Ark Ramsay’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Ark Ramsay shares a blog post about the third week of their Fresh Milk residency, beginning with Barbados’ second Pride Parade  organised by Equals Barbados on Sunday, June 30th; punctuated with a midweek visit to Bridgetown to see the developing creative hub Union Collaborative and the exhibition ‘Retro-Future Landscapes‘ by Kraig Yearwood; and ending with the event FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings. Read Ark’s poignant thoughts on the intense and challenging week, which required strength and vulnerability to absorb and process both publicly and in private:

Ethan and I celebrating Pride. My sign says “protect the non-beenary baes” with a little bee on it.

I was putting my mouth on the future in my last blog post. When I wrote: the way forward requires that I think about structure–I might as well have said, the way forward requires that I live in a week other than this week.

Sunday was Barbados’ second Pride Parade.

And I don’t want to siphon the joy/abandon/celebration out of that–or sit here and tell you that I did not get on wild and dutty–or claim that the light in me did not flare up at the touch of the light in my Bajan queer family.

And I don’t want to deny ‘bravery’, or ‘resilience’, or ‘beauty’, or ‘at-homedness’.

And I think it ironic that I have to preface the somber and vulnerable with a defense of pageantry. But I do.

Come Monday, sore and filled to the brim with love for this place, I was sitting on the deck at Fresh Milk–video-chatting a queerabian artist-friend who could not be at the parade in person. We started out the same way this blog post started out. In defense of love and glitter. Halfway in, this became untenable.

“Me and belonging just don’t pitch marbles,” they said, as we lamented the long (pothole-filled) road we had taken to arrive at this shifting place. And the cows, chickens, and small dogs all around this farm made effortless song–lampooning our attempts to ground ourselves, or think through the vast human-centeredness of ‘belonging’.

The price paid to dance to “I’m Coming Out” by Dianna Ross in front of Cave Shepherd on Broad Street was (and still is) steep. I pay it every day. All queer Barbadians do. And for some the charge is pulling from a sum they don’t have (and may never have), and whittling away–a slow, drain–until ‘bravery’ is rendered skeletal and impotent.

I volunteer to pay the price, knowing it has to be paid, knowing what’s asked of me is a fraction of a fraction of what is asked of others.

The truth is, all I have to offer is open heart writing surgery, performed on myself. And, the question is not whether it is ‘enough’ (no, possibly not), or whether it can effect change (how egocentric)–what remains is the stubbornness to root through these questions despite their nature–despite the manifold unknowns.

I am reminded this week, after getting back “Cereus Blooms at Night” from Ethan Knowles–and leafing through it–that it appeared for me right when I needed it. I read it when I was nineteen and leaving the island for the first time. I felt then (as I feel now), how unpayable the price of this book must have been, its very existence, the toll it must have taxed out of Shani Mootoo. Her expense is my enrichment, and so the circle of the word continues. I guess all I want to do is pay forward what I was given.

This rambling, guilt-ridden, wishing-I-could-do-more, lamenting-things-as-they-are, swarmed my week. I moved in careful silence, rebuilding what was knocked down, knowing that what was really happening (within me) was the fermentation of things that I could (gratefully) rage back into art–motivated by a Rainer Maria Rilke quote given to me by someone long ago: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves.”

So I repeated that quote like a mantra, knowing it is a rickety bridge from unsurety to unsurety.

At Union Collaborative for a tour of the site

On Tuesday, the whole Fresh Milk family visited “Union Collaborative”, this newly developing hub that seeks to create a space for dialogue and side-by-side creative flow–all within the remnants of a gutted commercial mall.

As Israel Mapp walked us through his vision (fashion designers working across the courtyard from metalworkers and chefs), it seemed like he, and his team, were inexhaustible. That the abundance of love they have for this place, and the whole idea of a revitalized, artistically-thriving Bridgetown, was enough to power the lights. His whole energy seemed to suggest: this is happening with or without anyone else’s input. I was bowled over by the whole enterprise because it was the complete antithesis to the questions that I had been carrying around. It was so rooted, so part-of-things, so not-in-your-own-mindcell.

