Courageous Piece at Liquid Courage
“Culture, we live with it everyday but we hardly see it. It takes a little shake to wake us up to what is around us.
“The Transforming Spaces tour gave the population a great opportunity to see what the world of art was up to. It was a terrific day of soaking in culture and being forced to process things in a different more thoughtful way. Funny that one of the most shocking installations made the most impact on some. I had to stop and think about what the warehouse space at Liquid Courage was saying to me. The images and things chosen by the various artists worked together to cause mental discord. The entire tour and all the spaces were incredible. However, the Liquid Courage [warehouse] space stood out because of my own work around The Bahamas over the last few months.
“I stopped in front of a chaise lounge quite destroyed, standing up on its end, and thought, what is this? What is this trying to tell me? I saw the Lovely, white-focused, exotic image of the Bahamian Riviera a la Bahamar. My mind returned to the chaise lounge, its rubber straps broken, hanging down, discoloured, ugly. It mad me think of the daily swim from Atlantis to Cabbage Beach cove, where the mansions have replaced the trees. At the bottom of the sea, as Jamaica Kincaid’s book says, are lounge chairs destroyed by wear and tear but thrown under by the destruction of the sea coupled with careless consumption. The beach struggles under the weight of cruise-ship passengers thrown around by suddenly unforgiving surf, who drink black-hand-served, toxic pink and volcanic yellow rum tainted juices from brown coconuts until they are pink and red from a day or a few hours on an island in the sun. The loungers and the tables lay at the bottom of the sea, a testament to rough seas, as we have had all month, and littering layabouts who care little for the space they visit except to leave with a tan and a few snapshots of beauty. The Bahamar poster ruled. Yet everything else lay broken around it. As the minister of government says, this is our culture. Our culture is tourism; tourism is our culture. How can this wanton destruction of the land by the industry that is meant to be our sustenance be so pervasive?
“The room showed caucuses of consumption. All of those corpses that I see everyday. The sad part is the obvious destruction that uncontrolled consumption visits on the environment where we live. While we may not see it because we live in it, the constant use of our island has made it shudder under the weight. Where are the sky scrapers that sing a song of development and progress? Where the ode to thirty story high hotels rooms filled with people who do not choose to experience our lives. They stay locked away in a world where we only enter to serve with our crocodile smiles and our glass-bottle-fragile natures. As the monument to consumption rises and the bikini clad sit on the fast power boat, polluting our waters with vaporous waste, flushing out their contents into turquoise depths and golden sunshine that holds no memory of our existence except the cement boat that sits, floats upon the tumultuous sea of sinking culture. It/we sink(s) down, half a league, half a league, half a league further into the clutches of consumed beauty constructed by artificial high rises built to keep away natives who enter to serve.
“The Culture that lives off tourism is sinking like the cement ship that is sent to our aid. As the story goes, Aid comes with a bomb. Alas, who really cares that we sink in the turquoise of tourist bile when we can sink with a few cents in our pockets among the caucuses of used chez lounges, empty glass bottles and plastic water bottles strewn across paradise’s sandy shores. Five o’clock marks the dirty end of the oiled bodies as they leave this shore for another one, less used, more beautiful.
“What a mind opening experience that raised my hackles to see the sore loss of innocence on the junk pile of consumption. When they leave, where will we be? Will tourism still be our culture and our culture still be tourism, or will we revert to being natives with soft, black skins baked in the sun after a century and a half of plantation tourism?
“Water was such a fitting theme for the exhibitions. It showcased our life giving seas that surround the islands and how wholeheartedly we destroy them through over exposure. From seesawing ourselves into consciousness as the aqua waters rise and fall on one of the installations to the diversity of textures and visions in the other art forms, it showed how incredibly rich this, our, culture is. The entire tour was an experience in savouring culture and beauty. It awakened so many facets of our beings. Yet the Liquid Courage installation troubled the very waters of my soul. Did it have any impact on the others who whimsically observed but did not feel? As tourism consumes us, the Transforming Spaces tour showed that we could actually be famous for our culture, not our tourist culture. We have already sold out the local music scene that once lured thousands here in the early days of the last century, in favour of international beat. Why not really develop the true culture of this struggling nation?”
Dr. Ian Bethell Bennett
Dr. Ian A. Bethell Bennett is an Associate Professor in the School of English Studies at the College of The Bahamas. He has written extensively on race and migration in The Bahamas, cultural creolisation and gender issues. The letter above was written by Dr. Bethell Bennett to the Editor of the Nassau Guardian following his participation in the Transforming Spaces Art Tour that took place the weekend of April 5-6, 2014.