Amitabh Sharma, Contributor
Most potent things come in small packages, it is said, which might hold true for a landmass that can be traversed in half a day, point to point. The potency of creative juices is both intoxicating and a heady cocktail of cultures and media.Barbados, like the sister islands in the Caribbean, is one such melting pot, where the key ingredients of creative acumen, sprinkled with a liberal dose of inspiration are brewing under the crisp Caribbean sunshine.
"There is a lot of talent here (in Barbados) and across the region," says Martina Pilé, president of Arts Council of Barbados.
Pilé, a trained ceramist, who has made Barbados her home for the last 27 years, delves in various media, from painting, sketching and her island-found love, calabash - a fruit and a medium of expression.
"We need avenues to showcase the talent," the newly installed president of the Arts Council said, adding that it is her dream to expand the scope of work of the artists, to collaborate and extend the creative footprint.
Her thoughts are concurred with by Allison Thompson, senior tutor and head of the Division of Fine Arts at Barbados Community College. "We have immense talent coming out of the school," she says. "Every year, the students are getting better, they are willing to experiment and look beyond the obvious."
But, she adds, lack of resources locally and the limited exposure are stifling the growth potential. "This can be addressed by working together with other artists, sharing ideas and thought processes," Thompson adds.
Like the layers of ingredients and flavours that tingle the taste buds, there are varied feasts for the eyes dotting the island, some predictable, others that burst in a myriad unexpected places.
Pilé's studio overlooks the pristine turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, whose vastness, she says, inspires her like the cool sea breeze. Her works and raw material lay interspersed with the other, a fusion of media.
"I diversified into calabash when I came to Barbados," the Luxembourg-born-and-raised artist says. "Ceramics is my first love, but for an artist, any material is a medium of expression, so I do whatever kindles my creative spirit."
Her collection includes an array of calabash art-ware - ceramic pots, paintings, sketches and clay tiles - a potpourri of artistic expression. From the cobbled stone lanes and stone houses of her home town Bourglinster, Luxembourg, Pilé fuses the European charm with the Caribbean vitality. "Most of what I make is functional - calabash tea sets to ceramic ware," she says.
Snuggled in the west coast of the island in Durant's Village is Kenneth Blackman's studio.
Blackman's towering frame rises like the rainforest-like surroundings of mahogany trees, above the humble surroundings, a low-roof wooden hutment, which is his creative 'home'. Here, he is busy carving mahogany and giving it varied shapes, forms and meanings, using a chisel.
"My works are a search of myself," said Blackman, a self-taught sculptor, who has won accolades across the world. "I get inspired by nature, the everyday happenings and incidences.
"This is my little heaven," Blackman says, pointing to the pristine surrounding that is dotted with his sculptures, some perched on pedestals, others etched into the bark of the trees.
The lanky artist's work looks into the metaphysical in different forms and shapes, some query the lack of humanity - the wars and oppression around the world.
Talent pool apart, the predicament of the arts not getting the recognition and the artists the desired returns are the stark realities that need to be addressed.
"We need to expand it (the arts) beyond the shores," says Thompson.
"(The) Caribbean is like a pepper pot of creativity, the kind of diversity you can find here is unparalleled," says Pilé, "We need to fuse these different flavours (of creativity and expression) and help them nurture, grow and develop."
Photos by Amitabh