Yearwood’s work “Aquifer”–inviting us to question the bedrock

Afterwards, we went to Norman Centre, where artist Kraig Yearwood had installed his work “Retro-future Landscapes”. It was right next to a leatherworking stand, and beside the gutted space where a shoe store used to be. Here was this room (fitted for a boutique store), filled with Kraig’s huge pieces rendered from concrete and found items. He cast these objects with the innards of cellphones and plastic detritus–creating these sediment layers that reflect what we may leave behind in the bones of this island. It seems like everyone this week was pondering island, in some form. Who we are, what we build, what we leave behind.

On Thursday, jackhammering at my work (revealing nothing of substance), the rains came. The roof at Fresh Milk is itself a drum–inconsistently played by mahogany pods–but here was this persistent percussion. Annalee (convinced that she practices some sort of Obeah) appeared with “Calling a Wolf a Wolf” by Kaveh Akbar, a book of poems that I’ve been trying to hunt down (or wait to arrive), for years now.

“We all want the same thing (to walk in sincere wonder, like the first man to hear a parrot speak”

Kaveh is an Iranian-American poet, whose work is staggeringly beautiful. In fact, the latter half of this week was about reconnecting with old collections that I treasure and champion (“Everyone Knows I am a Haunting” by Trinidad’s Shivanee Ramlochan), and finally getting to read this work. I was able to put them side-by-side. Their work, so different, yet both so brutal and honest. They both stare it down. They both inhabit ‘bravery’, ‘resilience’, ‘beauty’, and ‘at-homedness’.

I channelled them when I was called upon to perform.

On Friday the trio of residents decided to host an open house, where we would pull from work-in-progress and untested writing. We would essentially give what we had never given before.

I read a short story that I have been carrying with me for years. Every time I changed as a writer, a transformation would be stimulated in my personal life, and I would see a new way into the story. But I had never read it. I had kept it safe, kept it mine.

Sharing it, and then inviting the audience to engage with me afterwards (when I was rawest and shaking), was one of the most rewarding experiences of this entire residency. My Q&A moved from ‘process’ questions into the realm of climate-sorrowing–and because of this–I felt less like I was going through the motions, and more like I was trying to share something I feel deeply kinned to. Less like I was manufacturing something artificial, and more like my soul was on the line.

This is Ethan and Kia’s last week at the residency, and the space will be worse off for their absence. I will miss what was created here (even if it lasted a few weeks), with the strange interplay of personalities (including Katherine and Annalee)–who all helped me return to this island. Physically. Mentally. Creatively.

Thank you.

I have one more week. Flying solo.

Kia Redman’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Barbadian artist and aspiring writer Kia Redman shares a blog post on her third week in residence at Fresh Milk. In addition to activities such as attending a reception for the ‘Trio of Residents’ held by one of Fresh Milk’s patrons, returning to Workman’s Primary School to reveal the result of their group time capsule project and taking part in a collage workshop about Caribbean identity hosted by Ethan Knowles, Kia also began the daunting task of venturing into creative writing – something she has not done in a very long time, but that she is eager to take the leap to explore. Read more below:

Creative writing has been a big fear of mine for a long time. I remember it being something I fearlessly enjoyed once, but that time passed so long ago I can barely remember the words I wrote and the feelings they conjured within me. It has been so long that I don’t even know where to find the stories, and if I did, the papers would probably be in tatters, darkened and consumed by time. So many years have passed since then that it almost feels like another person’s story; another person’s path not taken. But the best thing about life, at least mine, is that the path is hardly ever straight and easy. There are steep inclines, rugged terrains and winding roads that if you’re lucky, wind back around to give you a second chance at exploring a previously untrodden path.

This unfamiliar journey started with this residency. I spent the first couple weeks researching for a critical essay that I hoped would inform my visual work. It was what I had planned to do, it was what I felt comfortable with, having written strictly academically for the last few years. It was the safe option. However deep down, something just felt a little off. Residencies are supposed to push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to explore and experiment – something I love to do – but I was resisting it. It has been a long time since I’ve felt truly afraid to do something creative.

My visual work still scares me, and I hope it never stops. Having to learn and discover, fail and adapt is what excites me. Yet, while that has become a fear I have learned to embrace and use as fuel to push my visual practice, this fear is as yet uncharted. There is no evidence that the failures I’ll endure along this path will result in something fruitful. It has not yet proven itself to me, nor have I proven myself to it. It is my hope that this confrontation will clear the way for a bridge between my visual and literary work. I love combining different techniques and art-forms in what I create, and the challenge of merging both of these worlds into one thrills me. Sonia Farmer’s “A True and Exact History” stands on that bridge. The fusing of visual, tactile and literal is simply breathtaking and stole away much of my time this week.

