A True & Exact History – An Exhibition & Poetry Installation by Sonia Farmer

Fresh Milk is excited for our next public event, an exhibition & panel discussion on 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.

The opening night & artist talk will be held at 6:30 PM, Monday April 30, 2018 at Fresh Milk, Walkers Dairy, St. George, Barbados,  and the exhibition will also be open for viewing on
Tuesday May 1, 2018 between 10 AM – 2 PM.

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

This event is free and open to the public. Directions to Fresh Milk can be found on the About Page of our website here.

RSVP to the event on Facebook here.

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.

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About Sonia Farmer:

Sonia Farmer is a writer, visual artist, and small press publisher who uses letterpress printing, bookbinding, hand-papermaking, and digital projects to build narratives about the Caribbean space. She is the founder of Poinciana Paper Press, a small and independent press located in Nassau, The Bahamas, which produces handmade and limited edition chapbooks of Caribbean literature and promotes the crafts of book arts through workshops and creative collaborations. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout Nassau including at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. She is the author of “Infidelities” (Poinciana Paper Press, 2017) which was longlisted for the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. She has also self-published several chapbooks. Her poetry has won the 2011 Prize in the Small Axe Literary Competition and has appeared in various journals. She holds a BFA in Writing from Pratt Institute and is currently pursuing her MFA studies in Book Arts at the University of Iowa. 

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About Ayesha Gibson-Gill:

Ayesha Gibson-Gill M.A Arts Management (Greenwich), B.A Theatre Studies (Acadia) is a writer, director, actor, drama tutor, arts administrator, producer, former radio announcer, sometime vocalist and always mother.   In 2017 she conceptualized and artistically produced a signal CARIFESTA XIII event, Word for Word- Night of the Literary Masters, along with other literary engagements. She has been the Cultural Officer for Literary Arts at the National Cultural Foundation Barbados since 2012.

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About Tara Inniss:

Tara Inniss is a Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at Cave Hill Campus, The University of the West Indies (UWI). Her focus areas include: history of medicine; history of social policy; and heritage and social development. In 2002-03, she received a Split-Site Commonwealth PhD Scholarship to study at the UWI/University of Manchester. In 2007, she completed a Masters in International Social Development at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Dr. Inniss has served as a delegate for the Government of Barbados on the World Heritage Committee, and was a member of the Research Team which assembled the Nomination Dossier for UNESCO World Heritage Property Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. She currently sits on several committees for the Barbados World Heritage Committee, Barbados Museum and Historical Society and is Secretary-Treasurer of the Association of Caribbean Historians (ACH).

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.

FRESH MILK XXI

The Fresh Milk Art Platform is pleased to invite you to FRESH MILK XXI, taking place on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 from 6:00pm – 8:30pm at Fresh Milk, Walkers Dairy, St. George. This event will feature our two international resident artists for the month of June, US-based interdisciplinary artist Nyugen Smith and Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt.

During his residency at Fresh Milk, Nyugen has been spending time with people who live and work in Barbados, walking the streets of Bridgetown and performing investigative actions on the grounds of Fresh Milk which include video and photo-based projects. Nyugen will engage visitors with a new performance which considers his research on sites charged with memory, synthesizing his experience and findings with his interests in African cosmology.

After this performance, Letitia will give a reading of some of her previous work and the new pieces which have developed during this residency. Letitia’s research and poems in Barbados have been investigating and questioning the ways in which misogyny manifests in the Bahamas and throughout Caribbean, exploring commonalities and differences through Caribbean history and folklore with emphasis on the tale of the ‘Hag Woman’.

The evening will close with an artist talk and Q&A session with Nyugen about both his work in Barbados and his wider practice.

This event is free and open to the public. For directions to Fresh Milk, visit the ‘About Page‘ of our website.

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About Nyugen Smith:

Nyugen Smith (Photo credit: Janice Marin)

Drawing heavily on his West Indian heritage, Nyugen Smith is committed to raising the consciousness of past and present political struggles through his practice which consists of sculpture, installation, video and performance. He is influenced by the conflation of African cultural practices and the residue of European colonial rule in the region. Responding to the legacy of this particular environment, Nyugen’s work considers imperialist practices of oppression, violence and ideological misnomers. While exposing audiences to concealed narratives that distort reality, he destabilizes constructed frameworks from which this conversation is often held.

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 About Letitia Pratt:

Letitia Pratt

Letitia Pratt recently obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the College of the Bahamas. An avid reader of fantastic fiction, most of her writing navigates the existence of black (feminine) bodies within that genre and draws heavily on stories within Bahamian folklore. Her themes often explore the function of art and literature within the Bahamas, and her most recent published work, ‘A Scene (of Two Lovers Contemplating Suicide)‘ discusses the concept of liminality within artwork, and how it’s the ability to occupy multiple spaces creates an active exchange of ideologies.

Dorothea Smartt’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Barbadian-British poet and live artist Dorothea Smartt shares her first blog post, expanding on her time in the Fresh Milk residency programme. With Barbados being Dorothea’s second home, it did not take her long to settle in, connect with the community and begin reaching out to those she hopes to collaborate with, as well as getting to know her fellow resident artist for the month, Danilo Oliveira. Read more below:

I arrived on Thursday, my bruthafren met me at the airport and drove me up to Fresh Milk where we were met by a warm and welcoming Katherine. We followed her car slowly up the pot-holed driveway back out to the main road, driving the short stance to the lodgings. Danilo welcomed me like a an old friend with a shot-glass of smooth premium cachaça, and bonded with my bruthafren over a mutual interest. Next morning, I settled myself into my spacious room, making it my own with a few adjustments to the furniture.

