Aliyah Hasinah’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

UK-based writer and curator of Bajan and Jamaican heritage, Aliyah Hasinah, shares her final blog post about her Fresh Milk international residency. Aliyah speaks about her last round of studio visits, trips to exhibitions and conversations with cultural workers in Barbados, ending her account of the residency experience with a series of questions to reflect on upon her return home. Read more below:


For the last 4 years, every time I travelled I collected a postcard. Postcards specifically featuring Black People portrayed in interesting (often racist) ways or of histories we may have assumed. When in Barbados, this trip I failed to do so. Having read excerpts of Krista Thompson’s ‘An Eye for the Tropics’, I felt the impact that the postcards I’d collected on my travels actually had. They continue the romanticism and acceptance of racism in these spaces, and it was profound for me to completely disengage from this practice on this particular land.

Barbados in November 2020, changed me. It chemically and spiritually altered me and gave a new clarity to my ambitions. A big thank you to my co-resident Pascale for being an incredible force and inspiration throughout this residency.

So the 4 weeks have really flown by. I’m not quite sure how the residency is over but it is. To say the experience was transformative is an understatement. My last week saw me preparing for Independence Day with many visits, including a preview of the Flower Forest’s new installations as well as meeting with Janice Whittle at Queen’s Park Gallery to discuss the NCF’s role in Barbados’ visual arts landscape and plans for the future..

I also had the honour of meeting Ras Ishi and Ras Akyem this week as well as talking to Winston Kellman. All of whom have been great inspirations of mine.

I could talk forever about these experiences but I will keep it short and full of photos instead. I also visited The Brighton Storeroom gallery to see their latest group exhibition..

I have a lot of questions (as always) brewing, these include:

  • How does the NCF get better at engaging with post-emerging artists and dissolving bureaucracy in their processes?

  • Who holds the White elites of Barbados accountable for the continued coloniality on the island and stringent segregation?

  • Why are some Slave Codes in Barbados still within the legal constitution? Why is drumming banned late at night ?

  • What does republic status mean for working class Bajans?

  • How can curators, artists and strategists work together to continue building artistic infrastructure in Barbados?

  • What does investing in Barbados’ art community look like for the art industries across the Caribbean and globe?

  • How do we amplify artists’ dreams into a reality? What needs to be understood and what knowledge shared?

  • Who will hail up and support the Black Visual Artists who involve a more radical praxis in Barbados?

Thanks again to everyone who’s been reading my blogs and feel free to connect with me on Instagram or Twitter @aliyahhasinah.

Nuff love and take care

Aliyah Hasinah x

Pascale Faublas’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the fourth and final blog post by Haitian resident artist Pascale Faublas, who is joining us as part of an artist exchange programme with Le Centre d’Art, Haiti, to create opportunities for women arts practitioners. Pascale reflects on some of the work being done by Barbadian creatives and regional arts spaces, and how they have continued to find ways of exhibiting and supporting artists during the difficult circumstances of 2020, as well as sharing her third piece created in Barbados. This programme is supported by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) and the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL). Read more below:


EN FRANÇAIS

Semaine 4

Déjà ma dernière semaine de résidence artistique en Barbades !

Les artistes y déploient  des efforts d’ingéniosité pour quand même montrer leurs créations en ces temps de crise. Ainsi les oeuvres de la plasticienne Katherine Kennedy, aussi membre de l’équipe de FreshMilk, ainsi que des œuvres d’autres artistes locaux sont en cours d’installation dans la Flower Forest, un jardin de plantes tropicales normalement très fréquenté par les nombreux touristes de saison, absents cette année 2020. Il y a aussi l’exposition de groupe «PAST PRESENT FUTURE» à la galerie Brighton Storeroom située dans un marché fermier, qui fonctionne uniquement le samedi ou sur rendez-vous.

