in collaboration with Ras Ils and Kevin Talma, also commissioned by the World Bank for the UR Caribbean Conference through Janot Mendler de Suarez., sits within Davis’ larger artistic practice and confronts the historical imposition on this island of the monocrop–Saccharum officinarum–while recognizing nature as a radical maneuver against the singular model of the plantation. Observing how the natural world is threatened and degraded, (Bush) Tea Plots acknowledges the resilience of our regenerative biosphere and its inherent capacity for healing at the agricultural, botanical and psycho-spiritual levels.

The work creates visibility of near extinct (Bush) tea practices, appreciating biodiversity through dormant wild botanicals now resurfacing in abandoned sugarcane fields. This live restorative plot–an apothecary of resistance–is permanently installed at the EBCCI for the UR Caribbean Conference 2019, includes mobile accessibility via a QR code linked to the project’s web platform.

The Installation

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The Finished Work

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UR Caribbean is organized by the World Bank’s Caribbean Disaster Risk Management team, in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the European Union (EU), and will be hosted by the Government of Barbados. This conference is co-financed by the European Union-funded Africa, Caribbean, Pacific – European Union (ACP-EU) and the Natural Disaster Risk Reduction (NDRR) Program and managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

Fresh Milk Welcomes a Trio of Residents for June 2019

Fresh Milk is excited to announce that we will have three writers/researchers in residence with us for the month of June, 2019: Bahamian writer and photographer Ethan Knowles (June 10th – July 5th) as part of our international residency programme; Barbadian artist Kia Redman (June 10th – July 5th) as the selected participant in the Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Residency; and Barbadian writer Ark Ramsay (June 17th – July 12th) as the sponsored participant in this year’s ‘My Time’ Local Residency Programme.

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About the Residents:

Ethan Knowles

Ethan Knowles is a writer and photographer from The Bahamas. His work, largely tied to the islands of the Lucayan archipelago on which he grew up, aims to decolonize and sensitize, paying particular attention to topics of cultural erasure, environmentalism and identity in the Caribbean. After completing his high school education in Nassau, he spent two years in Italy at the United World College of the Adriatic and graduated with his International Baccalaureate diploma in May 2018. He is now enrolled at Colorado College in the United States, working part-time as a photographer while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Italian. Over the past few summers, he has published writing on tourism, culture, and neocolonialism in The Nassau Guardian, worked as a curatorial attaché for and exhibited at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and, most recently, been awarded the James Yaffe Prize for Short Fiction by the Colorado College English Department for a story set on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera.

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Kia Redman

Kia Redman is a creative professional living and working in Barbados. She attained her BFA in Studio Art from the Barbados Community College where she received an award from the Lesley’s Legacy Foundation for the highest GPA.

She has worked as a scenic painter for Operation Triple Threat, taught video marketing at the World University Service of Canada Caribbean, participated in an open studio residency with Punch Creative Arena and taken part in local group shows and screenings internationally. In 2018 her short film Roots|Routes won six awards including Best Short Film at the Barbados Visual Media Festival.

Kia currently works as a designer and videographer for Acute Vision Inc. and Bajans in Motion Inc. whilst cultivating her creative practice.

Being born into a post-independent nation in formation, Kia’s work focuses on issues of identity, defining culture and documenting histories. She aims to rewrite the blanket definition taught to be her Caribbean identity and discover the things unique to her lived experience.

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Ark Ramsay

Ark Ramsay is a 25-year-old Barbadian writer, currently completing an MPhil in Chinese Philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai. Their short fiction has been published in Small Axe (50) in 2016, after winning that journal’s emerging writer’s contest. Ark’s writing is centered around queer, Caribbean identities and coping with the reality of a warming earth–the fragility of an island ecosystem that cannot fight back.

Ark will begin an M.F.A in creative writing at Ohio State University in the Fall.

Marianne Keating – Second Blog Post

Irish artist Marianne Keating shares her second blog post about her ongoing Fresh Milk residency. Outlining events which have provided rich research content and have helped to shape her project – such as the exhibitions Arrivants: Art and Migration in the Anglophone Caribbean World and Insurgents: Redefining Rebellion in Barbados, both held at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society – Marianne continues to reflect on the history of  Irish migration to Barbados in the 17th century. She also addresses popular misconceptions about this migration, and the problematic trend of equating indentureship with the transatlantic slave trade. Read more below:

Vanishing Villages – In search of Irish Town, Barbados, April 2019.

The focus of my research in Barbados addresses the subaltern non-elite white community on the East Coast of the island, who are believed to be descendants of indentured labourers – both voluntary and involuntary from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.  Since their arrival in the seventeenth century, the creolisation process now makes it difficult to determine their exact origins. During my residency at Fresh Milk, I seek to examine conflicting existing narratives relating to their arrival and subsequent positioning in Barbados during the 17th Century.

Studio View at Fresh Milk – The Colleen Lewis Reading Room

Today, the ‘poor white’ communities can be predominately found in villages of the parish of St John along with other sites of importance including the “vanishing villages” of Irish Town and Below Cliff. The analyses of this material and sites are fundamental to my research and development of my practice-based output, which involves the gathering of oral histories through interviews, film footage, research and documentation.

