art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Calabash 2012: jubilation

Novelist Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple HibiscusHalf of a Yellow Sun and The Thing Around Your Neck (stories) reads on Friday 25, May, at Treasure Beach in front of a packed crowd. (Photo by Andre Bagoo)


The more literary festivals there are in the Caribbean the better and Calabash attracts a devoted, enthusiastic (and large) following, amid the stunning backdrop of Treasure Beach. 

The festival itself was dedicated to Jamaica's 50th Anniversary of Independence. Like the recently concluded Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad, the programme featured a wide range of talent from the Caribbean, the diaspora and all over the world. Readers included Adiche, Jamaican writer and poet Olive Senior, Orlando Patterson, Victor Lavalle and many more.

I also managed to catch excellent readings from several poets including: Jacqueline Bishop; Loretta Collins; Christine Craig; Fred D'Aguiar; Shara McCallum; Anis Mojgani; Claudia Rankine; and Kevin Young.

Olive Senior (far right), author of Dancing Lessons; Kerry Young (Pao), Sadie Jones (The Uninvited Guests) and Melissa Jones (Emily Hudson) (left) pose for photographers after reading on Saturday at Treasure Beach.

The sun sets on Treasure Beach on the last day of the festival as poet Loretta Collins Klobah hands over the original script of The Harder They Come to Perry Henzell's family.


SEE + READ more here. CHECK the Calabash website here.


Seductions of text and object

May 25, 2012, Medulla Art Gallery, Fitt Street, Woodbrook, in collaboration with ARC magazine.

As the name, “Interpretations’ implies the gathering will focus on various perspectives of Thomas-Girvan’s work through a critical, exacting and nurturing framework. Personal connections to her studio practice will be explored along with the various seductions of text and object. The presenters will engage with re-readings of Thomas-Girvan’s work from a literary, philosophical, art historical and liminal perspective. The event will showcase new works by visual artists Jaime Lee Loy and Michelle Isava.

Speakers for the night include writer and scholar Gabrielle Hezekiah, whose work centers on philosophy, visual art and theories of the moving image, short story writer Sharon Millar, co-editor of Robert & Christopher Publishers and Art Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival Melanie Archer, artist and Rhodes Trust Fellow, Marsha Pearce, and Barbadian contemporary artist, educator and cultural activist Annalee Davis.

FIND out more here. READ a review of Jasmine Thomas Girvan's Gardening in the Tropics here.


Pictures from paradise

Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography
(Robert & Christopher Publishers, ISBN: 978-976-95344-7-6, pp.222)

IN THEIR introduction, editors Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown make clear their intentions.

“Pictures from Paradise seeks to examine the ways in which contemporary art photography has evolved within the English-speaking Caribbean, rising beyond idyllic scenes to tackle more intricate issues,” they state.

“Within the past few years, regional artists working with the medium of fine art photography have provided us with an increasingly searching image of the Caribbean and the people who inhabit it. In recognising that the region is not the picture-perfect paradise of traditional depictions, these artists focus instead on what is not easily seen or that which is often ignored – the complex social, racial, political and physical relationships and landscapes that exist within the Caribbean.”

This is a book many have been waiting for. It succeeds — spectacularly — in not only showcasing the work of established and newer artists, but also in going beyond the old clichés of what photography from “the tropics” is thought to be about: building a far more complex picture which makes us stop and think about history and about some of the issues we deal with on a daily basis. Indeed, as the editors suggest, these pictures aim to photograph that which we cannot see or do not wish to see.

READ full review at Newsday here.


A mosaic

What is Caribbean art?: why we need art history, a discussion at the 2012 Bocas Lit Fest


WHO AND what is art for? Is art meant to be seen or experienced? Who is the intended audience? Do artists make work just for the sake of the work; for themselves or for others? Do artists create for a country or a region or an even broader audience? Do they imagine their work speaking to others, speaking after death?

We have to pose these questions when we address another: what is the importance of preserving Caribbean art? (And, by the way, what is Caribbean art?)