Katherine came to take me grocery shopping. On the way out, a parliament of twenty (I counted) guinea fowls (the Brazilian translates as ‘Angola birds’), leisurely crossed the driveway as Katherine waited for them to cross. It’s been a week of synchronous events. The two best bits of news were that Lauren Craig, one of my collaborators, was coming out later in the week, and would be able to spend some face-to-face time with me here at Fresh Milk. And I was delighted to learn that Iya M. Jacqui Alexander had arrived the same day as me to spend a few days in Barbados, with her former student and my future PhD Supervisor Yanique Hume. It’s been almost 10 years since I saw Jacqui in New York during the last days, death and funeral of my dearest friend and mentor Myrna Ilare Bain – who introduced me to Jacqui and Santeria back in the 1980’s.

Danilo and I shared food, cooking, conversation and XO Mount Gay rum like practised housemates. Iya Jacqui and Yanique came by the studio, and left their good energies singing in the air. The ‘New Partner’ Angel card I’d drawn over the weekend at my bruthafren’s place near the beach, had told me a chance meeting would send me someone who I’d recognise by my “sense of familiarity, comfort, and safety”, “an answer to my prayers.” The cat at the lodgings attached herself to me from my first night. The large African snail slowly crossed our doorway. On her visit, Lauren helped me by organising my video cameras and my old Olympus OM 10, charging them up and checking batteries. Over an early dinner I‘d cooked that morning, I read her a poem-in-progress I’d shared with my potential collaborators. She was particularly drawn to it because it had emerged and was titled for a live art workshop we’d both done in London with Stacey Makishi. ‘Death For Beginners’  is my attempt to write something of the claustrophobia  and censoring of women & girls I experienced growing up in my Bajan house in London and had heard and seen here in Barbados. The characters of Olive Senior’s short story ‘Window’ had provided a (November!) setting.  The Sunday visit to the Farmers’ Market at Holder’s Hill gave me gifts of ‘leaf of life’ and the delight of a stall-holder’s toddler son who had attached himself to me, and was set on helping me with my shopping. He picked small yellow flowers and presented them to me.

The first part of this week I was able to finish and submit a funding application to a fellowship offered by the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at CUNY Grad. Centre. The late night task to meet the deadline created an opportunity to review the impetus and previous Arts Council funded research I intend to build on during my time at Fresh Milk. Phone calls, messages and emails to my artist friends/collaborators will hopefully open the door to their contributions and feedback via Skype/WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger in the coming weeks. I set up a shared Google Calendar.

My weekend back at my bruthafren’s was an opportunity to play, party, dance through the night, re-connect with Bajan poets, freestylers and spoken word artists, and sing karaoke in Holetown after seeing Mannequins in Motion do their fabulous Sunday night show. More signs, as the Angel Card had said. A beautiful Super Full Moon (the closest a full moon has been to the Earth since 1948), playful children, the warm sea off Lower Carlton, and lush countryside of St. George, let me know there’s beauty, love and laughter in this world (now being dumped with Trump as President). Always.

Maferefun Egun. Maferefun Orisha.

Lauren Craig’s Residency- blog post #1

Lauren Craig is a London based multimedia visual artist and Fresh Milk’s current International Residency Artist.  During her time on the platform, she will continue her live performance work, ‘Cleanse‘.

Photograph  by Lauren Craig

Photograph by Lauren Craig

Through ‘Cleanse’, the artist is extending an invitation to the Barbadian public to explore what they no longer need or would like to let go of as well as what they want to keep while exploring the potential for where you want to be. Interactive sessions will examine mental and creative blockages that build up through busy, overworked lifestyles. Because bodies do not discriminate against what information they retain in daily life, Craig says they act as repositories or ‘palettes/palates’ that accumulate everything, becoming overloaded with unnecessary or negative information.

‘Cleanse’ participants will be encouraged to bring objects to their sessions, symbolizing what they want to share. They may also leave objects including drawings, poetry and photography. Participation is not limited to visual artists.‘Cleanse’ will offer a safe environment for participants to engage with Craig.

Sessions will be held at Fresh Milk and are being offered individually or in groups. Appointments for October 28th are already full but openings are available on October 27th, 29th, 30th and 31st from 11 am for one-hour sessions.

The group session will take place on Saturday November 1st between 2 and 4 pm.

Please email the artist at lauren@thinkingflowers.org.uk to make an appointment stating your available dates and preference for group or individual session.

The objects will also be available for viewing by appointment.

For more on Craig’s residency experience, read her first blog post below.

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk I arrived in to Barbados feeling fluey and pretty much run down with blocked ears and a lack of balance. The sea helped me recuperate and settle in to the warm slow waves of the island’s pace. I started my residency a week later and the first days were filled mostly with words and sounds. The things I heard and how they made me want to speak and write was the strongest impulse. I followed that. It’s come together in the hyperlinked text that I am sharing here, making connections with more of what I am seeing. The poem is inspired by something Annalee said about the stud’s job (on the horse farm where the residency flat is located) being just eating and having sex. The studio is a place of words with a beautiful library where I found Kamau Brathwaite’s Barabajan Poems.

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk

There are so many other books I would like to tell you about – maybe later. I’m probably working on too many things at once,  but what is new there? Here is a piece that came about called Formation.

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk

Lauren Craig at Fresh Milk

I want to come back like that

Slow, Sleep, Stalling
Fresh sounds, smells, sights
Swarking birds, Beetles Bright
Green wings jewelled ceiling

Listen the land orders
Managing organising protecting
Security, mahogany speaks
Ginger pressing belly

Scattered butterflies
Ylang Ylang breeze in
My throat, nostrils flare
Pots on the banks

Green Gecko Greeting
Black Birds Vibrating feathers
Wind chiming souls
Elephants ears bow
Climb

Lauren Craig Barbados 2014