Parallèlement plusieurs institutions créatives de la région  telles FreshMilk en Barbades, Kingston Creative en Jamaique, Le Centre d’Art  en Haïti entre autres, ont crée des programmes innovateurs tels que des salons virtuels hebdomadaires , des résidences  de création a domicile , et aussi des session de formation . C’est ainsi que j’ai bénéficié d’une session  de 3hres sur la Gestion des media sociaux animée par la journaliste et fondatrice de Weekult Music Lab, Charlene Jamet dans le cadre du programme CATAPULT. Une démarche importante et très utile a l’heure  ou l’internet devient un organe de communication, de promotion de plus en plus indispensable pour les créateurs.

Cette semaine j’ai aussi eu le privilège d’être interviewée par Amyra Leon, une talentueuse poétesse, chanteuse, photographe et performeuse afro-latino-newyorkaise.

Jamais 2 sans 3, je dis adieu a l‘atelier de FreshMilk  qui m’a si généreusement accueilli, avec ma troisième création Mètrès Fanm.


IN ENGLISH

Week 4

Already my last week of artistic residency in Barbados!

The artists there are deploying ingenuity in their efforts to show their creations any way they can in these times of crisis. Thus the works of visual artist Katherine Kennedy, also a member of the Fresh Milk team, along with other local artists are being installed in the Flower Forest, a garden of tropical plants normally frequented by the many seasonal tourists, absent this year in 2020. There is also the group show ‘PAST PRESENT FUTURE’ at The Brighton Storeroom gallery located in a farmer’s market, which only operates on Saturdays or by appointment.

At the same time, several creative institutions in the region such as Fresh Milk in Barbados, Kingston Creative in Jamaica, Le Centre d’Art in Haiti among others, have created innovative programs such as weekly virtual fairs, creative residencies at home, and also creative training sessions. This is how I benefited from a 3 hour session on Social Media Management hosted by journalist and founder of Weekult Music Lab, Charlene Jamet as part of the CATAPULT programme. This is an important and very useful step at a time when the Internet is becoming an increasingly essential means of communication and promotion for creators.

This week I also had the privilege of being interviewed by Amyra Leon, a talented Afro-Latino-New York poet, singer, photographer and performer.

Never 2 without 3, I say goodbye to the Fresh Milk studio which so generously welcomed me, with my third creation Mètrès Fanm.


ABOUT LE CENTRE D’ART:

Le Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince is an institution that works towards promoting artistic creations by Haitian practitioners on the basis of preserved heritage values. Since its creation in 1944, this atypical space with multiple missions has been at the heart of societal and artistic evolutions. As the major protagonist in the reconfiguration of the fine arts realm in Haiti, Le Centre d’Art has been paving the way for several schools and artistic movements.

Despite the destruction of the infrastructure during the earthquake of 2010, Le Centre d’Art managed to save more than 5000 works and 3000 archive files, which are today preserved and valued. Since the reopening in 2014, Le Centre d’Art has once again become an essential part of Haitian culture.

Its mission is to support artists and their creations, and to conserve and disseminate Haitian visual arts. It is a resource space for artists, art students, art lovers, collectors and researchers alike.

Aliyah Hasinah’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

UK-based writer and curator of Bajan and Jamaican heritage, Aliyah Hasinah, shares her third blog post about her Fresh Milk international residency. Aliyah continues to speak with Barbados-based cultural practitioners to form impressions about the island, its social landscape and stratification that exists in the space, in addition to visiting centres such as the Ngozi Farm and Cultural Sanctuary and the UWI Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination. Read more below:


This week’s residency was a meaningful one. I’ve spent a lot of time in conversations learning and listening so haven’t read as much as I would have liked. Nevertheless, it’s been another enriching week in Barbados.

My Monday started with an Interview being recorded of me for the Small Axe Podcast. Upon finishing this interview, I asked if the new series by Steve McQueen was to be aired in the Caribbean because I couldn’t watch it on iPlayer. I was met with an ‘I’m not sure actually’.

