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.

Open Call: The NCF and Fresh Milk Emerging Directors Residency 2017

The National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and the Fresh Milk Art Platform are pleased to share an open call for the Emerging Directors Residency 2017. Launched for the first time last year, this exciting programme is a paid artist residency for early career theatre directors, which will provide them with an opportunity to conduct much needed research into Caribbean theatre heritage and to explore and create through theatre form and style.

One residency will be offered for one emerging Barbadian director, who will receive a stipend of $1,000.00 BBD. The residency will be based at the Fresh Milk studio in Walkers, St. George, and will run for a 50 hour period which the resident must complete over five weeks, between October 2nd – November 3rd, 2017. The deadline for applications is July 27, 2017.

The selected resident will be mentored over the course of the programme by a noted Caribbean Director and, at the close of the period, will present by way of an intimate, private showcase with their actors and specially invited theatre professionals, aspects of the work they have been exploring.

Rationale:

Residency programmes afford professionals time and space away from the demands of daily work life to carry out much needed professional development, with the emphasis on process rather than necessarily having the pressure of producing a finished body of work. Outside of traditional longer term training, a paid residency allows artists time for contemplative study and exploration. In the Barbadian context, there is much focus on the training of performers, however there are considerably fewer opportunities for those theatre artists with a special interest in directing to hone and develop their skills. Highly skilled, culturally aware and visionary directors are needed, as we move nationally to advance our cultural industries sector, and to enrich the quality of small and large scale staged events, whether drama, music, dance, or indeed multimedia events.

Greater awareness of Barbadian/Caribbean theatre form and style will serve to enhance the ideological and interpretive output of those up and coming directors on the local theatre scene, and equip them to create work that consciously and profoundly engages with Barbadian tradition. ‘Emerging Directors Residency’ offers an opportunity to design and apply staging concepts for ‘alternative spaces’, i.e. the “site-specific”, and otherwise environmental concept. It offers mentorship, access to archival material, and affords time for creativity.

Eligibility:

The ideal candidate should be a trained Barbadian theatre artist, who has directed between 1 and 4 plays.

Duration of Programme:

50 hours to be undertaken between October 2nd – November 3rd, 2017.

*Please note that your application must include a timeline mapping out your use of the set 50 hour period. While access to the Fresh Milk studio may be granted in addition to this timetable which may inform the work, it would be considered as work done outside of the parameters of the residency

Application process:

Prospective candidates can apply with the completed application form (which includes a bio/artist statement, project proposal and detailed timetable outlining the 50-hours of the residency, and can be downloaded here), full CV and portfolio, writing samples from your director’s notebook and 2-3 critical (newspaper, peer or academic) reviews of recent work to the National Cultural Foundation, Theatre Arts Office at the email address lisa-cumberbatch@ncf.bb before midnight on Thursday, July 27th, 2017. They will be interviewed by a panel comprising NCF and Fresh Milk officials.

The successful candidate for the residency will be offered a stipend of $1,000.00 BBD. The mentor will spend 10 hours in total with the resident over each 50 hour residency. The resident will have access to two actors for 15 hours to experiment and/or create work. At the end of the residency period, there will be a short, private showcase where the resident can share aspects of the work they have been contemplating with a small audience of invited theatre professionals.

Expectations:

In addition to the 50 hours spent at Fresh Milk, each resident will be required to keep a weekly blog of text and images documenting their thoughts and processes which will be shared on the Fresh Milk website. At the close of the residency, each resident will also be required to submit a report according to Fresh Milk and the NCF’s guidelines.

Letitia Pratt’s Residency – Second Blog Post

Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt shares her second blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Continuing her research into Caribbean folklore, particularly the tale of the ‘Hag Woman’, Letitia is beginning to find a voice for the character she’s exploring, as well as drawing connections between folklore and trauma in the region – a thought fleshed out during a visit with acclaimed Barbadian author Karen Lord. Read more below:

This week went by as quickly as it came as I further explored my project. I found myself deep in search for the Hag Woman’s voice. The words were coming, yes, but trickling slowly. This character is taking her time forming herself, and I am letting her take all the time she needs! I spent most of my days at the studio, sketching her out in my mind. She forms like a cloud, and I reach for her, but she disappears between the cracks of my fingers. Needless to say, this project is taking quite a while to materialize.

As I continued working, I contemplated the effects of trauma on my protagonist. Last week I thought about the silencing of feminine experiences under the patriarchy and I thought I’d make it a goal this week to tap into the communal trauma that this fosters. The Hag Woman, while tapping into the powers of her femininity, is responding to this trauma.

These thoughts were inspired by my sit down with Karen Lord (who was gracious enough to do so and learn me some things) who offered an interesting perspective on folklore and trauma. Trauma inspires folklore, and while some draws from spiritual roots, they are responses of a community to explain a shared traumatic experience. What this conversation prompted me to think of is what trauma could inspire a story about a lady who strips her skin at night and terrorizes the town.

