“A Chance Encounter”- a book lover stumbles upon her passion

:: by Rosana John

 

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      Shanna ensuring that all the books are categorized correctly.
Photography by Malaika Brooks-Smith- Lowe

It is a surprisingly cool and quiet evening at the Mt. Zion Library and all that can be heard is the steady hum of the recently donated fan and the distant drone of chatter and traffic.  The library has closed for the day and Shanna Julien sits completely engrossed in her novel.  “The Duppy” by Anthony Winkler is her paperback of choice for the day. She will not sleep until she is finished. It is her third book for the week and it is only Wednesday.

The twenty-four year old poet, singer and aspiring songwriter recalls reading from as early as the age of three. “It really kills me when I can’t get a book to read…literally!” she exclaims, her eyes serious behind her razor cut bangs.  When asked about her favourite book, that question was simply impossible to answer.  Nonetheless when presented with the  hypothetical scenario of being stranded on a desert island, and having only three books at her disposal, she identified ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ by Jeff Kinney , ‘Best of Friends’ by Cathy Kelly and the Bible as her companions of choice.

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The Children’s Library

 

It seems only natural that a booklover would volunteer at a library, however when asked about how her relationship with the Mt. Zion Library commenced, she smiled and replied that she had no glamorous story to tell.  She explained that on the day in question, she had gone over to the neigbouring phone repair shop to collect an item and was told that she had to wait. In order to pass the time she started walking around only to stumble upon the library. Upon being told that it was free she joined instantly and checked out her first two books. She kept returning and at times even borrowing as many as six books in one week! Her passion for reading was apparent and Oonya, the library’s Director asked if she wished to volunteer. It was an easy decision since as a volunteer she would have unlimited access to books.  A few months later when the library received more funding, she was offered the post of Head librarian. She describes the news as incredible; ‘I am being paid to do something that I actually enjoy!’

Shanna loves coming to work every day. She cites Oonya as being “the best Director ever” and Alesia Aird as being “so funny” and a pleasure to work with.  “I love looking at other people enjoy what I love!” she exclaims with a great sense of satisfaction. However, she laments that currently the library has very few male members and as such she is working on compiling a ‘wish list’ of books that may attract male readership.

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Shanna soon learnt that the Mt Zion Library is more than a centre for housing books. Volunteering at the library has broadened her horizons and she describes her most memorable experience as representing the library at a workshop on Gender Equality organized by CUSO International. At this forum, she was able to learn so much and gain a new perspective on society. The library has also hosted two workshops on Literacy​, Prejudice and Discrimination from which she also benefited.  Shanna is very excited about the library’s new adult literacy programme at the Motivational Reading and Writing Club and looks forward to seeing how the library’s work continues to positively impact the community.

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Rosana John

Project Intern, Groundation Grenada

project Intern Rosana is an attorney-at-law and a member of the Mt.Zion Library. As Groundation’s 2014  Project Intern, she is closely involved in literacy-based projects.

Groundation Grenada, as a co-founder of the library, envisaged the Volunteer Profile Series as a means of telling the stories of the individuals who give so much of their time and effort to   keep the library up and running from day to day.

Revealing Much More than Themselves – On the Need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Grenada

:: by Richie Maitland ::

Painting by Komi Olaf

Painting by Komi Olaf

Recently, leaked naked sexual images of some young teenage girls exploded across virtual networks in Grenada. The spread was driven by people’s inability to control their dark curiosity (aka ‘fasness’), even if satisfying that curiosity meant consuming and sharing child pornography, potentially harming the children involved and compromising their futures.

Together with the images came the expected commentary and Facebook statuses, much of which made the girls out to be the villains and blamed them for the leaks (as opposed to the the people who violated their privacy). When a back story surfaced about one of them attempting suicide after the leaks were revealed, a facebook commenter jokingly (and stupidly) suggested that she should have taken pics of the suicide attempt and posted them as well.

