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.

 

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. Mark’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.

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

Fresh Milk hosts ‘A True & Exact History’ by Sonia Farmer

On Monday, April 30th, 2018 Fresh Milk hosted an exhibition & panel discussion around ‘A True & Exact History‘ – an erasure poem by Bahamian writer & artist Sonia Farmer, using Richard Ligon’s publication A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657) as its source material.

Sonia was in conversation about her work with Ayesha Gibson-Gill, Cultural Officer for Literary Arts at the National Cultural Foundation, and Tara Inniss-Gibbs, Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

Thanks as always to our photographer Dondré Trotman for these images!

Artist Statement for A True & Exact History

I consider my writing practice a tool for disrupting and investigating existing narratives, forming a response that is not necessarily preoccupied with making new narratives to replace them, but rather exposing different narratives as a parallel, ultimately calling into question the inherent power structure in the existing narrative (such as historical accounts, folktales, mythologies, canonical books, etc). Experimental process of generation, such as erasure, found text, mistranslation, technological intervention, or other restrictive methods, are especially exciting opportunities to create direct responses to existing narratives by using its own language against itself. The resulting text then becomes the content for my final projects.

The core of my artist book A True & Exact History is an erasure of one of the most formative descriptions of the English Caribbean in the seventeenth Century, Richard Ligon’s 1657 guidebook, “A True and Exact History of Barbadoes.” This project began during March 2016 at a writing residency at Fresh Milk, an art platform in St. George, Barbados, where I encountered Ligon’s book through their Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Using the language, imagery, and thematic drives at the core of this text to disrupt the teleology of colonial Caribbean history, these unbound poetic fragments scattered among a shifting landscape simultaneously re-create and resist narrative as a device of cohesive history, ultimately calling into question what it means to write “a true and exact history” of anything.

Letitia Pratt’s Residency – Final Blog Post

Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt shares her fourth and final blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Letitia’s last week involved a combination of rejoicing over the coming together of her project, conquering her fears to share the fruits of her labour with the public at the FRESH MILK XXI event, and finally being able to breathe, relax, and consider the value of her time spent in Barbados fondly as a growing experience. Read more here:

FRESH MILK XXI – Photo by Dondré Trotman

This week was a time for reaping. It was a time for gathering the spoils of my words and presenting them for consumption. These words are small but they were ripe with potential; in this place, I bore fruit that were heavy with past traumas. They fell into my hand as I walked (in circles) under trees, hands out, waiting for them to fall down on me.

I had to prepare for a presentation of my work on Wednesday, June 28th. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not the greatest of public speakers, and this is something that, quite honestly, scares me a bit. It is the great irony that I got into writing because I did not like speaking in the first place, but here I am, forced to open myself up to a room full of strangers. It is my eight-year-old self’s worst nightmare. Anxiety consumed me as the day approached, and I distracted myself by editing and rewriting my poems. It was a good distraction. I let the hag woman sing her songs to me for relaxation. I settled my racing thoughts with each line of my work.

On Wednesday, I learned that I should project more. As I read the work, I forgot that there were people there, listening. My voice was lost under the weight of the song I sang. Afterward, I was happy to receive kind words from some of the spectators, but I was also made aware that some people (in the back) could not hear me. My speaking voice, I learned, is something I should work on. Overall, though, the presentation went well, and I really enjoyed it! The Fresh Milk team were so supportive of my work and ideas, and really tried to make me comfortable about the event. I was lucky to have them on my side.

My final weekend, as a treat to my hard work, I spent time with my good friends Meghann and Alex who are both here in Barbados for their master’s degrees. They took their time to show me their perspectives of the island, and we enjoyed beaches and movies over the two days I spent with them. It was a wonderful distraction from all of our work! I really enjoyed my time with them; they made me truly consider buying a house that is a ten-minute walk from the beach.

All in all, the experience I had at Fresh Milk was invaluable. I was able to live as a writer for a month, exploring, seeing new things, meeting new people – the people I met here were so kind, so accommodating, and I really thank you all for making me feel at home. And thank you so much for having me, it really was a life-changing opportunity. Thank you Annalee and Katherine for your mentorship. I will always remember my time at the platform as the month I found my words.

Letitia Pratt’s Residency – Third Blog Post

Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt shares her third blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. This week, Letitia took the time to get out of her own head and experience Barbados is different ways to overcome her writer’s block. This exploration, coupled with inspiration gleaned from reading Shivanee Ramlochan‘s ‘Everyone Knows I am a Haunting’ proved to be the breakthrough she needed to continue writing about the folkloric Hag Woman in her poetry. Read more here:

This week, I went exploring. Stir crazy from the isolation of my own head, I decided to give myself a break and travel all over the island. I thought it would be good to do this because I was having trouble formulating the narrative of my poem, and a break was necessary to gather my thoughts.

My week started off with an island tour that Natalie McGuire took Nyugen and I on. We were able to watch the island come alive through her lead. With good company, I allowed the spirit of the island to speak to me. We explored caves and cavernous cliffs that overlooked the sea at the east and north points of the island. It was a beautiful thing to experience, and from the natural beauty of this place, I was able to find some melody to my writing. But it wasn’t quite there yet.

During the week I decided to go walking around in Bridgetown. The bustling activity of the place immediately overwhelmed me. It was quite different from the silent stillness of Walkers Dairy and reminded me of the hullabaloo of Downtown Nassau. Because of this, I found it kind of homey as I walked through the busy crowds that were ambling towards shops. I visited libraries, souvenir shops, produce markets, and stalls on Swan Street. The Bridgetown atmosphere was definitely invigorating, but did not unblock the words I needed for the piece.

Feeling frustrated I confided in Sonia Williams, a Barbadian performance artist, theatre director, writer, and educator in Theatre Arts at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, about the construction of my Hag Woman character. She suggested, because the character was so connected to the woods and trees of her environment, that I immerse myself in the woodsy areas of Barbados for inspiration. So one morning, pulling on my T-Shirt and very long jeans, I ventured into the woodsy trees that surrounded Walkers dairy. The stillness of these woods inspired some of the words for my poem. I was able to indulge in what my protagonist would be able to see when she transforms herself, and her voice came passionately.

When I left the woods I felt reassured. I knew the words were coming. But I needed a bit more help, and Annalee was able to provide some for me. Later on in the day, she gave me a copy of Everybody Knows I am Haunting by Trinidadian writer Shivanee Ramlochan. Her words were vivid enough to fuel dreams and spark my imagination. The story of the Hag Woman comes from the inspiration I gathered from reading this book. It came from those dreams.

After all the exploring, all the reading, my piece began to take on form. I was delighted. Again, I would like to thank Annalee and Katherine for letting me indulge in this amazing experience here at Fresh Milk. The Hag Woman and I are immensely grateful.