“September 1, 2019 … the day that the sky opened up and tried to swallow a country.”
– Bernard Ferguson, Hurricane Dorian Was a Climate Injustice, The New Yorker, September 2019
The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) acknowledges the dawning of a new chapter in our country’s history after the passage of Hurricane Dorian. Collectively, we have made a decision to suspend our planned exhibition for the end of the year and rather, extend an open call to our creative community to start a larger conversation on the personal and collective impacts after the passage of the storm.
This new era has led us to explore the mission of the NAGB even further and what it means to be a socially responsible institution in the age of climate crisis. We are a population on ground zero of this transformation, and as we work to regroup, reconcile and rebuild – now and into the future – the NAGB commits to providing a safe space for all who rise within the nation’s borders to heal, to be seen and heard through creating.
In this moment, how can we channel what we do and direct or focus our expertise to support our vulnerable creative communities at this time? How can we continue to keep art relevant and a purposeful conduit of emotion in the wake of this national tragedy? While we have not turned away from difficult
conversations in our exhibitions programme, in this pivotal moment we are asking ourselves how best we can face, fight and articulate this level of loss and still find a space of hope.
“Refuge” is an open call to all artists – irrespective of how your practice is defined – to think about this moment, this tragedy, and use it as therapy or an opportunity to reflect on how we pull ourselves and bring the pieces back together. Our hearts and nation have been splintered, but our spirit is now called to do the important work of healing, and be grounded even deeper in our communities and to our humanity.
Reflections from the frontline will be hard, raw and powerful. And though it will be harder than any difficult conversation that we have been a part of, as the institution works to recover data from Grand Bahama and Abaco-based artists whose lives changed overnight, and from our communities who have lost everything including loved ones, we know this is just the start of an institutional and national awakening.
We acknowledge that this moment is devastating to most – and for some, it might be too soon to think about creating, while for others, not soon enough. In all of it, what we know is that the stories, visions and inspirations emerging in the aftermath and during recovery need to be recorded, seen and witnessed by each other, the nation and the world.
Artists need institutional support now more than ever, including a safe outlet to share their experiences, nightmares, dialogues and thoughts on the future of our vulnerable nation and how we fit into the global schematic, as we deepen our faith to begin to build our future, again.
The frontline of climate injustice knows no colour, creed, national status or import. These natural disasters are great equalizers that force us to look at certain truths about how we build our countries, lives, legislature, policies and relationships. They also speak to us about resilience in the overwhelming and the dynamic stories that have drawn shape in our memories and connect us to the ways in which our ancestors managed survival and the rituals that they have left for us to ponder.
Some are lessons that we have chosen blindly to ignore. These intergenerational stories of heroes and legacies – the survival stories that mark our memories – give us room to think about our future in spite of catastrophe. In this moment we call upon our creative community to resuscitate that spirit of healing, to commune with this loss, to sit with our blood, bones and ancestors to unearth the survival stories that have been a long-standing part of our collective DNA.
Within the losses – cultural, personal and otherwise – we are forced to reckon with some of these questions, though there are many others that won’t be shared here:
+ What stories are you now creating for the future?
+ What does “home” mean when you are displaced? What does home mean when your home is increasingly untenable/unsustainable or no longer exists?
+ How are you using spiritual practices to move through grief, trauma and this national time of mourning?
+ What does climate change and climate injustice mean to you, and to a nation and population at sea level?
+ What are the ethics involved around rebuilding? Is going “Green” enough?
+ What creative and innovative ideas need to come into place for Bahamians and others who seek respite and residence here, to thrive during this healing and rebuilding process?
+ Do neocolonial systems of foreign direct investment impact recovery positively?
+ How are you using your voice to advocate for the future?
+ How are you advocating for the environment?
+ How are you defending and protecting those that continue to be stateless?
+ Lastly, these questions might be the last thing on your mind. As you recover, we want you to know that we will be making space for your inquiries and explorations.
+ Do you have questions for the NAGB?
Please note that creatives of all disciplines and backgrounds, regardless of origin or nationality, will be considered. Special consideration and support is being given to selected artists from Grand Bahama and Abaco, especially the displaced. Proposals need not be finished works, but a portfolio of past works will be necessary to give an idea of your practice.
If you are struggling after Dorian to get your practice off the ground because of material losses or displacement, please reach out to our curatorial department via Assistant Curator Natalie Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposals can be submitted through our online portal at nagb.org.bs.