Arts & CultureLifestyles

Finding refuge

Andrew. Floyd. Frances. Irma. Jeanne. Joaquin. Maria. Matthew. Wilma… to name but a few of the terrible and tremendous storms in our recent history.

And now Dorian.

In a way, to give a thing a name is to give it power. But storms, powerful in and of themselves, get names as markers for the atrocity. In the 1800s-1900s, many of the worst storms, believed to be around a Category 4 or 5, were simply called “The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1929” or “The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1932”. There was not a thing great about them, for us. The damage? That was great only in numbers.

Nicole Minnis Ferguson’s “After The Storm” (1994) takes names out of the equation. In the aftermath, the name has meaning, but survival means so much more. Her un-naming of Hurricane Andrew’s landfall in 1992 removes the personification of the storm and places the focus back onto people, and to the difficulty of retaining our sense of humanity in the aftermath of disaster.

Minnis, the eldest daughter of renowned artist and musician Eddie Minnis, comes from a family of painters. The family currently reside on the islands of Abaco and Eleuthera, and as a result storms are no stranger to them despite their New Providence upbringing. Our nation’s island capital largely tends to miss the brunt of our worst Hurricane seasons — as we are always so vocally thankful (in news and media at least) to be spared when disaster strikes. But as the idea of seasons suggest, there is a time for all things, and resting on the complacency of historically infrequent hits to Nassau will soon be a thing of the past. Seas are rising with heat, and that heat feeds these cyclonic monsters every June to November. It is no hyperbole to say that we in the Caribbean are facing a climate apocalypse: Joaquin, Matthew, Irma, Maria and Dorian are testament enough. The increasing frequency of destruction pre-Dorian was a sad marker for what was to come in Bahamas AD (After-Dorian).

As Minnis depicts three young girls amongst the rubble of their former home, the scene is eerily familiar — and made all the more impressive with the wider context of this work surviving the worst storm in our history. This work made it through Dorian when hundreds of lives did not, let alone the property damage suffered that families will likely take years to recover from, if at all.

The choice of including youth in Minnis’ composition is also a symbol of hopefulness, of the idea of finding a way to make a tenable future. High ground, and higher compassion are key in the recuperation and recovery efforts. Our nation has always been comprised of a complex national weaving, and to deny that when we are so dependent upon each other and our neighbours in moving forward, is a disservice to the kind of Bahamas we wish to re-Build.

Work by Minnis that made it through Dorian intact, along with work by her sister Roshanne Minnis and brother-in-law Ritchie Eyma who (along with their own work) survived the storm, will be on view as part of “Refuge” at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB), opening Thursday, December 19, 2019 at 7:00pm. “Refuge” is the culmination of an Open Call to the creative community of The Bahamas, with special consideration and support given to artists from the northern Bahamas who are highly valued survivors of this historic storm. This is part of our nation’s wider response to the storm, and we invite you to share space with us as we use this moment to document, process and, importantly, to heal. All NAGB Exhibition Openings are FREE and OPEN to the general public.

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