The comments revealed a cultural disrespect for data privacy and deep-rooted hypocritical values around sexuality and in particularly teenage sexuality. They also revealed some assumptions that we have internalised without thinking too hard about them: that teenagers are not supposed to be sexual beings and they are bad if they are, and, that wise people don’t keep or share sexual images of themselves. The debacle in general revealed very obvious holes in children and teens education, holes concerning comprehensive sexuality education, holes that many children and teens fall through to hurt themselves.

People are among other things, sexual beings – teenagers too. It is a fact parents and government can choose to ignore by not addressing it meaningfully, but it’s a fact nonetheless.  Facts of course don’t bend to our deliberate ignorance. Recent statistics from the WHO and the OECS Behavioral Surveillance Surveys (BSS) show that in Grenada about a quarter of young persons between 13-15 are having sex, many of them with multiple partners, many of them without protection. The BSS survey shows that those who attend church are having a lot more sex than those who don’t. Also, 1 in every 8 live births in Grenada is to a young woman, aged 15-19. If we are honest with ourselves and are able to recall our teenage selves we might smile and shake our heads at some of the mischief we got into. Reflecting on other instances, we may wish that someone gave us honest, clear information so that we could have made a better informed decision.

In more recent times technology generally and the Internet specifically has significantly changed how information is shared and consumed. Internet usage has penetrated around 45 % of Grenada’s population, a significant portion being young persons. Guess what? People use the technology available to them, including to share intimate things. That is as true for adults as it is for young people; it is as true for professionals as it is for lay people; as true for wise people as it is for fools. 

Whose fault is it if my mechanic steals and shares sensitive information that I had stored in my glove compartment? The blame rests squarely on the mechanic. We can argue about whether I could have been more cautious about leaving sensitive information in my car but let’s be clear on whom the fault lies. Why do we think differently of the situation with the girls? We pelt stones at the victims while the real wrongdoers skin teeth on the side. I would be very happy to see charges and convictions under the Electronic Crimes Act coming out of this. Maybe then people would begin appreciating the value of respecting people’s privacy.

I get the sense that for a lot of people sharing the images with commentary is about shaming the girls. A shaming that is meant to punish girls particularly for crossing lines that we have told ourselves girls must not cross. Boys have a little more leeway, but young girls find themselves squeezed at doubly oppressive intersection of being young and being girls. The boxes of decency and self respect are smaller, but girls must make themselves fit. When girls breach those boxes we must shame them. It’s the same kind of shaming that drove a Trini mother to half kill her daughter with blows, for posting a picture in facebook with her panties showing, in a video that went viral.

We can’t beat or pray sexuality out of teenagers. Sex and sexuality are a normal part of personhood, including teenage personhood. We can’t always keep sexual content away from them either. We live in a world occupied and saturated with sex. It’s the same world that young people live in. We would know if we could access the schoolyard conversations, backyard games and bathroom graffiti. 

Church sermons on chastity and half dead HFLE (Health & Family Life Education) curricula talking about boys having testicles and girls having ovaries aren’t doing anything for us or our young people. Young people must be empowered, an empowerment flowing from an understanding that sex and sexuality is natural. Government and parents must provide them with the tools to understand themselves and their sexuality better; to better manage their relationships and create dynamics with which they are comfortable; to lessen the potential risks involved in behaving sexually.

I say it’s time for comprehensive (and I repeat with emphasis – COMPREHENSIVE) sexuality education to be introduced into our public school system.  There is already overwhelming public support for this. An April 2014 Grenada poll done by UNAIDS RST and supported by the Norwegian Government showed public support for sexuality education at 63-71% in primary school and 89-94% for secondary schools.

In revealing themselves the girls revealed much more than themselves. They revealed an educational policy gap that we must address. Let’s do the right thing.

 


Richie Maitland Groundation GrenadaRichie Maitland
Co-Founder Groundation Grenada

Richie Maitland is a Grenadian attorney and activist. He is a graduate of the Presentation Brothers College  and T.A. Marryshow Community College. He earned his Bachelor of Laws Degree at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill, Barbados in 2010. Richie is a member of the Hugh Wooding Law School class of 2012 and is currently working as an attorney-at-law in Grenada.

