The impacts of colonisation had to do with far more than just the physical, geographical landscape – the impositions placed on bodies and identities during this time (particularly to do with slavery) still hold a big impact on how the people view themselves as a result of this cultural memory and trauma. This serves as the start of another series of work within this project as I investigate how the post-colonial and the neo-colonial affect the identity of Bahamians.
Watch this space for future updates as work develops.
“[There is] no need to hear your voice, when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still [the] colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the center of my talk.” – Bell Hooks, “Marginality as a Site of Resistance” (1990)
During the colonial period bodies were literally colonized and taken over to be exploited during the Atlantic Slave Trade – these people were no longer in control of their identities or their actions, having instructions for both being fed to them by those who we all know to be historically culpable for this mass genocide of lives and of quality of life. Now however, as we look to Guy Debord’s idea of ‘being as appearing’, and the Bahamas appearing as a paradise and its people appearing as exoticised, tanned or dark bodies (depending on their African or European heritage) since the Victorian era and well into the current day – if we are what we appear to others, then we are exploited and dominated as ‘native’, exotic, primitive bodies.
There are connotations of the primitive and savagery in the name alone: the term Caribbean stems from the Carib tribe, it is in part the origin of the word ‘cannibal’. The word cannibal arose in the 1550s, from Spanish canibal, caribal “a savage, cannibal,” and ‘cannibal’ was Christopher Columbus’ rendition of the name the Caribs gave themselves.
The region is, and always will be, associated with the name of the indigenous people who were exterminated hundreds of years ago. Perhaps it is the isolated nature of the region, surrounded by treacherous waters and reefs that pirates were so fond of, that prevents its image from being ‘updated’ as it were. With an identity modelled on tourism and a name that suggests a “wild” or feral people, the Caribbean people are left with very little at their disposal to produce even a slightly more accurate image of what the people are truly like. I believe this is why Caribbean contemporary art so often delves into the realms of identity and the subjectivity of the region – it is because so little is known of our true experiences and critiquing and investigating this through art is the best weapon to currently combat this as best as possible.
– Debord , G (1984). The Society of the Spectacle. U.S. : Black & Red. p.7.
– hooks, b. (1990) “Marginality as a Site of Resistance”, In: R. Ferguson et al. (eds), Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1990: pp. 241-43.
– etymology of “cannibal”