This third chapter has been packed full of reading, thinking, creating and socializing. I’ve walked and explored with Ethan and Ark and stood beside them at Dr. Clyde Cave’s house for the vibrant yet relaxed evening he hosted for us, amongst his incredible art collection. I returned to Workman’s Primary to show them the video they shot and give them copies. Ethan’s collage workshop on Wednesday was a fun experience that allowed me to tackle my topic in a lighthearted way without the pressures I usually inadvertently place upon the process of creating. It was a breath of fresh air just being able to enjoy the act of making without all the strings that somehow get attached along the path of being an artist. Perhaps it was the reminder of that feeling that made me finally agree to confront my fears to write creatively. It is a feeling I must remember in the final week as I commit to setting pen to paper.

FRESH MILK XXII – Residency Readings

The Fresh Milk Art Platform is pleased to invite you to FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings, taking place on Friday, July 5th, 2019 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm at Fresh Milk, Walkers Dairy, St. George, Barbados. Fresh Milk writers-in-residence – inaugural recipient of the Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Residency, Barbadian artist Kia Redman; participant in our international residency programme, Bahamian writer Ethan Knowles; and the 2019 ‘My Time’ Local Resident, Barbadian writer Ark Ramsay – will each be sharing the outcomes of their residencies, giving readings of their work and engaging with the audience about their experiences over the last few weeks.

Come share in their experience, and celebrate the accomplishments of this ‘Trio of Residents’!

This event is free and open to the public. Directions to Fresh Milk can be found on the ‘About Page’ of our website.

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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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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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Ark Ramsay

Ark Ramsay is a 25-year-old Barbadian writer who recently completed 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.

Ark Ramsay’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Ark Ramsay shares a blog post about week two of their Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Residency. As last week was about trying back on the title of ‘Barbadian writer’ after time apart, this week Ark began working through what it means to reclaim that, setting things in motion for the start of a new novel while also undergoing personal transformations; all of which are part of the journey towards reckoning with and expressing their authentic self. Read more below:

In a moment of serendipity, I had read Brodber’s most famous book a few days before the workshop.

My work is always far bolder than I am.

I think of it as this separate, wilding mare (possibly why I distrust horses?), who occasionally bolts. And I, person-separate-from-writing, has to make my way after it.

I ‘came out’ (beyond a handful of friends), in 2014 at BIM LitFest, during a fiction writing workshop led by Erna Brodber.

She asked us to write a paragraph that encapsulated our Caribbean; I wrote two. I wrote something I desperately wanted to read, and something safe, sedentary. Something not mine at all.

When she called on me, I read–and it was halfway into the paragraph that I realized that my mouth was stumbling over a description of two men intimately entwined. The words themselves didn’t matter–I remember them being full of teenage angst and ennui–but the moments after–when I said, “Yeh, sure I’m gay,”–to a group of strangers, who then picked that up as fact (because I had said it as fact, and not in a small tremulous, backpedalling voice).

At that workshop I felt this impossible, unsayable, shameful wall–not exactly tumble down–but suddenly I was on the other side of it–not sure how, and not really prepared for my arrival there. It took me years to learn to navigate what the work had known all along.

This week, at Fresh Milk, that strange convergence of work leading life happened again.

I am writing a novel here.

It is in its newborn baby period–colicky, demanding–and like every newborn baby, it sheds its skin each night and is a different color come morning.

I titled this for the reading on Thursday (apologizing for its incomplete state even though nobody would see it)

On Monday, I was trying to work through a puzzle within the text: how do I talk about the main character stumbling into the realization that their gender is somehow not what they had always thought it was? The earliest pulling apart of intertwined threads that re-entwine when you look away (or look too close)? It has to be grounded in the Caribbean imagination; filled with the richness of being part of this place; and void of the platitudes marketed for mass consumption. In short, I want it to feel honest, mine.

I puzzled, and puzzled, and by Tuesday–I wrote something. And set it aside–feeling nothing but flux and uncertainty. Wednesday came, and I followed through with a promise, to model for a photoshoot celebrating Pride month, by being painted in high femme, high glam makeup. It was border-crossing makeup. It was a thick beard against smokey eyes and a full lip.