I am still developing this idea and by no means is this project complete. Currently, it is not only responding to the traumatic silencing women face because of the patriarchy, but it is also growing in the direction of responding to the specific type of misogyny that black women endure because of their own blackness. This is a community of people that experiences a particular type of misogynistic violence on the basis of their skin. Consequently, I want my protagonist to embrace the power of her skin: instead of “running away” from it, she uses it as a tool to absorb her power (sunlight) so that she can transform into a glorious ball of fire during the nighttime.

This project will take a little more time than I imagined to complete itself (I came here with a plan, I promise) but fortunately, I have the brilliant company of Katherine and Annalee to discuss these ideas with. Even more fortunate is that I have the solitude of the studio, where my thoughts have all the time in the world.

Letitia Pratt’s Residency – First Blog Post

Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Letitia speaks of feeling a particular, loaded spiritual energy in Barbados, which she is responding to in her work while also conducting research around Caribbean myths and folklore, finding that she is being influenced in unexpected ways. Read more below:

This Fresh Milk Residency that I was awarded is truly an invaluable opportunity, and I am immensely grateful to be here. When I received the acceptance letter, I knew its weight would be something that haunted me if I decided to let this residency slip through my fingers. So I prepared to make this trip, driven by the…feeling that this June, this residency is where I am supposed to be.

As I landed in Barbados late Sunday afternoon, I was immediately overwhelmed by the spiritual energy of this place. It was bright and rushed over me like rain water. I came here intending to write poems of a woman and her lover, but I am letting the piece run away with the aura of this island. I let it go freely, allowing the words to find themselves on their own, and soon, my protagonist began to show herself to me.

The poetic narrative that I am writing centers around a Hag Woman (or the Ole-Higue, the Soucouyant, the Loogaroo) that my grandmother told me stories of just to frighten me as a child. Prior to my arrival here, my research on this character focused primarily on what the legend meant to Bahamian women in particular. However, as she found her words, the character began to reflect the feminine resistance to the silencing that patriarchal religions (read: Christianity) have enforced on African women over centuries of colonization. I began researching the religious origins of her story and discovered that the Hag character is a woman who holds great spiritual power. It is appropriate, then, that I write of this woman in a place that is enveloped in great spiritual energy.

The misogyny reflected in the relationship between the woman and her lover, then, intensifies if one considers the religious (read: Christian) demonization of the feminine. The Hag Woman’s reputation reflects the effort of the patriarchy to proclaim that non-Christian feminine religious symbols and people (i.e. cats, witches) are inherently evil. Presently, I am still researching the religious role of the Hag character in African religion, and every so often, Katherine or Annalee would silently place a book on Caribbean myths and religions beside me as I am lost in thought about the Hag Woman and her words.

Katherine and Annalee have been so helpful and accommodating during my welcome here that I hardly realized that the week went by. I am thankful for their support and really admire the artistic community that they have created here at Fresh Milk. Hopefully, the wisdom that I gain here from them both, the other artists, and the spirits of this place will be reflected in the piece as I write.

Nyugen Smith’s Residency – Second Blog Post

US-based interdisciplinary artist Nyugen Smith shares a second blog post about his time at Fresh Milk. Continuing to respond to the environment, a trip to the beach and an encounter with the power of the ocean inspired awe and reflection from Nyugen. He has also begun to make work around the history of the plantation, paying respect to the enslaved Africans that once lived and suffered on these grounds. Read more below:

Day 4

Thinking about the trip to the sea on Sunday and what it taught me. The water was warm and the sun was out but it wasn’t incredibly hot. I learned more Barbados history, learned about the plant life that is beginning to emerge in former cane fields and learned that “The sea has no back door.”

The wave was on on its way. I was alerted with a calm, “watch out.” I saw it coming and did what I could to prepare. It wasn’t enough. With little effort, the element enveloped my waist and shared with me a taste of its power and might. I can swim, but at that time was glad I was close to the shore. “You will respect me,” I think I heard it say. I am carrying that with me for the rest of my days.

POWER and MIGHT.
All around
from the sound of the wind
to the vibes in the ground
what’s that sound
heard over my heart pound?

Ficus call I
and I say,
Hey, Natty Natty
Cosmic Candomblé.

No play play
called here.
Come,
leh we reason,
in moonlight
and broad day
basket full
open season.

——————————

 

Last night I worked, making images on the area of the property where the AIR flat is situated. The series is a reflection on the enslaved Africans and their descendants who once lived, labored, and died on this land. As I worked under moonlight, many magical moments happened, most of which occurred when I incorporated the light I carried with me. The way the light spread across my performance garments and covered a small area surrounding my body added unexpected layers of meaning to the work of which I am still unpacking. Here is one image from the series.

A larger selection can be found here…

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This residency is supported by the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts