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.
Writing is not something I have ever done for myself. There has always been an assignment, an application or a job providing the catalyst for me to flip the switch in my mind from visual to literary. As such, I have never presumed myself worthy of the title of writer, despite how much I enjoy the process. A title can often grow to become part of your identity. I could not, in good conscience, claim one that I had not had the courage to actively pursue…until now.
While I am not yet ready to claim the title, perhaps I will gain new perspectives by the end of this residency. For now, I will just embrace the joy of being able to write for myself.
My first week as the first Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Resident at Fresh Milk was liberating. There is a peculiar kind of freedom that comes with having a vast expanse of knowledge at your fingertips and a vast amount of time with which you can peruse it all. It is somewhat akin to living while time stands still. The construct of days and hours lose all meaning. The change in time now only marked by the end of a chapter, the occasional pang of hunger, and the draw of my bed as the light shifts gradually darker in the sky. Throughout that time only one thought occupied my mind: How to Escape from Paradise.
The irony of the topic of my research was never lost on me the many times I laid in the hammock strung up just outside the studio, basking in the breeze and lush foliage, with one of the many books I felt compelled to read nestled in my hands. It has been a near constant topic on my mind since the final year of my studio art degree, two years ago, when I wrote on it as part of an assignment for Ewan Atkinson’s Contemporary Issues class. It almost seems like it was an inevitability that I would confront it again after he suggested that I would be interested in applying to this residency.
Initially, I was a bit apprehensive when approaching the topic. It had been ruminating around in my head for two years and I was nowhere closer to being able to translate my jumble of thoughts into something tangible. Moreover, I had somehow convinced myself that the topic was limited and there were not many avenues down which I could pursue my ideas. I was proven wrong within the first few moments of stepping foot in the studio. Before I even fully unpacked, Annalee graciously provided me with many starting points and perspectives that gradually turned into large stacks of books on my desk as the week progressed. While the jumble of information in my head did increase, the breadth of my understanding deepened and the constraints I had unwittingly placed on the topic, fell away to make room for new pathways I will enjoy exploring in the coming weeks.
One of my goals for this first week was to delve into the Colleen Lewis Reading Room Collection and engage with books that caught even an ounce my interest. I wanted to start with an open mind. My next goal was to explore the vibrant surroundings I found myself in and feed off of the tropical energy I’m attempting to translate into words. My final goal was to develop a structure for what I plan on writing throughout the residency.
The first goal was met within moments of the start, while the last two came to be on the last day of the first week: Annalee had just suggested I read a piece by Colleen Lewis, the namesake of the residency and very reason I found myself sitting amongst her treasured books. She rummaged around the shelves until she found “Pictoral Depictions of the West Indian Landscape in the 18th Century and Early 19th Century: The Sublime, The Picturesque, The Romantic” in the fiftieth volume of the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society and placed it in my hands. Within moments, her vivid descriptions of the history and form of the earliest means of paradise marketing in the Caribbean had me yearning to consume the words surrounded by all that she spoke of. I immediately grabbed the journal and said my brief farewells to Annalee and Ethan as I strode out of the studio with a fierce purpose. Seconds later I was back to grab my pen and notebook. It had taken me a moment to realize that the intense familiar calling I felt was inspiration. A couple hours and a few heated conversations with some cows later, I was back in the studio. I felt accomplished. I had not only come up with a structure for what I plan to write, but the walk and Colleen’s words in the journal had helped to solidify two years-worth of jumbled thoughts in my mind. I could finally start to see the form my visual work, under the same topic, will take.
The next following weeks will find me exploring:
- The link between Paradise and Escape
- The methods and motivations behind the creation of the Caribbean as a Paradise
- The realities that have paralleled the Paradise throughout the centuries
- Paradise as an exotic escapist destination
- The physical aspects of Paradise as a tool for escape and concealment, as seen with the Maroon societies, runaway slaves and escaped prisoners in more modern times.
- Paradise as a prison, for indentured laborers and slaves
- Paradise as a banal reality for those who live within its lush bounds and the means by which they indulge in their escapist fantasies.
It was a great first week. I can’t wait to begin the next!
My favourite part about making plans has always been witnessing the innumerable ways life will set them off course. The futility of it all and the sense of powerlessness it instigates is nothing compared to the exhilarating sense of serendipity that just overwhelms every derailed plan. This is the state in which my week progressed.
I ended the first week with a clear vision in mind for the goals I was planning to achieve during my second week at the Colleen Lewis Research/Writing residency. I had planned to get a start on writing and tackle some of the topics I had narrowed down. Life had other plans for me. Monday morning I pitched my idea for my community outreach, and the rest of the week went by in a blur of activity, excitability and camaraderie: One moment you could find us chilling on the studio floor with Ewan, as he shared his work with us. The next I was beating everyone at Ewan’s “unwinnable” game Peregrination. There was the invention of our “fish cake crawl” and its strict judging criteria. Our visit to the opening of The Enigma of Arrival -The Politics and Poetics of Caribbean Migration to Britain at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society and our hyped up selfie session. It was a dynamic week.
When I wasn’t off learning and bonding, I planned and prepared for my workshop I called ‘The Time Capsule Project’. Geared toward the class 4 students who will soon be leaving Workman’s Primary School, I thought it would be both a fun and important exercise to create a digital time capsule with them. We are all shaped by our histories. Our past memories, decisions, interactions and tales are the building blocks that form our foundations and influence our personalities, and inform our futures. History is something to be respected, cherished and most importantly, documented. Who better to chronicle the stories of a time than those living in it?
Friday morning I arrived at Workman’s Primary with Ark and Ethan, who had agreed to help me out. We were escorted to a classroom and I greeted the kids the only courteous way you should approach children forced to sit in a classroom all day: with snacks – more specifically Shirley Biscuits. I played them my stop motion animation,“HOME”, in which the little house from a Shirley biscuit traverses obstacles in an effort to find its way home. It was an example to show them how I chose to record my personal history. What followed was a brief chat on the importance of documenting their personal histories and memories, during which they shared with me the best memories they have from their time at Primary School. Using the cameras donated by a past Fresh Milk resident, I set them free and they spent the next couple hours playing, exploring and capturing whatever they deemed most important.
I won’t say what I foresee for this upcoming week. Regardless of what happens, I’m sure it will be an enjoyable one. I do hope that I will get more reading and writing in though…I really miss my hammock time.
Creative writing has been a big fear of mine for a long time. I remember it being something I fearlessly enjoyed once, but that time passed so long ago I can barely remember the words I wrote and the feelings they conjured within me. It has been so long that I don’t even know where to find the stories, and if I did, the papers would probably be in tatters, darkened and consumed by time. So many years have passed since then that it almost feels like another person’s story; another person’s path not taken. But the best thing about life, at least mine, is that the path is hardly ever straight and easy. There are steep inclines, rugged terrains and winding roads that if you’re lucky, wind back around to give you a second chance at exploring a previously untrodden path.
This unfamiliar journey started with this residency. I spent the first couple weeks researching for a critical essay that I hoped would inform my visual work. It was what I had planned to do, it was what I felt comfortable with, having written strictly academically for the last few years. It was the safe option. However deep down, something just felt a little off. Residencies are supposed to push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to explore and experiment – something I love to do – but I was resisting it. It has been a long time since I’ve felt truly afraid to do something creative.
My visual work still scares me, and I hope it never stops. Having to learn and discover, fail and adapt is what excites me. Yet, while that has become a fear I have learned to embrace and use as fuel to push my visual practice, this fear is as yet uncharted. There is no evidence that the failures I’ll endure along this path will result in something fruitful. It has not yet proven itself to me, nor have I proven myself to it. It is my hope that this confrontation will clear the way for a bridge between my visual and literary work. I love combining different techniques and art-forms in what I create, and the challenge of merging both of these worlds into one thrills me. Sonia Farmer’s “A True and Exact History” stands on that bridge. The fusing of visual, tactile and literal is simply breathtaking and stole away much of my time this week.
