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'Reflecting Our Afrikan Heritage' Curatorial Statement

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Exhibition opens February 14th and continues until April 10th. Pieces being added daily.

Curatorial Statement

‘Reflecting Our Afrikan Heritage’ is a virtual exhibition which discusses the intrinsic and learnt Afrikan expressions and behaviors within the Barbadian cultural landscape as captured by our artists, in celebration of Afrikan Heritage month 2021.

Art is powerful. Symbols are powerful. Sometimes we are not even aware of the power in the symbols around us. They can be everyday subconscious reaffirmations, or they can be loud and bombastic yelling " Hey look at me, I am your Afrikan heritage.”

Over 400 years ago the first African landed on the shores of Barbados, not on a voyage of peace and friendship but in servitude to the English ‘discoverer’ of new lands for a king. Over time, the descendants of both became neither African nor English but Barbadian, a hybrid in varying proportions of genetic ancestry and cultural expression. The path was painful and shameful as the descendants of the servant were enslaved by those of the discoverer. Try as some might, that history can never be erased. “Oppression affects the souls of the oppressed as well as the oppressor.” I read that somewhere.

Two hundred years after Emancipation and after 50 years of Independence, our dominant culture is still very much steeped in the English legacy. Most of us still carry the names of the slave masters, we are governed by the Westminster style of government, and ‘Dear Sir’ is still the most acceptable greeting on a formal letter.

Hillary Beckles in his essay , “Emancipation in the British West Indies”, tells us they have been many victories along the way. In less than 200 years we have seen the decriminalization of Afrikan cultural objects - namely the drum, the ascendence of African Studies and the overt adoption of our African heritage especially in the Garvey Movement, the growth and development of Rastafari, and the Pan African movements of the 60s, 70s. Up to the present day, numerous people have fought for a learned and expressed form of African identity and this, like freedom “…demands continuous maintenance.” (Carl Niehaus).

Humans are a body potential. Innate is our ability to manifest and create from seemingly nothing. Our intelligence is carried within. So, although enslaved Africans were stripped of material possession for the Middle Passage, they carried Africa within their blood, our inheritance.

Our hands have carved the physical landscape with years of toil and love for mother earth. Our wood men still carve our features, our potters still make vessels to hold necessities and souls, our seamstresses and jewellers create adornments to uplift our bodies and hearts. We mark our rites of passage with celebrations, revering our ancestors, with funerals being one of more popular social gatherings. Every year we endorse and elevate African hairstyles. We no longer have to wrap our spiritual practices in the clothing of Christianity if we don’t want to. Our artists capture it all whether knowingly or unknowingly.

This is what this exhibition is about - the ‘feeling’ of our Afrikan heritage. It is not a black or white thing. It is a Bajan thing, inclusive of all ethnic groups who call this island home. Any other way would only contribute to the schizophrenia. We work towards peace.

Oneka Small


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