|Embah's Bat, 2015, mixed media|
Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night
-DH Lawrence, ‘Bat’
THE BLUE devil is nothing without someone to terrorize. Take the audience away, and that menacing flame has little purpose. But this is not the case with the bat. Of all the Carnival characters, it is the one you can imagine standing in splendor on an empty street.
Ashraph’s Bat Show also reminds us how the details make a difference. For example, change the footwear on the bat, and you have an entirely different creature altogether. Consider Jackie Hinkson’s drawings showing the bat wearing office shoes (as they once did) before going barefoot.
|Jackie Hinkson, 2016, indian ink|
Peter Minshall, once described the bat as, “the most kinetic and alive of all traditional forms. I took him apart and put him back together again, and tried to find out how to make the cloth dance.” He also stated:
The Bat was right for the ‘50s, he’s quaint now because his competition really is Darth Vader. Today it’s movies, television. So we have to learn what the Bat or Robber teaches us – about dancing the mas, about mobility – and not just re-create them, but find their contemporary equivalents.
(from Carnival: Culture in Action: the Trinidad Experience, pp. 116-117)The pieces assembled for Bat Show give us the bat in various guises.
Hinkson’s ink drawings show us the bat as though in private moments, rehearsing. Adele Todd stitches bits of bat wings to linen. The late Embah’s bat objects perch like guinea owls in a corner. Peter Doig transfigures them into costumed men. (In Morning, Paramin, Derek Walcott pens a poem in response to Doig’s earlier Man Dressed as Bat (Night), 2008.) In another corner, Che Lovelace paints a poem of movement. Ashraph gives us bat studies with the bat’s watery, sensuous wings enclosing glittery bellies. There is a painting by Leo Basso, Bats dancing in the streets, which disrupts our perspective. An entire avenue is warped. The bats take over.
But it is Paul Kain who paints a bat on the prowl, in the middle of a disco. We can see this bat on the dancefloor: he needs no audience, though we are glad to fall beneath his gaze.
The Frame Shop, Woodbrook.