From this moment, the thing that has sat with me starkly this past week is the disconnect between the islands and diaspora and the very intentional legislation and governing bodies that enforce this as a progression from enslavement and colourist class stratification. Additionally, the 2nd or 3rd generation diaspora’s disconnect from the politics or culture of the lands they hail from, in not creating content or sharing it outside of the global north, also creates problems.

For the large part the Windrush experience is not taught in the school curriculum of the Island and the modern day Bajan political and cultural is not felt or bridged abroad. This disconnect and information exclusion means that a very intentional chasm is created purely from the absence of information and exchange. Steve Mcqueen’s ‘Small Axe’ not being available in the Caribbean is one such example. It is easy to then imagine the resentment that can begin to develop towards those who have left and the rose-tinted nostalgia or misunderstanding of the Island’s they knew of the diaspora. This dialogue between contexts is crucial in the art world, to both enrich the nuanced perspectives of Caribbeanness and likewise shift the axis from representation mainly being from the diaspora or of the light skin and white artists on the Island.

In Aaron Kamugisha’s essay on ‘Rihanna & Bajan Respectability’ under the section on the Caribbean Middle Classes, he recalls James Baldwin’s insights:

James’s analysis of the new elites closes with the ominoir observation that “the ordinary people of the west indies…. Do not want to substitute new masters for old. They want no masters at all… history will take its course, only too often a bloody one.’’ Over thirty years into a global neo-liberal project that has seen appalling levels of martial impoverishment for citizens of the global South, and soaring rates of violence in these societies, James’s warning appears more prescient than he could have ever imagined.’’

The function of the middle class in Barbados (as one of the largest of the Caribbean islands) has an intentional implementation to absolve the white ruling class and also white capitalists who sought a quick buck from buying up much of the island to further exploit the newly independent nation (through hotels and tourism). This class is very much segregated, almost apartheid like, on the Island. My British accent and redskin has made some of those I’ve interacted with a little too comfortable in the false assumption of my middle classness and acceptance of the status quo. The disdain for Black Bajan artists is abhorrent and I have to thank my elders Ras Ishi and Ras Akyem for their work and writing in the RA Journal in 1993 and how it still stands prophetic of what I have witnessed on the land my grandparents left almost 60 years ago.

I’m learning that there is a perception that Fresh Milk is elitist and inaccessible for most on the Island. Which I was unaware of prior to my residency. It got me thinking about the international intrigue of how blackness, where I grew up in Birmingham UK, was always more acceptable in gallery contexts when the black artist wasn’t from that place. Hence meaning white curators and institutions needn’t think about their complicity in upholding racist gatekeeping, because they’d distanced themselves from it but still represented blackness in an international context.

My plan when I came to do my residency was to focus solely on Black West Indian Art History and culture in the Caribbean. However, I have been confronted quite violently with the colonial history and enslavement period’s remnants in legislation and artist communities that have led to the unsustainable arts infrastructure on the Island. As a result I have delved deeper into this in order to understand the conditions and context the art I’m studying was moulded by. I hope to focus more on dreaming and making work in the last week of my residency, but believe my whole time here has been an immersive learning of Caribbean epistemology as well as embodied experiences – all of which will embolden my curatorial practice and projects.

This week I also met with Russell Watson at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, to look at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination. It’s an exciting space that I’m sure will continue to do some incredible work in supporting the critical discourse within the art scene of Barbados. We also spoke about the responsibility and place of healing in the development of artists’ careers here in Barbados. This video of George Lamming for the NCF is an apt example of the arts’ importance in Barbados’ future and present.

I also had the honour of going to Ngozi Farm and Cultural Sanctuary with Pascale, Dr Yanique Hume and my friend Amyra.

I was very moved by Ireka Jelani and her weaving practice and how she built her farm and sanctuary piece by piece. The love she showed us was testament of her power and I wrote something short after the visit.