My initial onsite investigation in Barbados began in November 2018 during my first visit to the island for an exhibition I was part of called Arrivants: Art and Migration in the Anglophone Caribbean World. The exhibition, curated by Veerle Poupeye and Allison Thompson at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, featured a powerhouse of artists including Eddie Chambers, Hew Locke, Keith Piper, Veronica Ryan, Ewan Atkinson and Cosmo Whyte to name a few. During this time, I spent many days researching at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society’s Shilstone Memorial Library which has a rich collection of over 6,000 books, journals and pamphlets, covering subject areas such as the Caribbean, Barbadian and African history, archaeology, natural and social history amongst many more.

The Barbados Museum and Historical Society featuring Eddie Chambers Untitled (1994), flag.

The museum and library are housed in historic buildings which were used initially as the military prison at St. Ann’s Garrison. With the support of Librarian Ms. Harriet Pierce, I trawled through old copies of the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society dating from 1933, publications such as Richard Ligon’s, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados 1657 and copies of old newspaper clippings. These resources greatly helped to established secondary sources about the arrival of Irish indentured labourers and political prisoners to Barbados in the seventeenth century. I also spent many days at the Barbados National Archives exploring their records and the 1715 census which lists many Irish names within the document, leaving more questions than answers.

The National Archives of Barbados.

On my return to the island in March, I attended the opening of the exhibition Insurgents: Redefining Rebellion in Barbados curated by Natalie Batson in collaboration with Life in Leggings: Caribbean Alliance Against Gender Based Violence and Barbados Youth Development Council at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. The exhibition challenges the popular belief that Barbadians are and have been passive when it comes to acts of resistance against injustices.

Amongst the many protest images within the exhibition stood a 390-year timeline which documented insurrection in Barbados including accounts of Irish rebellion against the British Colony. The first post-dated 1655 mentioned the following referencing historian Sir Hilary Beckles, A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market, 1990.

It is reported that “several Irish servants and negroes out in Thicketts and thereabout, plundered estates systematically”.

And the second mention of the Irish was listed for 1661

Master and Servants Code of 1661 and the ‘Act for the better ordering and governing of Negroes’ slave code drawn in response continued unrest by Irish indentured servants and enslaved Africans.

When discussing Irish migration to the Caribbean in the 17th – 19th century, it is important to discuss the vast difference between indentured labourers/servants and African enslavement or chattel slavery and to address the incorrect use of the term ‘white slave’.

Since the early 2010’s the ‘white slave’ narrative has received more traction, frequently popping up on online platforms and social media across Ireland and throughout the Irish diaspora, a narrative supported by the far right in the United States amongst others, to support a racist political agenda.  This narrative is spread in relation to the discussion of Irish migration to the Caribbean when attempting to nullify the differences between indentured labour and African enslavement or chattel slavery. This narrative has been devised to remove race as an aspect of slavery, “the ‘white slavery’ narrative stresses a sense of shared victimisation; this sentiment then serves to discredit calls for reparations from descendants of enslaved Africans in the U.S. and the former British West Indies.”[1]

These false narratives continue to grow online through the constant referencing of many poorly researched books and publications resulting in the misconception, misinterpretation and misappropriation of the reality of the terms of Irish indentureship. There are many distinctions between indentureship and enslavement, with articles such as Contesting “White Slavery” in the Caribbean: Enslaved Africans and European Indentured Servants in 17th Century Barbados by Jerome Handler & Matthew C. Reilly offering a detailed examination on the socio-legal distinctions between servitude and slavery.[2]

The differences are extreme, and although many are aware of these inaccurate narratives, it has effectively complicated the already convoluted story of the subaltern non-elite white in Barbados. And the history of Irish migration to the Caribbean becomes intrinsically linked to this narrative, leaving it impossible to address this history without also addressing this false narrative.

Through my research, I am exploring all aspects of this complex history, as to leave an area untouched threatens the recording of this history through a clouded lens. Many researchers have written articles correcting these falsities, and one of the areas I will focus on is addressing the impact of this narrative on the history of Irish migration. In this way, I will attempt to separate it from the clutches of this racist political agenda which has become click bait for readers as they scroll through their posts on social media.

In Jamaica, Irish Indentured labour began in the years after abolition. Under colonial rule, the Irish poor had few opportunities in a country with high unemployment and ongoing food shortages resulting in limited funds to rent land to grow provisions for the landless workforce. Irish migrants seized opportunities offering a better life and voluntarily signed contracts where they signed a bond to work for a term of up to three years in return for passage, housing and provisions in Jamaica, becoming the legal property of the planter for the duration of the contract to pay off their debt. At the end of their contract, depending on the planter, they had the option to continue working under a new contract with new terms or leave the plantation free from any obligation. Alternatively, they could begin a new life elsewhere in Jamaica or, if funding permitted, in another country by signing up to a new emigration scheme.

Advertisement Emigration to Jamaica on board the SS Robert Kerr.

This is not to say that the promised conditions were always in place on arrival or that the plantation owners met the agreed terms. Agents and sub-agents working for the West India Immigration Scheme or on behalf of private planters were known to have exaggerated or mislead migrants regarding the opportunities available or working and living conditions in their need to recruit large numbers of labourers.

In the years that followed the abolition of slavery in 1834, the Jamaican sugar cane industry became less lucrative and Jamaican planters struggled to maintain their economic position in the global economic market. With a reduced labour force unwilling to work under the proposed conditions, crops failed due to a lack of manpower required to bring the crops to fruition, and bankruptcy ensued amongst the Jamaican plantocracy. Increasing numbers of labourers chose to sail to Jamaica, where legislation had not yet been put in place and conditions varied from plantation to plantation. The scheme to recruit Irish indentured labourers ran without controls implemented by the legislators until after the controversy of the S.S. Robert Kerr–the last ship to sail to Jamaica under the scheme in 1841.

Although the exact number is unknown due to limited records, there are accounts of the Irish indentured succumbing to diseases such as yellow fever as they were held in low lying areas more prone to illness or death resulting from poor working and climate conditions. However, if a labourer became dissatisfied with their terms and ran away, they were often not tracked down. There are many possible reasons for this, including the scale and rugged terrain of the country and the dwindling resources of the plantocracy. There is a case of a group of Irish causing such uproar they were returned to Europe to stop the unrest spreading to others on the island. Another example is of a woman from Galway who was prosecuted for running away and abandoning her contract. Indicted before the court, her mistreatment by the planter was discussed publicly with the resulting decision unknown. Some who ran away became homeless and destitute in Kingston, whereas others completed the term of their indenture and quickly moved up the ranks of society by taking advantage of their whiteness, privileged in a society driven by race. Through this manipulation of their whiteness, former peasant workers transitioned from bonded workers to positions of authority in the militia, the police force and later into the ranks of politics.

In Barbados–a new area of research for me–the conditions varied significantly from those in Jamaica. Recruitment there began in the mid-seventeenth century where different terms were applied and which were extremely different from the Africans who were enslaved under chattel slavery. Here contracts of indentureship lasted up to seven years if the signing was voluntary, or varied in length if brought to Barbados as a political prisoner. The working conditions of the indentured or political prisoners often led to their preliminary death as a result of mistreatment or harsh working and climatic condition. However, unlike chattel slavery, the terms of indenture lasted for a specific time and did not pass from adult to offspring or their descendants. Furthermore, the indentured had certain rights that the enslaved did not. These differences are addressed very clearly in the aforementioned article Contesting “White Slavery” in the Caribbean[3] and in the article The Irish in the Anglo-Caribbean: Servants or slaves? Why we need to confront the ‘Irish slave myth’ and how terminology is not simply semantics[4], an extract of which is seen below.

the differences and commonalities between these two forms of unfree labour are of fundamental importance to our understanding of the development of racialised perpetual chattel slavery in the British colonies. The term ‘indentured servitude’ is not a denial of their suffering or unfree situation but rather an accurate term to describe their legal status, few rights and harsh reality. Colonial servitude in the Anglo-Caribbean was temporary and non-hereditary, with legal personhood, while chattel slavery was perpetual and hereditary with sub-human legal status. It is inevitable that if we refer to these two different statuses in the same historical context using the same term (‘slave’) these profound distinctions are erased. The refusal to differentiate often reveals a motivation to equate indentured servitude for Europeans with African chattel perpetual slavery to claim spuriously that slavery had nothing to do with race.[5]

Over the next few months, I will focus on making two short films (which may later merge into one), investigating this history of Irish migration to Barbados and the complex environment in which this history sits. My research is looking at these multi-vocal approaches to the past, exploring sites of importance while tracing oral histories and physical fragments remaining in the landscape. As I begin to address this history through practice-based research, I will concurrently address false narratives within this history and their impact on contemporary understanding of the histories of Irish migration to the Caribbean.

[1] The Irish in the Anglo-Caribbean: Servants or slaves? Why we need to confront the ‘Irish slave myth’ and how terminology is not simply semantics by Liam Hogan, Laura McaTackney and Matthew C. Reilly p19

[2] Contesting “White Slavery” in the Caribbean: Enslaved Africans and European Indentured Servants in 17th Century Barbados by Jerome Handler & Matthew C. Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Vol 63 p156- 187

[3] Contesting “White Slavery” in the Caribbean: Enslaved Africans and European Indentured Servants in 17th Century Barbados by Jerome Handler & Matthew C. Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Vol 63 p156- 187

[4] The Irish in the Anglo-Caribbean: Servants or slaves? Why we need to confront the ‘Irish slave myth’ and how terminology is not simply semantics by Liam Hogan, Laura McaTackney and Matthew C. Reilly p18-22

[5] The Irish in the Anglo-Caribbean: Servants or slaves? Why we need to confront the ‘Irish slave myth’ and how terminology is not simply semantics by Liam Hogan, Laura McaTackney and Matthew C. Reilly p19

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This residency is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland