Ethan Knowles’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

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:

Bus stop ‘To City’

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.

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.

Ethan Knowles’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Bahamian writer Ethan Knowles shares his second blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. This week included further research and exploration of Barbados, including a trip to the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, a visit from Barbadian artist Ewan Atkinson, and attending the launch of the exhibit “The Enigma of Arrival: The Politics and Poetics of Caribbean Migration to Britain” at the Barbados Museum & Historical Society. Read more below:

As I write this week I sit listening to the sounds brought on by the rain. Chirps, whistles, coos and croaks spill into the flat as fronds all around me shed the last drops of their watery loads. A phone rings. Engines fade. And every now and then, a rooster’s call claws the air, interrupting the plip plop of puddles. Nothing moves, and yet it all feels alive. It is in this chorus that I am repeating the week, looking back at what has happened and what I have, in some way or another, happened upon. Here we go.

Walking to the studio at the start of the week, I met the third and final member of our residency trio, Ark Ramsay. We spoke about ourselves and our research, and before long Ark was handing me, much to my delight, a copy of Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night. Having spent the week reading and thinking about this text, about the way it blurs binaries and pushes back against notions of paradise in the Caribbean, I find myself feeling more motivated than ever to imagine my own stories in the coming two weeks.

On Tuesday, I rode with Annalee to the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill campus. She had gotten word that a plant in a living installation of hers needed replacing, and so we headed to the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination to check it out. The piece, produced in collaboration with Kevin Talma and Ras Ils, speaks to the importance of biodiversity and local systems of knowledge in the wake of an environmentally, socially, and culturally traumatic sugar economy. Thinking about the work, I could not help but draw connections to bush medicine in The Bahamas and how it’s often dismissed as backward or out of date, barely even recognised at the cultural level for its significance.

The Archives at UWI Cave Hill Campus

Flora at the forefront of our thoughts, we headed to the archives just down the road where I eventually parted with Annalee, hoping to meet and speak with any available UWI professors in the humanities department. With some much-appreciated guidance from a high school friend, I eventually sat down with Dr. Charmaine Crawford and had a highly informative talk about identity, politics and activism in both Barbados and the wider Caribbean. Before heading back to the flat for the day I took a ZR van into town and photographed the harbor with my film camera. One busy bus ride later and I was back at the flat, wondering what my next cooking situation would come to.

Playing “Peregrination” by Ewan Atkinson

Later in the week, Barbadian artist Ewan Atkinson stopped by the studio with some of his recent work. He discussed his ongoing undertaking, The Neighbourhood Project, and its examination of the individual, community and the ways a society makes meaning. One artefact he brought with him for us to engage with was “Peregrination” – a vintage-style board game complete with Neighbourhood personas and a moral agenda. Naturally, we played the game. It was very witty, and after some heated debate around the occasionally ambiguous instructions, Kia emerged as its winner. For me though, the most interesting part about Ewan’s work was the story at its heart. An idea exists – a place and its people – and it all comes alive at the intersections of the artworks he creates.

Kia Redman with kids from Workman’s Primary School

Then Friday came along and it was time for Kia’s photography workshop at Workman’s Primary School. Ark and I came with to help out as a class of soon-to-be primary school graduates spent the morning documenting the spaces and faces which made up their time at Workman’s. It was a really moving experience, seeing the kids so excited to create and curate the story of a time that would, in just a couple of weeks, come to a close. I would be lying if I didn’t say I got some ideas of my own from their antics.

Eventually we were off to the Barbados Museum and Historical Society for the opening of “The Enigma of Arrival: The Politics and Poetics of Caribbean Migration to Britain.” The exhibition recounted the experience of West Indian migrants in the planning, departure, arrival and acclimation stages of their emigration to Britain. Produced by the University of the West Indies  in partnership with EU-LAC Museums, the travelling exhibition incorporates quotes from writers of the Windrush generation, recorded stories of elders from the Caribbean and its diaspora, and even hard copies of travel literature written for prospective emigrants. Beyond noting reasons for departure such as economic hardship and the importance of remittances for Caribbean economies, “The Enigma of Arrival” also confronts the institutional racism black West Indians faced when searching for housing, applying for work, or merely attempting to gain access to services which their white British counterparts were afforded without question. Reflecting on the exhibit, Katherine, Kia, Ark and I would close out the week at Bubba’s Sports Bar with some Bajan fish cakes and lively conversation.

In the coming week, I look forward to leading my collage workshop, crafting a story, and continuing to explore Barbados.

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.

Ethan Knowles’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Bahamian photographer and writer Ethan Knowles shares his first blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. His first week has been spent familiarizing himself with Barbados and embarking on research into Caribbean identity, the archetypes/stereotypes associated with it, and how we see ourselves and shape our own identities from within the region. Read more below:

“Yet every place is both local and foreign. The same place is the site of two very different experiences.” – Lucy R. Lippard

Two planes took me from Bahamian to Bajan soil and soon enough I found myself in the shotgun of a friend’s car en route to Chefette. It was late, around midnight, and in my groggy but giddy state I chose the channa roti. It was a light unto my empty stomach.

The next day was a holiday, Whit Monday, so I started off the morning with a jog to get my bearings. I passed cows, fields of sugar cane, and more than a couple puzzled looks. It was a pretty hot day, so I’m guessing these guys were wondering why I was running. It wasn’t long before I began to ask myself the same question.

Around midday, I met the ever-welcoming Annalee Davis and went on a quick shopping trip with my flat mate during which I forgot many things and continued to fumble the rather simple currency conversion of 2:1. It didn’t matter though, because before long we were all at the beach in the glowing company of Annalee’s dog Mica. The afternoon wrapped up with calm thoughts about how Barbados and The Bahamas seem to have both more and less in common with each other than I expected.

The next day I met fellow resident researcher Kia Redman and Fresh Milk’s communications manager Katherine Kennedy. We discussed plans for the residency ahead before going on to explore the ample collection of the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.

The next few days would fly by as I read contentedly for hours on end, diving into everything from gender theory to regional tourism to the poetry of Andre Bagoo.

See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbean

One text which caught my attention in particular was See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits of the Caribbean. This collection, produced by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown of Robert & Christopher Publishers, seeks to investigate how Caribbean artists are crafting their visual identities and, by extension, how the region constructs its own images. Beyond the one-dimensional idyllic representations of the tourism industry, how are we portraying and expressing our own diverse identities?

In considering this question, I began to think about how I navigate my own Caribbeanness. I began to think about all those Caribbean meme pages I follow, about how culture, history and lived reality intersect in my own life. About how, in some ways, I conform to the archetypal image of the Caribbean male and, in others – if such a model even exists – depart from it entirely.

Another day passed before I would settle on the idea of conducting a collage workshop on Caribbean identity as part of my residency at Fresh Milk. I brought this plan to Annalee and she gave me a wonderful book on the work of the Kenyan collage artist Wangechi Mutu to consult in my planning process (funnily enough she is also a UWC graduate!). It was in dialogue with her work, and in the ongoing planning of my workshop, that I examined Stuart Hall’s insightful essay “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” which discusses a less conventional view of cultural identities as “the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past.”

At this stage I am still working on finalizing the details of the workshop but look forward to it taking shape. Here ends my first week at Fresh milk, complete with raining mahogany pods, raining rain, and the occasional roar of a cow.