SISTER IREKA

She stared through me with a soft urgency
Commanding of me a spirit I had quietened.
The asking in her eyes said –
let it out
Let us free up
Say what needs must sweetgirl

‘This whole Island was once plantation’

Remember you are of the land as much as of mind,
Tend to both.

Her Cassava fingertips have mended broken backs they say.
How we soothe wholesome spirit
With time
With air
In rain
With bush
With needs must
With love
‘Cuh me ah sey we is a humble people’

We forged in this limestone,
a life led by our spirits’ soft urgency.

Have a great week and thanks for reading my tangential thoughts.

Aliyah x

Aliyah Hasinah’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

UK-based writer and curator of Bajan and Jamaican heritage, Aliyah Hasinah, shares her second blog post about her Fresh Milk international residency. This week has seen Aliyah continue her research into the history of Barbados, as well as make her own observations on the dynamics of the space regarding issues around race and class, and how contemporary realities connect with this history. She has also continued to meet and have studio visits with Barbadian artists, and is gathering ideas to work towards holding a workshop before the end of her residency. Read more below:


It’s been another week at Fresh Milk and I’m definitely learning so much about the structuring of Barbados’ economy, class system and art communities.

This week’s been one full of meetings, socials, studio visits and many an emotion. Firstly my homie Amyra Leon flew in from New York to see me and that in itself has been a huge blessing and spiritual moment.

At Fresh Milk I started the week off by focusing on learning more history of the African presence on the Island and so watched Hilary Beckles’ Ermie Bourne lecture.

I’ve summarised my learnings in this tweet.

Understanding the rebellious history and brutal quashings of Africans in Barbados has really brought me to a space of understanding some of the dynamics I see play out on the Island today.

The White presence on this Island is very interesting and precarious to me. It feels like I am back in Britain when I’m in spaces White people occupy here. The segregation and power still held by the colonial plantocratic society here scares me, but I also know it well having been surrounded by Whiteness in England my whole life. The way in which White People in Barbados inhibit space and the way I have seen some of them talk of Black Bajans in my presence disgusts me. History makes perfect sense in this regard. I am even more motivated to only centre Black Art and knowledge production in my curatorial practice. I have no time for pandering to whiteness or solution making for white people whilst I am on this Island, knowing the extent to which they segregate and benefit from the reparations of enslavement to this day.

Moving forward, on Wednesday I met the incredible Versia Harris, we spoke of contexts, dreams and installations of a fantastical nature. I’m very honoured to have met her and hope to work with her in the future. I also got the opportunity to meet some of the artists Fresh Milk suggested at Mojos this Wednesday.

On Thursday I dropped into one of Annalee’s classes at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill and heard some of the ways we can map out cultural sectors on the island and what is needed for young artists to thrive. Annalee also gave a brief synopsis of the touristification of the island too, and how Brand Barbados has created a new dependency on foreign investment. Colonisers started the culture of external imports to the point where most food on the Island today is imported despite the wealth of agriculture on the land. Also interesting to find out that Palm trees were not native to the island and were planted in place of deforested Mahogany.

On Friday I had a lovely studio visit from Kraig Yearwood. We spoke about all sorts of things and I got the chance to see some of his work and catalogue. Amyra also captured some of this which I’ll be sure to share at some point.

I have treasured my conversations with fellow resident Pascale Faublas and learnt a lot about Haiti’s resistance culture and spiritual practices being indicative of the earlier period of decolonisation through the Haitian Revolution. Pascale reminds me that ‘Haiti is a lot more African in spirit’, which makes sense in alignment with their history.

This week I’ll be planning shoots, writing up my learnings, reading more and visiting more artists. I’ll also be organising a workshop before I finish my residency with my friend Amyra Léon to work with Black Artists on the Island on dreaming about futures, artistic possibilities and securing the bag. Stay tuned.

Thanks so much and I’ll see you next week

Aliyah x

Aliyah Hasinah’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

UK-based writer and curator of Bajan and Jamaican heritage, Aliyah Hasinah, shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk international residency. Using this time primarily for research into the art scene and cultural policy in a Barbadian context, Aliyah kicks off her blogs by reflecting on some of the texts she has immersed herself in to ground her knowledge and understanding of the space, and looks forward to having more in-person discussions with artists, creatives and cultural practitioners as the weeks progress. Read more below:


It’s been a week since I started my residency at Fresh Milk with the intention of immersing myself in study to learn more about the art world and cultural policy in Barbados. Having not had the means to attend university, I’m always profoundly grateful for moments to study away from the day-to-day grind of trying to pay your rent in London, so hearing monkeys (my favourite animals) on the library roof has been a well welcomed change. I’d also like to thank Arts Council England for funding this residency because I’ve been LEARNING, I’ve been learning *Beyonce voice*. 

Prior to this, I met with Annalee Davis last year when starting my research into ‘Decolonising the Curatorial’, as funded by Arts Council England. My research was looking at the role of Crop Over as a space for exhibition outside the white walls of the gallery, a topic Claire Tancons discusses well in her essay ‘Curating Carnival’, and how galleries can never do justice to the embodied experience of carnival. 

Through my research, I sought to further understand the colonial history and how rebellions birthed art practices – or continued them – as we’ve always found ways to make art. Having only scratched the surface last year, I was keen to take more time to understand the layers and nuance of Bajan Art and cultural expression, outside of what was familial and familiar to me.

Just to prefix, I’m a loud mouth when it comes to explaining or calling out the manifestations of coloniality in the modern day in England. However, I’m very aware of my positionality as a curator from Britain researching in Barbados. My gaze does not come from one of authority but is an opinion formed from the research and conversations had with some of the island’s artists, art producers, essays as well as what I observe. 

One of the writings I’ve been reading this week that deeply resonated with me was Winston Kellman’s Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ published in Sustainable Art Communities, as edited by Leon Wainwright and Kitty Zijlmans. Kellman explores several historical threads to bring us to the modern day, including the relationships with the UK and US following Barbados’ independence in 1966.

Kellman’s particular highlighting of how western modernity has shunned Caribbean art practice of landscape painting and sculpture, alluding to it being devoid of conceptual fervour is, in my mind, linked to a colonial mindset that deems ‘conceptual art’ in a particular way. 

This perspective ignores the context of the space and time that these artworks were created in, and instead attributes an archetypal aesthetic to the notion of contemporary art as opposed to understanding that sculpture and painting of the island has a deeper rooted contextualisation in the resources i.e. clay, and historical craftsmanship of the land – and is therefore contemporary if it is being made in the present. This disregard for painting and sculpture subconsciously alludes to artworks, often by Black artists, specifically in the Caribbean, being inferiorized because of a lack of contextual understanding of how the work came into being, and is additionally sidelined in national and international discourses surrounding contemporary conceptual art. All due to a lack of understanding of the context of the work. 

Anywho, I could go on for days about the learnings of the last week, all to say I’m very excited to deepen my study and continue learning about policy, sustainability and the hopes/dreams of emerging artists on the Island. The culture is very much being pushed forward by multiple artists. It is with thanks to those who have laid the foundations that younger artists today are scoping out what is possible in the process of building visual arts communities and infrastructures across Barbados that do not solely privilege the tourist economy (more on that real soon, hold tight tourism as neo-colonialism and insert Mo the Comedian saying ‘Barbados’).

I’m excited to start my new week, meeting more artists, collectors and academics. I may also post some of my readings and thoughts on my instagram (@aliyahhasinah) as I jump into my second week at Fresh Milk.

To end lightly here are 5 songs I’ve had on loop this week:

Until next week.

Lots of love and take care

Aliyah xx

P.s. Here’s some of what I’m reading / have been the last week and will continue to delve into this week, and hold tight Caleb Femi on the release of his new poetry book ‘Poor’ which everyone should cop if they can. (Feel free to send me reading and art recommendations on twitter @aliyahhasinah)