Model: Ark Ramsay
Photographer/#Lightweaver: Risée Chaderton-Charles of eye one visuals
Make-up: Mandy Cummins
On set assist: Artemis M Benn

Wearing a new face transforms you, but it can also reconcile you to yourself.

The work at Fresh Milk this week eased the psychological tension of that transformation–and then when I returned to writing–it felt like I had found a new way into the work.

I don’t think this will change, and I’m not sure I want it to. Sometimes I think that I would be trapped if it weren’t for my writing–an ouroboros where I am both head and tail–stepping back at the moment of crisis–and therefore never stepping out at all.

This week was about stepping out–saying yes in an emphatic voice that shelters a baby-bird-voice underneath. On Thursday, the ‘trio of residents’ (à la Katherine Kennedy’s nickname for us), were invited to a small gathering at the house of Fresh Milk patron, Dr. Clyde Cave. In a home where every surface is anointed with Caribbean art, and surrounded by community, I read my work for the first time in years.

Whenever I performed before, I was never present. It was a fugue state. I disappeared into a recurring anxiety: when will this be over.

This time was different. I was present–I was alive in the reading.

Week 2 at Fresh Milk was about transformations, but from this point, the way forward requires that I think about structure. Most of my writing, up to this point, has been short stories. A story under 7000 words has to have one defining arc, and all of the smaller, extraneous pieces are slotted together within this word-budget. A novel is expansive, with interconnected pieces that have to function independently–its many threads woven together—it’s a tapestry.

And I have little experience weaving.

I bring my new (and old) questions to the ocean

 

Kia Redman’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Barbadian artist and aspiring writer Kia Redman shares a blog post on her second week in residence at Fresh Milk. Deviating from carefully laid plans, this week saw a whirlwind of activity for Kia through studio visits, openings, workshops and bonding sessions with her fellow residents. She has been going with the flow and taking in the action, hoping to return to research, writing and production moving forward, with these experiences to reflect on. Read more below:

My favourite part about making plans has always been witnessing the innumerable ways life will set them off course. The futility of it all and the sense of powerlessness it instigates is nothing compared to the exhilarating sense of serendipity that just overwhelms every derailed plan. This is the state in which my week progressed.

I ended the first week with a clear vision in mind for the goals I was planning to achieve during my second week at the Colleen Lewis Research/Writing residency. I had planned to get a start on writing and tackle some of the topics I had narrowed down. Life had other plans for me. Monday morning I pitched my idea for my community outreach, and the rest of the week went by in a blur of activity, excitability and camaraderie: One moment you could find us chilling on the studio floor with Ewan, as he shared his work with us. The next I was beating everyone at Ewan’s “unwinnable” game Peregrination. There was the invention of our “fish cake crawl” and its strict judging criteria. Our visit to the opening of The Enigma of Arrival -The Politics and Poetics of Caribbean Migration to Britain at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society and our hyped up selfie session. It was a dynamic week.

When I wasn’t off learning and bonding, I planned and prepared for my workshop I called ‘The Time Capsule Project’. Geared toward the class 4 students who will soon be leaving Workman’s Primary School, I thought it would be both a fun and important exercise to create a digital time capsule with them. We are all shaped by our histories. Our past memories, decisions, interactions and tales are the building blocks that form our foundations and influence our personalities, and inform our futures. History is something to be respected, cherished and most importantly, documented. Who better to chronicle the stories of a time than those living in it?

Friday morning I arrived at Workman’s Primary with Ark and Ethan, who had agreed to help me out. We were escorted to a classroom and I greeted the kids the only courteous way you should approach children forced to sit in a classroom all day: with snacks – more specifically Shirley Biscuits. I played them my stop motion animation,“HOME”, in which the little house from a Shirley biscuit traverses obstacles in an effort to find its way home. It was an example to show them how I chose to record my personal history. What followed was a brief chat on the importance of documenting their personal histories and memories, during which they shared with me the best memories they have from their time at Primary School. Using the cameras donated by a past Fresh Milk resident, I set them free and they spent the next couple hours playing, exploring and capturing whatever they deemed most important.

I won’t say what I foresee for this upcoming week. Regardless of what happens, I’m sure it will be an enjoyable one. I do hope that I will get more reading and writing in though…I really miss my hammock time.