UK-based artists of Caribbean heritage, Umi Baden-Powell and Hannah Catherine Jones, share their first blog post about their Fresh Milk artist residency. Umi & Hannah have taken the first week to acclimatise to the environment in Barbados and on Walkers Dairy where Fresh Milk is situated, as well as to connect both literally and spiritually with their family and ancestors in the region. This situating of themselves, along with the research they are conducting, feeds their collaborative ‘Ancestral Architecture’ project, revolving during this residency around the decolonisation of rum. To learn more, come to their first community session this Thursday, November 16th, from 6-9 at Fresh Milk:
Ancestral Architecture (AA) is a recently founded collective agency led by Umi Baden-Powell and Hannah Catherine Jones intended to generate positive creative responses and conversations surrounding decolonisation, and healing for the African Diaspora. At Fresh Milk, AA will be utilising “decolonized” bush rum (the transformation of rum with African herbs and spices) as metaphorical and literal fluid vehicle to connect with and heal concepts associated with displacement.
Our first week has been spent acclimatising physiologically to life on Walker’s Dairy (a former plantation), researching and engaging with the wider community of Fresh Milk and exploring the island in general.
Our intention as Ancestral Architecture is to construct and consolidate links with existing, emerging and dormant descendants, literally and metaphorically. This has been enacted through visiting Hannah’s Bajan family connecting with and meeting mutual friends (of friends) and forming new bonds along the way.
Despite the immediacy of digital “closeness” (predominantly enabled through social networks) Diasporic communities are becoming increasingly fractured.
Ancestral Architecture is about connecting and maintaining unity of family, no matter how dispersed.
The Transoceanic Visual Exchange (TVE) screening at Fresh Milk was a potent evening of formal and informal discussion that enlightened us to the possibilities of the Fresh Milk community and beyond.
Exploring the island by bike has been a refreshing way to appreciate Bim’s breathtaking beauty, although international rumours that Barbados is flat have been quashed:
Our research this week has focussed on:
- the slave plantations, particularly Bayley’s Plantation – the site of Bussa’s Rebellion in 1816.
- expanding knowledge of Bajan flora and fauna in preparation for our rum production on site. Experiments have begun with Dominican cask rum infused with pwev, sensitiva and carpenter grass.
- completing all the necessary invisible labour of administrative tasks, liaising with museums and rum factories for site visits, scheduling talks/workshops at Barbados Community College’s Art and Music departments and planning our first AA meeting.
The first week has already been a potent journey of connection with and expansion of our ancestral links through social, geographical and spiritual experiences. Binaries connect and facilitate a more “whole” understanding of our ancestral architecture. The simple activity of feeling the force of the wind hurtling across Atlantic Ocean, the collision of warm air and human body provoking new kinds of comprehension. Something poetic becoming harrowingly pragmatic; this natural “trade” wind being the key geopolitical condition that resulted in our ancestors being transported these lands.
We hugely anticipate our first Ancestral Architecture session in week 2.