Open Call for Caribbean Film Scripts!

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The Caribbean Film Academy (CaFA) and its partners – Groundation Grenada, Audiovisual Association of Dominica, ChantiMedia and SASOD Guyana – have launched Caribbean Film Project, an initiative which aims to showcase the talent of unknown and emerging writers in the Caribbean and Diaspora.

Through Caribbean Film Project, CaFA and its partners will not only tackle storytelling in films coming out of the Caribbean, but will provide an opportunity for Diaspora filmmakers to have their work included in a Caribbean film compilation. The initiative will focus on assisting in the production of films in countries which have mostly been absent from the current Caribbean filmmaking renaissance – Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, and St. Kitts & Nevis, as well as Caribbean filmmakers in the Diaspora.

Caribbean Film Project’s first phase is a script competition open for entries from January – February 2015. The winner from each country will be paired with a coach who will work with the writer to make their script production-ready. With the help of each producing partner, the films will then be produced. CaFA plans to raise the funds needed for the project through sponsorship, fundraisers and crowd-funding.

This focus on writing is long overdue, according to CaFA’s Co-Founder, Romola Lucas, who has led the effort to organize this new project. She says, “Spurred by the availability and increasing affordability of filmmaking equipment, the Caribbean is currently experiencing a surge in filmmaking. More and more people, who may never have considered filmmaking an option are making films encouraged by new opportunities to have their work screened at the growing number of Caribbean film festivals. Many of the films are excellent – well-written, professionally produced, and visually appealing. However, there are many others which suffer from technical issues and incomplete storytelling.”

“From our perspective, well-written stories underpin every sustainable film movement, and in order for Caribbean storytellers to be counted among the best in the world, specific focus and attention must be given to the development of great writers,” Lucas continues.

The Film Project competition is open to writers/filmmakers who are residents/nationals of Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and to those of Caribbean descent/heritage living in the Diaspora and writing Caribbean stories. Submissions open on Friday, January 2, 2015 and close Friday, February, 28, 2015. To learn more about the Project, eligibility/requirements and submit a script, visit www.caribbeanfilm.org or email us at submissions@cafafilmproject.org.

 

For further information, please contact:

Chantal Miller – ChantiMedia hello@chantimedia.com
Jessica Canham – Audiovisual Association of Dominica jessica@earthbook.tv
Joel Simpson – SASOD Guyana manager@sasod.org.gy
Malaika Brooks-Smith- Lowe – Groundation Grenada malaika@groundationgrenada.com
Romola Lucas – CaFA romola@caribbeanfilm.org


About CaFA

Established in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY, The Caribbean Film Academy (CaFA), is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and support of Caribbean filmmaking and filmmakers, in the Region and the Diaspora. CaFA’s work is focused on promoting and sharing the art of storytelling through film from the unique perspective of the Caribbean.

About CHANTIMEDIA

ChantiMedia was born out of a passion for the Caribbean’s unparalleled and vibrant creative expression. Founded in 2012 by Chantal Miller (presenter and voice over artist) as a primarily digital platform to share and promote the artistic diversity of the region, ChantiMedia has now evolved into a multi-faceted creative hub. Based between the beautiful island of Nevis and the cultural melting pot of London (UK) the company now focuses on production (film and television), the curating of exhibitions and film festivals, the facilitating of creative workshops and fostering creative collaborations throughout the Diaspora.

About GROUNDATION GRENADA

Groundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Its mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. The organization pursues its mission online, through its website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

About SASOD GUYANA

SASOD is dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in Guyana and throughout the Caribbean. The organization has worked tirelessly to repeal discriminatory Guyanese laws, change local attitudes about the LGBT community, and end discrimination in the government, workplace, and community. The organization has been hosting, for the past 10 years, the only LGBT film festival in the Caribbean – bringing many Caribbean LGBT films to home audiences.

