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

Pascale Faublas’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the third 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 focuses this week on interactions with fellow creatives, cultural practitioners and spiritual women, who have inspired the creation of new pieces during her time in the studio. This programme is supported by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFDC) and the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL). Read more below:


En français

Semaine 3

Partager le  Fresh Milk studio avec Aliyah Hasinah , une écrivaine trentenaire, commissaire d’art contemporain , de parents de la Barbades et de la Jamaique , qui vit et travaille à Londres ; a été l’occasion  pour nous de nombreuses discussions , notamment sur les sujets se rapportant à la condition féminine. Avec elle, j’ai pu donc découvrir le concept de Pop féminisme . Un féminisme  contemporain, subversif, qui campe une femme confiante, assumant son corps et sa sexualité, une femme sujet de son destin.

Ainsi est née Fanm se Poto Mitan #1.

Grace à la mise en contact  par Annalee Davis ,  j’ai pu , au courant de cette troisième semaine de résidence à FreshMilk , rencontrer trois Fanm Poto Mitan , d’age mur, d’origine caribéenne ( St. Vincent et Jamaïque) , qui résident et travaillent en Barbade.  Toutes les trois des êtres spirituels ( Manbo ou initiée, diplômée dans des domaines créatifs et de développement culturels ou social.

  1. Dr. Yanique Hume: Manbo, danseuse chorégraphe , chercheuse en anthropologie culturelle, études et performances avec un focus sur la Caraïbes, l’Amérique latine et la diaspora africaine.
  2. Ireka Jelani: Manbo, médecin traditionnel, entrepreneure et directrice de sa compagnie de vannerie Roots and Grasses, une plasticienne et  étudiante doctorante a l’université des West Indies.
  3. Taitu Heron: écrivaine et Directrice de la faculté  Women and Development  de l’université des West Indies.

Avec elles j’ai pu découvrir  non seulement la Barbade mais aussi  l’existence d’une  Caraïbe anglophone et l’étroite connexion (économique, sociale, culturelle) entre les différentes iles qui la composent. Nous avons pu discuter de la condition des femmes et des filles, discuter des  différences et ressemblances culturelles entre Haïti et cette caraïbe anglophone et de la nécessite de construire des liens pouvant unifier la grande Caraïbes.

Fanm se Kajou est née de ces passionnantes rencontres.


In English

Week 3

Sharing the Fresh Milk studio with Aliyah Hasinah, a 30-something writer and curator of contemporary art living and working in London and whose parents are from Barbados and Jamaica, was the occasion for many discussions; especially on matters relating to the status of women. With her, I was able to discover the concept of Pop Feminism – a contemporary, subversive feminism, which encapsulates a confident woman, assuming her body and her sexuality, a woman subject to her destiny.

Thus was born Fanm se Poto Mitan # 1.

Thanks to the contacts made by Annalee Davis, I was able during this third week of residency at Fresh Milk, to meet three Fanm Poto Mitans, middle aged and of Caribbean origin (St. Vincent and Jamaica), who reside and work in Barbados. All three are spiritual beings (Manbo or initiate, graduate in creative fields and cultural or social development).

1. Dr. Yanique Hume: Manbo, dancer, choreographer, researcher in cultural anthropology, studies and performances with a focus on the Caribbean, Latin America and the African diaspora.
2. Ireka Jelani: Manbo, traditional doctor, entrepreneur and director of her basketry company Roots and Grasses, plastic artist and doctoral student at the University of the West Indies.
3. Taitu Heron: Writer and Director of the Women and Development Faculty of the University of the West Indies.

With them I was able to discover not only Barbados, but also the existence of an English-speaking Caribbean and the close connection (economic, social, cultural) between the different islands that make it up. We were able to discuss the condition of women and girls, discuss the differences and cultural similarities between Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean, and the need to build links that can unify the greater Caribbean.

Fanm se Kajou was born from these fascinating encounters.


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.