This third chapter has been packed full of reading, thinking, creating and socializing. I’ve walked and explored with Ethan and Ark and stood beside them at Dr. Clyde Cave’s house for the vibrant yet relaxed evening he hosted for us, amongst his incredible art collection. I returned to Workman’s Primary to show them the video they shot and give them copies. Ethan’s collage workshop on Wednesday was a fun experience that allowed me to tackle my topic in a lighthearted way without the pressures I usually inadvertently place upon the process of creating. It was a breath of fresh air just being able to enjoy the act of making without all the strings that somehow get attached along the path of being an artist. Perhaps it was the reminder of that feeling that made me finally agree to confront my fears to write creatively. It is a feeling I must remember in the final week as I commit to setting pen to paper.
This last week was stressful. I spent the entire time completely dreading Friday night, when we would have to read what we wrote in front of people. It wasn’t the public speaking that bothered me. That is a necessary evil in life. I just had no idea what I would write. I tried for days, and I ran myself around in circles. Ideas would fly out of my brain, imprint themselves on a page and just as soon disappear when I scrapped them. I was embodying a clichéd rendering of writer’s block.
Eventually, I settled on a concept. I was spending a lot of time researching ‘How to Escape from Paradise’ and I knew I wanted to write something from the perspective of the island. When I thought of all the possible instances from history I could reference, there were so many players and so much turbulence and trauma surrounding them that it seemed like the island was having a series of terrible relationships. Initially, I was only going to have the island reminiscing about her past paramours, but the voices of her current lovers kept invading my mind. This is how “A Paradise Escape?” was born. I read the part of the citizen, and with the help of Ethan reading the tourist and my mother, Donna, reading the Island, we performed the piece.
While most of the week had me in a panic, the beginning was amazing. We had a town-adventure day and visited Israel Mapp at the incredible Union Collaborative space and Kraig Yearwood in the midst of setting up his installation “Retro-Future Landscapes” in Norman Centre. It is inspiring every time I witness contemporary art purposefully intertwined with everyday public life. Our adventure day was no letdown. Creativity ran rampant, in tune with the frenzied pulse of the city. The perfect day ended in much the same fashion. We sat upstairs Norman Centre, looking down at the city as we ate some delicious vegan food, family style.
I couldn’t have asked for a better final week. While it did incite a massive amount of stress, it also helped me get over the mental creative block I have had for a while. There’s nothing like the threat of public embarrassment to light a fire under your ass. I’m still humming from the thrill of that experience. So much so that I’ve now found myself back at Fresh Milk for another week, keeping Ark company as they finish up their final week.
My work for this time isn’t going to be strictly literary. I loved the way the performative-like presentation of “A Paradise Escape?” left room for me to incorporate this and other future literary works into my visual practice. This is what I’ll be experimenting with in my bonus week at Fresh Milk and back in my space in the time to come. But it hasn’t all been work. The stress of the last week really made me crave curling up with a good book. Earlier in the residency, Annalee had placed a copy of Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” on my desk, telling me it was one of Colleen’s favourite books. It’s certainly been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and seemed like the perfect way to end off my time as the inaugural Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Resident. The addition of the beautiful, sweetheart Roo made it impossibly better.
I didn’t know how much I needed this residency until it came. The peaceful surroundings were a great escape from the bustle of my everyday life in the city, but it was the camaraderie that made it a truly unforgettable experience. Spending time connecting with Ethan, Ark, Katherine and Annalee has been healing in a way that’s as vital as it was unexpected. While I have been in the company of people who have encouraged my writing before, I have never been in a space so devoted to celebrating literature. It made me distinctly aware of how much I rely on the visual to translate my experiences, and how out of my comfort zone I was. It was great to be pushed. I’ve felt my perspectives broadening each day in the last few weeks. It almost feels like I have developed a new way of seeing…of being. I’m excited to explore this new addition to myself and see where it takes me. I’m sure it’ll be somewhere I could never imagine.
Thank you to all who made this journey possible. You are appreciated in ways I can’t express.