About THE AUDIOVISUAL ASSOCIATION OF DOMINICA

AAD’s mission is to promote and support the growth of professionals and businesses in Dominica’s audiovisual sector. Membership in the Association is open to both individuals and to businesses. Being a member of the Audiovisual Association of Dominica enables individual producers and companies to benefit from activities and initiatives designed to improve the business climate for audiovisual professionals, and to support professional development. The Association provides training in production, and scriptwriting, it maintains a data base of industry professionals, provides networking opportunities for members, creates local and regional partnerships and advocates for a regulatory environment to promote and support the growth of the sector.

“More Smiles, More Reading”- The Conversion of a non-reader

:: by Rosana John::

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Alesia busy cataloguing , Photography by Malaika Brooks-Smith- Lowe

Wearing a rolled up black tee, a two-toned afro, torn jeans and a pair of worn converse, Alesia Aird does not appear like your conventional librarian. But then again there is nothing conventional about the Mt. Zion Library; founded by an unlikely trio consisting of a church, a writer and a grassroots organization and nestled between a barber shop and a cell phone repair shop in the heart of St. George’s.

It is a humid Wednesday afternoon and Alesia is busy writing up catalogues, brows furrowed in concentration as she seeks to mentally block out Peter Tosh’s powerful voice. She isn’t scheduled to volunteer on Wednesdays but the 20-year old musician and artist, whose name appropriately means ‘Helper’ in Greek is keen on spending whatever available time she has in service to the library.

Alesia plays the guitar and violin and ‘messes around’ with the piano and though music will always be her first love, Caribbean literature and Science Fiction novels are vying for a close second. When asked about her favourite book, she cited ‘The Duppy’ by Anthony C. Winkler and had difficulty explaining what it was about, “Yuh just have to experience the Duppy for yourself!” she exclaimed.

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However Alesia wasn’t always a reader. In fact she recollects that reading had always felt like punishment; something that she was forced to do. She describes her experience in school as being analogous to teaching a fish how to climb a tree, as the school system failed to recognize and apply different styles and paces of learning. So how on earth does a non-reader become a volunteer librarian?

Alesia’s relationship with the library started a little over a year ago when her friend Damarlie Antoine asked her to assist in the sorting out of books. Being true to her name she came out to help and hasn’t stopped assisting since. She cites the “good vibes” of the people involved as what kept her coming back and the smiles of converted non-readers coming upon a book that they loved as the reason she stayed. “If this were a regular library I wouldn’t be here” she says. She believes it is the passion of the volunteers, for whom the library isn’t a source of income, and its location and origins which all give the library its unique characteristic and unorthodox feel.

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“More smiles, more reading” she said, when asked about her dreams for the library, as seeing people, particularly persons who had never before enjoyed reading find a book they like brings a special joy to her. She notes that the library is increasing in popularity, particularly with secondary school students who mainly account for the average two member per day growth that the library is experiencing. Alesia is eager to see the library continue to grow and expand and hopes that persons from different walks of life will volunteer and contribute to creating more smiles, one book at a time.

Since this interview we’re happy to announce that Alesia has been hired part-time as librarian alongside Shanna Julien. Look out for Shanna’s interview coming soon!

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Rosana John

Project Intern, Groundation Grenada

project Intern Rosana is an attorney-at-law and a member of the Mt.Zion Library. As Groundation’s 2014 Project Intern, she is closely involved in literacy-based projects.

Groundation Grenada, as a co-founder of the library, envisaged the Volunteer Profile Series as a means of telling the stories of the individuals who give so much of their time and effort to keep the library up and running from day to day.

 

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe incoming artist-in-residence at NLS exhibits at Jamaica Biennial & launches Kickstarter

The Caribbean has attracted growing international attention as a hub of new art practices and emerging artists. Within this Kingston-based visual art initiative NLS (New Local Space) has established itself as a frontrunner providing a valuable international platform for the art practices and launch pad for the careers of artists in Jamaica, the wider Caribbean region, and beyond.  The organisation’s exhibitions and other programming have been acknowledged by publications such as the Washington Post, Frieze magazine, Washington City Paper, Caribbean Beat, the Trinidad Guardian, the Jamaica Gleaner, and the Jamaica Observer, while its artists participate in the developing dialogue about art in the region, most recently at (e)merge art fair, the Art Museum of the Americas and Yale University.

