The Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority (BPPPBA) has commissioned Bahamian painter and multimedia artist Kishan Munroe to restore various steel and metal art sculptures around New Providence created by the late Stephen G.E. Burrows.
Burrows, born in 1937 in Eleuthera, Bahamas, was a mechanical engineer by profession and an extremely talented sculptor and artist by passion.
Interestingly enough, Burrows was never taught how to weld.
The story goes that a young Burrows discovered a book on welding and the rest was history.
As a way to honor his legacy, talents and national treasures, BPPPBA has organized the restoration of Burrows’ public art sculptures such as the White Crown Pigeon, the Conch Shell, the Rooster, and the Triton Trumpet Shell on display at roundabouts in Nassau.
“This is something that has been a priority for us,” said Shanendon Cartwright, executive chairman of BPPPBA.
“We are very grateful to the Burrows family, who have been a part of this process.
“It’s an all-around, collective effort that I think bodes well for the country and for the legacy of Mr. Burrows.”
Cartwright explained that when BPPPBA was started by an act of Parliament in 2015, the structures came under the responsibility of that authority.
He believes that refurbishing Burrows’ art sculptures will act both as an honor to his work and as a way to showcase the wonderful talents of Bahamian artists.
“We have to find ways to constantly be an inspiration to ourselves and not have to rely on what persons from the outside may bring into the country,” Cartwright said.
“We have some of the most gifted people, I’ve always said that. The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a wonderful incubator of purpose and talent and this is just in line with those thoughts.”
Cartwright said that Munroe was selected to be the creative mind for the project based on his skillset and expertise.
Munroe, 40, has admired Burrows’ artwork since he was a young boy.
“I remember as a child going to school, looking at the rooster and the crawfish,” Munroe said.
“As a younger Bahamian, it gave me something to look up to in terms of art— and not just art, but doing something for the love of what it is and for the love of the country.”
Munroe believes that Burrows’ art speaks to an era of growth.
In Munroe’s view, the sculptures are reminiscent of an era of Bahamians who were willing to sacrifice whatever was needed in order to contribute to the fibers that were weaving a strong Bahamian fabric.
“One of the reasons why I love working on this project is because it helps me to contribute not only to the restoration but to the conservation of our culture,” Munroe said.
“Before we even had a real national appreciation for art public spaces, [Burrows’] work was around.”
Munroe, who is trained as a painter, has been refurbishing and beautifying the structures since earlier this year.
He said that what most people don’t realize is that the majority of the work is structural, full-body welding work.
The paint job is just the finishing touch.
“I’m doing my best not only to restore them, but to also make them make a statement,” Munroe said.
He explained how on multiple occasions while working on the sculptures, someone across the street or in a passing car would shout out to him: “When did this get here?”
Munroe would always respond: “This has been here for decades. From when I was a child, this was here.”
For Cartwright, Munroe, and many Bahamians, it is disheartening to think that many people drive past these national treasures on a daily basis without understanding their stories or their legacy.
“If you don’t bring things back to life and restore them, people tend to treat them the way you teach them to,” Munroe said, suggesting that if you don’t take care of important art pieces like these, it becomes difficult to garner due respect from the public.
“I think that’s what is so [great] about what Mr. Cartwright and beaches and parks are doing; they’re facilitating the restoration of these works, something that has not happened for a long, long time.”
Munroe recalled Burrows’ metal sculpture of the crawfish that once lived down on Bay Street.
Over time, the structure rusted away until it reached a point where it was unable to be saved.
“That’s lost, you can’t get that back,” Munroe said regretfully.
Also an instructor at The University of The Bahamas, Munroe said that part of his goal has been to bring about more awareness of the life and the significant works of Stephen Burrows.
Although lockdowns, curfews, and the recent time change have been hiccups in Munroe’s progress, he continues to work zealously to keep Burrows’ legacy alive through his restoration of these visual arts.
Cartwright also told The Nassau Guardian how BPPPBA has arranged for spotlights to shine on the art sculptures to enhance their display.
“You will see at the roundabouts now when you’re driving around in the evening that spotlights are on these sculptures,” he said.
“We thought it would be great just to reinforce our commitment again to the visual arts and as a reminder of what [Bahamians] can do and who we are.”