My first week at Alice Yard has sped by. I was nervous and excited before coming here, not really knowing what to expect and what was expected of me for my first official residency. Despite Trinidad being a different country than Barbados, the general familiarity of the environment made me feel more comfortable once I arrived here. The Alice Yard space is great - with a small apartment, a studio space, a gallery, lots of general outdoor yard space. Sean Leonard and Nicholas Laughlin welcomed me and have been great to chat to about Trinidad. Christopher Cozier is off at a residency himself and will be back shortly.
The residency has been about finding a balance between spending time in the studio and walking around looking at everything. After being on my list of things to read forever, I am finally reading The Repeating Island by Antonio Benítez-Rojo (somewhat more slowly than usual as, in the heat, I find myself holding the book with my eyes closed - going to hit up the coffee shop this week to read in the AC). Also looking at fiction - currently reading Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique which takes place on St Thomas when it transitions from being a Danish to an American colony- and have my eye on a Nalo Hopkinson next. I have been working on ideas and putting my very rusty drawing hand to work on a few sketches.
|View from the rooftop terrace at Alice Yard|
|Queen's Park Savannah|
I have had the opportunity to meet Marlon James a Jamaican photographer living here, Ashraph Ramsaran from the Frame Shop. a space inna space, and had a bite to eat with Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe from Grenada who I cross paths with every few years in a different country.
I visited The National Museum and Art Gallery, which was what I expected - a mixture of historical, social, economic and natural history. Unfortunately, the fine art section was closed until further notice but the room filled with Cazabon’s drawings, paintings and lithographs was accessible.
Walking around Port of Spain
I went on an Island Hikers walk to Chacachacare Island, which has served as a cotton plantation, a whaling station and a leper colony. There were amazing views from the lighthouse and one could see just how close we were to Venezuela (the two countries were once physically connected). There is a long history of exchange, migration etc with South America both pre- and post-Columbus. One of my grandmother’s sisters moved to Venezuela in the 1930s or early 1940s and then had 8 children so I have a whole set of family in Venezuela that I have never met.
|Venezuela just over there|
Ashraph also took me down to Chaguanas to meet Shalini Seereeram and see her studio. We all went to the Dattatreya Temple and Hanuman Statue, Temple by the Sea and then to Our Lady of Monserrat RC Church and Tortuga's surrounding rolling hills.
|The Lion House made famous in VS Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas|
|Temple by the Sea|
|A sno-cone. Artificial-flavour-on-ice-topped-with-condensed-milk goodness|
|Our Lady of Monserrat RC Church|
|Old postal station in Tortuga|
|A cocoa drying house (no longer functional)|
Moving around, seeing these different sites, is important but still it also feels like I am playing tourist. I wonder about the flaneur-residency model that happens in the art world - how much does it replicate tourism and the power dynamics within that? It does make me consider how one’s position must be negotiated with care.