It seems as though visual artist and muralist Angelika Wallace-Whitfield may have been foreshadowing with her Ninth National Exhibition (NE9) public art project: “Hope Is A Weapon”.
During these trying times, the words that the artist penned to elaborate on the work finds us at a convenient moment and feels all too real. Much like the pressing issue placed on the backs of our nation’s leaders, Bahamians who have not been severely affected by the storm and the global world who is watching.
“Almost any inanimate object can be a weapon if employed as one. A weapon, by definition, indicates an object that is used as a means to an end. However, the end is typically only attainable with human conviction behind the object. It is the conviction behind a screwdriver or hammer that changes its categorization as a tool to that of a weapon. Hope, with human action behind it, becomes a weapon,” Wallace-Whitfield said. Thus, considering this, the questions raised specifically for Bahamian and Caribbean creatives must then be: what are we hoping to achieve as the outcome of this experience? How are we employing hope in our personal, national and regional endeavours to relieve those affected by this catastrophe? And amid it all, though it may seem egocentric, how are we checking in on ourselves?
It is easy to get caught up in the negatives of survivors’ guilt and the thoughts of not doing enough or being able to do enough, as we watch our country’s leaders navigate this difficult situation, and even witness the disintegration of credible non-profit organizations who have been leading the charge since inception. It is easy to feel hopeless, however, it is important to remember, we are not alone – in the physical, metaphysical and philosophical sense. We must run back to the oysters of words our ancestors would have left with us, reciting “no man is an island”, and remember that help has started to come in because hope is all around us, and more help is on the way.
We can look to examples of other Caribbean creatives taking initiatives in their hometowns to unite the rest of the Caribbean in standing in solidarity with us during this time.
Trinidadian soca group Kes the Band joined with other Caribbean artists, namely Buzzrock, Chromatics, Dr. Jay, Destra, Erphaan Alves, Farmer Nappy, Freetown Collective, Isasha, Jahllano, Jah-Z, Blaze, Laventille Rhythm Section, Patrice Roberts, Private Ryan, Shal Marshall, Teddyson John, Trevlyn The Voice, Ultimate Rejects, Voice and 3 Canal, to put on a concert entitled “One Caribbean: Unite + Rebuild” this past Sunday, September 22, in Trinidad in support of The Bahamas Red Cross efforts for hurricane relief. They were accompanied by our very own Avvy, Judah Tha Lion, Julien Believe, Visage and Wendi & Dyson. These groups of artists connect to answer the first question raised: “What are we hoping to achieve as the outcome of this experience?” Perhaps the response is simple – Caribbean unity that runs deeper than the songs any artist can choose to sing but in the uncomplicated mission of showing up for regional brothers and sisters.
Even further in distance but still taking on a similar mentality, Bahamian-British musical artist Chelsea Blues coordinates “#BahamasStrong”, a creative event scheduled to transpire in London, England, that will also raise funds in assistance of hurricane relief. The evening is promised to be an unforgettable one that is immersive of “live music, spoken word, drinks, island cuisine and more’,’ as seen on the promotional flyer. Taking place on October 11, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on 49 Hackney Road, London E2 7NX, tickets for the silent auction will also be on sale that night. Blues’ push not only responds to the first question in consideration but shows that the single act of caring goes beyond the skin-deep, moves past colour and region and calls on what is our human duty.
On a national scale, there are artists on New Providence at work. The organizers of Soundwaves Festival, an annual alternative music initiative, poetry and vendors fair that caters to the non-conformists of Nassau, have transformed this year’s festival to uplift the survivours of the storm, raising funds for relief assistance. With over 25 artists and merchants, the event promises to be like no other. It is scheduled to take place on October 5, at The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) on Village Road from 2:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
In the same vein, the visual arts community of The Bahamas is also doing its part in taking initiative to lead an art auction called “Alleviate”. This venture, spearheaded by multidisciplinary artist Jodi Minnis and singer, playwright and filmmaker Renee Caesar, is scheduled to take place on the grounds of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) on Sunday, October 6 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Contemporary visual artists of all mediums have come together to donate their work with the full understanding that all sales made will go towards NGOs already leading the charge of storm assistance. These individuals along with those participating in the Soundwaves Festival answer the second question in consideration: “How are we employing hope in our personal, national and regional endeavours to relieve those affected by this catastrophe?”
Your NAGB is doing the work to respond to the third and final question, “How are we checking in on ourselves?”, by developing a mental health initiative for survivors, Bahamians and Bahamian residents who may have been psychologically affected by the storm in one way or another. The initiative, named “We Gatchu!!!: Sanctuary After The Storm”, is a joint initiative between the NAGB and a cohort of mental health professionals, offering a sacred space for you to rest, recuperate and recover through individual sessions with psychological professionals, weekly crisis management talks, Wellness Sundays, art therapy sessions, open forums and lectures. More information can be found on their Instagram page @nagb242, as the next event, an Open Forum, is scheduled for Monday, September 30 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m
While dealing with the aftermath of this monstrosity, it is easy to become persuaded by our minds that our individual selves are not doing enough or that we are not seeing enough being done because of high emotions or things of that nature, but it is important to remember to pause, take a deep breath and switch our perspectives. Hope is all around us, and the creative community is doing its part.