A special panel discussion put on at the recent Bocas Lit Fest  at the Old Fire Station Building in Port of Spain addressed the question of the need for art history. The panel, chaired by editor Nicholas Laughlin, included co-author of Art in the Caribbean, Anne Walmsley, artist Christopher Cozier, art teacher Andy Jacob, and cultural studies lecturer Marsha Pearce.

Walmsley spoke about the process of putting together Art in the Caribbean: An Introduction, which she co-authored with artist Stanley Greaves.

"The book is an attempt at chronicling the region's art," she said. "But it is not art history as art history is practicised today. It is a chance to look at work in different ways. I tried to find out more about the artists and their backgrounds. I found there was very little published material at the time." The idea behind the book was to be a kind of gallery or showcase.

"We would have a collection of images in a gallery in a book of reproductions with text alongside each: a visual anthology," she said. "We were very aware that it must be a regional book. It had to be regional. I was aware that we just did not know enough about art in the region. The Caribbean is--to use Christopher Cozier's phrase--an imaginary space. The work is all made here, even though some of the artists work abroad." With so much ground to cover, however, there were challenges.

"The actual selection was incredibly difficult," Walmsley said. "We had to pick work of quality that would repay close study." And work which was also in a form available for publication.

Pearce argued that the book presents a multi-faceted view, like looking through the lense of an insect's "compound eye".

"What you get is a mosaic," she said. "There is not only one lens. I feel that this book attempts that kind of mosaic." At a recap of the discussion published at art magazine ARC's website, she calls for, "a compound way of seeing the Caribbean in relation to artistic practice."

Christopher Cozier, Anne Walmsley and Nicholas Laughlin. Photo by Andre Bagoo.

"A compound eye is that which is made up of many, separate visual receptors.," Pearce writes. "Each receptor has its own lens and each lens catches its own image. A compound eye gives rise to a mosaic image. The more lenses the compound eye has, the higher the resolution or detail of the mosaic image. This compound way of seeing is critical for a space like the Caribbean, which we cannot hope to see and understand with one lens or in a stereoscopic way. Lenses are required in Curacao, St Vincent, Haiti; lenses must be focused in each of the various islands and anywhere else Caribbean people may find themselves: in Asia, in Africa, in Europe, in Brooklyn, in Melbourne. The mosaic image is a re-membering of the various lenses. A compound way of seeing can give us a higher resolution image of what a category, which we might call Caribbean art, looks like." Laughlin also noted that, "No single book is ever definitive."

There was discussion on the possibilities of the internet as providing a digital archive and the differences between seeing work in person, on the printed page and online. Cozier suggests that the internet opens up possibilities and takes on a life of its own.

"All artists are very concerned about the context of how their work is conveyed," he said. "The internet has changed everything. It allows all kinds of secondary genres: it becomes a parallel reality to the physical world." Pearce suggests that web archives address the inaccessibility of regional art.

"There is a glaring invisibility of art-work in the region for students. Students were not aware of art beyond Trinidad and Tobago. There is a need for students to know." Jacob saw no difference between the internet as a medium and printed forms.

"The difference between books and the internet is not that significant," he argued. "I don't think there is anything that is inherently different from the internet and the printed page."


SEE more here. Art in the Caribbean (New Beacon Books, 2010)



ARC magazine and Rodell Warner are up to some magic. SEE more here.

Photos from the launch of Trick Vessels at Bocas Lit Fest

Andre Bagoo, Vahni Capildeo and Nicholas Laughlin, Bocas Lit Fest programme director.
Photo by Rodell Warner. SEE more photos here.


Unforgettable moments from the Bocas Lit Fest

Photo by Rodell Warner

DESPITE the carefully planned build-up, the Bocas Lit Fest still came upon me like a thief in the night. But how happy I am it did! For four days, all of my senses were overwhelmed by riches. The programme had breath, depth and variety and managed to not be dominated by any one single event or person. I was left listless at the end of it: wanting, remembering, thinking and looking forward to more festivals to come. Here is a list of some of my favourite events in random order.

