Forty Bahamian Portraits, One Bahamian Collection – Open At The NAGB
More than 300 people flocked to the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) to witness the historic unveiling of The Bahamian Collection – an exhibition of photographic portraits of men and women from all walks of life, who together represent the heart, soul and spirit of the Bahamian character.
The exhibition was officially opened on July 11, one day after the official 40th Anniversary of Independence, under the patronage of the Governor General and Lady Foulkes. The Collection is the brainchild of award-winning Bahamas portrait photographer Duke Wells and his wife, Lisa, who called the grouping of portraits, each bringing out the character of the subject, “a vital expression of Bahamian identity.”
“I am pleased to recognize the outstanding efforts of the photographer, Duke Wells, and the result of his vision in capturing the likeness of amazing Bahamians,” said Sir Arthur Foulkes, as he gave opening remarks.
“I herald the image of great Bahamians such as Dame Marguerite Pindling, Sir Durward Knowles and Peanuts Taylor, but I salute the image of humility captured on the faces of Bodine Johnson, Jamaal Rolle and the legendary conch man of Montagu, Mr. Miller—for these are all Bahamians. Bahamian in who they are, Bahamian in what they’ve contributed to our beloved community.”
The classic, dramatic black-and-white portraits mark the culmination of the first year of the Bahamian Project. The exhibit, which will remain in the gallery on West Hill Street for three months, serves as the first of its kind in The Bahamas. It is hoped that it will ultimately be adopted as a national series of portraits to be cherished and added to over the years. On display, along with the portraits, are several of the behind-the-scenes snapshots taken during photo sessions.
“It’s a celebration of the good in our society. This Collection has put faces to the spirit that makes us Bahamian – these are but a few of the many Bahamians that reflect that spirit and it’s something we wanted to focus on for the 40th anniversary, and as we move forward with the Bahamian Project,” said Lisa Wells.
Amanda Coulson, The Executive Director of the NAGB, felt a true delight by the response of the Bahamian community at the initial unveiling. According to Executive Director Coulson, “We can expect large school groups and other organizations to arrange their visits within the near future after Thursday’s resounding turn out. I am looking forward to the ensuing response in the days and months to come.”
“It’s one of the most successful openings we’ve had at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas,” said chief curator John Cox. “we’ve been very pleased with the incredible positive feedback and dialogue it has generated.”
Minister of Youth Sports & Culture, Dr. Daniel Johnson, Hon. Ryan Pinder, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Mr. Calvin Balfour and Mrs. Ann Marie Davis, wife of Deputy PM Phillip Davis were among the dignitaries in attendance.
The Bahamian Collection exhibit is a small yet poignant component of the three-year photography initiative known as The Bahamian Project.
“As we anticipate the expansion of this Bahamian Collection, we look forward to travelling to the Family Islands to capture the wonderful Bahamian legends and locals throughout the archipelago to include in the Collection,” says photographer Duke Wells. “As we move into the second year, we have also opened the Project up to other photographers who will join us in building what we hope will inspire a National Portrait Gallery.”
As part of the larger initiative, The Bahamian Project also plans to continue hosting photography workshops for children to contribute toward nation building through such a dynamic medium.
Diane Phillips and Associates
Caption: NAGB Director, Amanda Coulson, shows the Governor General, Sir Arthur Foulkes, his portrait at the entrance of The Bahamian Collection exhibition. Credit: Peter Ramsey