After Hurricane Dorian’s historic landfall, a general understanding swept through the archipelago. Bahamians far and wide understood that we would have to dedicate ourselves, our resources and our talents to help restore the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. Since the “all clear” was given for first responders and other aid-givers to travel to the islands, relief work poured in. While traditional donations and volunteerism occurred, innovative humanitarian efforts of all kinds were conceived and enacted to assist ongoing relief efforts.
One event in particular was Bahama Haus, organized and curated by Jennifer Snow Nayak, featured during Art Ft. Lauderdale. Art Ft. Lauderdale opened on Thursday, January 23, 2020 and ran through Sunday, January 26, 2020, and featured Bahama Haus, “a unique art project and partnership with Ministry of Tourism Bahamas, sponsors and collectors Argus Advisors, legal, financial services provider and fine arts collection, based in Freeport”, as stated by abc7.com.
Laurie Tuchel, an American artist living on Grand Bahama, gave us insight on her experience participating in this display.
“Bahamas Haus was a positive opportunity to bring together visual artists from Grand Bahama as a collective to the United States, an opportunity which hasn’t happened in over 20 years,” said Tuchel. “We were able to tell the island’s story to a new audience.
“The outside world knows very little of Grand Bahama. The exhibition became an opportunity to bring the story of the devastating hurricane to people in a way that opened conversation and made it personal.
“It was also an opportunity to talk about the beauty and charm of the island in general. All visitors to the Haus engaged with the artists by taking the time to really look at our work and to talk to us about our island stories.
“Grand Bahama’s story should be encouraged and helped in taking its narrative to a wider audience. The artist community has a story to tell and it should be heard. So much of life, history and culture has been wiped out. Through the visual arts, it can be brought back or at the least, its memory preserved for the greater community.”
This exhibition on the water brought together artists such as Caroline Anderson, Chantal Bethel, Paula Boyd-Farrington, Lisa Codella, Claudette Dean, Greg Farrington, Del Foxton, Sheldon Saint, Tuchel, Lyndah Wells, Matthew Wildgoose and Jennifer Williams-Wiegand.
Although exhibiting artwork outside of the conventional gallery space may seem shocking to some, Chantal Bethel, a Grand Bahamian artist, voiced that this fundraising initiative “allowed [her] to exhale after the storm”. With a focus on resilience, Bahama Haus centralized the needs of the Grand Bahama Children’s Home.
Bethel communicated, “It (Bahama Haus) would benefit the Grand Bahama Children’s Home, which was destroyed by [Hurricane] Dorian. The children were all rescued and moved to Nassau while the home is being repaired. I believe it is still a work in progress. I was pleased with the choice of the home as the beneficiary as my exhibition and book launch held at Hillside in November  did benefit the Children’s Home as well.”
Just like the Grand Bahama Children’s Home, communities and families within Abaco and Grand Bahama still need assistance. Even though the nation is five months post-Dorian, creative, out-of-the-box and continuous efforts are necessary to further alleviate the weight of this national tragedy. Some of the participants of Bahama Haus are survivors themselves, with some of the artwork reflecting their experience during the storm. Bethel’s “Resilience” referenced the fragility of life made clear after surviving the storm. Tuchel’s “Ringplay” nods to child-like bliss and the loss of two primary schools, one within Sweetings Cay and another in Freetown.
Bethel, Jennifer Snow Nayak, Tuchel and the other participating artists embodied the sentiment of being their brother’s keepers. They, like many other Grand Bahamians and Abaconians, by nationality or by the love of both the islands, who are still advocating for their land, are the definition of resilient. Resilience is a tool mandatory for combating climate change in a small developing island nation. We have to look to our resources and engage our neighbors to show up for each other, especially in this time. It is our duty to ensure that we are doing our part to assist, whether it is selling T-shirts, donating food items, volunteering our time, helping families or even exhibiting artwork on a boat in a foreign land.