Audience at the Old Fire Station Building
Music ‘From the Old Yard’

One of the most enjoyable highlights this literary festival (and there was an embarrassment of riches), was the premiere of a new piece of music, The Old Yard: Carnival Portraits from Trinidad, composed by Adam Walters, for strings, wind and percussion. The performance, at the UTT Academy for the Performing Arts, featured poems by Muhammad Muwakil and images by the great photographer Maria Nunes. This was a stunning event: the music balanced the meshing of separate themes with an artfully deployed dissonance. The tone was sombre, but not melancholic: the inverse of the exuberance of the music of Carnival. This was a risk which, in my view, worked. The energy and danger of Carnival met with its beauty; there was shade and subversion and understated joy. The final movement was a spectacular battle between two themes, with one subterranean theme gradually, and quite majestically, overwhelming the other. The presence of poetry and the filmic qualities of the slideshow created questions and unexpected relationships. Is poetry not music? Are images poems? Is film both?

Celebrating the 2012 winners

The day after the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize announcement ceremony (a report on which you can find here) the prize-winning writers all read from their work. Novelist Earl Lovelace read a section full of comedy and pathos from Is Just A Movie; Loretta Collins Klobah read from her multi-lingual The Twelve Foot Neon Woman and Godfrey Smith read from his biography George Price: A Life Revealed. The prize having been announced the night before, all of the readers were relaxed and gave fine readings. This was a treat.
Kei Miller and Sharon Leach
Poetry readings!

There were excellent readings from poets all over the region, writing in different styles, including: Kendel Hippolyte, Lasana Sekou, Vladimir Lucien, Fawzia Kane, Nicolette Bethel, Lelawatee Manoo-Rahming, Vahni Capildeo*, Kei Miller, Mervyn Morris, Fred D’Aguiar, Shara McCallum.  The scope and variety made me wonder if poetry is beginning to have an even greater impact on the region’s sense of its literature. Or is it a constant stream through which the region finds expression?

Kendel Hippolyte
Writers also gave remarkable readings including: Sharon Leach, Erna Brodbar, Karen Lord, Rahul Bhattacharya, Joseph O’Neill, Monique Roffey, Rivka Galchen. There were also readings from new writers: Stephen Narain; Sharon Millar (whose piece provoked a strong discussion on the sense of “place” within the work of Caribbean writers) and Rhoda Bharath. One issue both writers and poets discussed in one event was the question of influence and how dangerous the idea of mapping them out can become.

Artist Christopher Cozier, editor Anne Walmsley, and Nicholas Laughlin, Bocas programme director

Pictures from Paradise

Without a doubt Pictures from Paradise is an important book and will go some way to putting photography and the work of photographers/digital artists in its rightful place: the spotlight. The launch event was a buzz of activity.

One day after the book launch there was a reading of poets and writers at Martin’s, a pub/bar in Woodbrook. The energy on the night was palpable and the night was unforgettable because of the hilarious readings from several including Merle Hodge, Earl Lovelace, Colin Robinson and Mervyn Morris.

Midnight robber showdown

The Bookman and Midnight Robbers

The festival featured art from Wendy Nanan’s recent show at Medulla Art Gallery, ‘Books and Stupas’. The show was based on the figure of the Bookman and several pieces found themselves at strategic points all over NALIS. You can read a review here.

By coincidence, the programme featured a Midnight Robber showdown with the likes of Kurtis Gross, Fedon Honore, Johnny Stollmeyer, and Bill Trotman. The robber-talk came alongside some heated discussions throughout the festival, many of which revolved around set themes. One example was the discussion on “What is Caribbean art?: why we need art history.”

There was so much more, more than any list can enumerate. What can be said, though, is that the festival is a vital part of creating room for more dialogue about our region, its writing and its art.

Vahni Capildeo reads EM Roach at Martin's
*who read with me, but more on that here.