A key component to NLS’ strides is its art residency programme, a six to nine week incubator that bolsters the studio practice of selected artists by facilitating the fruition of an innovative project proposed by the artist.  With public studio visits of the work in progress and a final public exhibition, NLS opens the lines of communication between the artist and public throughout the creative process. Thus far the NLS residency programme has been host to artists Wilmer Wilson IV (USA), Rodell Warner (Trinidad and Tobago), Leasho Johnson (Jamaica) Afifa Aza (Jamaica) , Storm Saulter (Jamaica) , Ai Yoshida (Jamaica/Japan), Ayana Revière (Trinidad and Tobago),  Di-Andre Caprice Davis (Jamaica) , and now incoming Grenadian artist Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe.

Handle with Care (2012) by Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe

Sealed (II), 2012 – Photography by Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe is slated to join NLS in December to transform the NLS interior space with an installation that uses new and traditional media to portray the societal impact of migration through the intimate lens of her family. The artist tells a story of her Jamaican grandfather’s childhood separation from his mother due to her migration, using installation to explore the familial impact and wider societal implications of this universal experience. Using discarded, broken objects acquired during her time in Jamaica, Malaika will create a room with two windows made out of video projections. With audio from her conversations with her grandfather looped and videos edited from footage shot during the residency, she will connect the complexity of emotions within her family’s genealogy to contemporary realities around migration and loss.

With strong family ties to the Grenadian revolution (1970 – 1984) social activism has long been a part of Malaika’s creative practice. Her art practice largely examines memory and the visceral ways in which individuals cope with social pressures. Founding her own organisation, Groundation Grenada, in 2009, she also provides active safe spaces for other artists and activists to incubate new modes of resistance.

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Production shot of “Off Track, Moving Forward” (2013) featuring Barbadian actress Varia Williams.

Malaika is one of eight artists who have worked with NLS to be selected for the Jamaica Biennial to open this December in Kingston and Montego Bay at the National Gallery of Jamaica. She has exhibited her work across the Caribbean at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (Trinidad and Tobago), The Fresh Milk Art Platform (Grenada), SO((U))L HQ (Jamaica) and other spaces. She received a BA in studio art from Smith College (Northampton, MA).

NLS has launched a Kickstarter for Malaika, which offers a range of original artworks as gifts for its donors. Through its donors, the Kickstarter aims to raise $3150 by 2nd December 2014 to provide a stipend for travel, room and board and materials, while NLS provides studio space, events including a public exhibition and all associated administrative and technical costs. When you make a pledge, you have the option of selecting from a range of unique rewards, including original artwork. To become a donor, visit the Kickstarter at bit.ly/mbsljamaica. It starts with a pledge! If the fundraising goal is met, then your payment will go through when the campaign ends on 2nd December 2014.

For more information about Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe’s residency or NLS contact info@NLSkingston.org or 876-406-9771.
Visit our website at www.nlskingston.org or www.malaikabsl.com.

 


Deborah Anzinger - NLS Kingston

Deborah Anzinger is an artist and founder of NLS, a visual art initiative in Kingston. Prior to NLS, Deborah was manager of the District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC), a non-profit space in DC. Deborah was a founding member of DC-based artist collective Sparkplug and her work has been shown in DC at Civilian Art Projects, Porch Projects, DCAC, The Fridge, and Hillyer Art Space; in Arlington, VA at the Arlington Art Center and George Mason University; and in Jamaica at the National Gallery of Jamaica. Deborah’s work has been featured in the DC- and Berlin-based web journal The Studio Visit (TSV), and she is a member of Project Dispatch, an art subscription service.

Join The Guardian’s #YouthEngage Global Twitter Chat

We, @groundationgda, @PennaPieri, and @ConTrekk will be hosting the Grenada Leg The Guardian’s #YouthEngage Worldwide Twitter Chat on Friday 24 October from 4:00-5:00pm (Eastern Caribbean Time).  As a diverse group of Grenadian activists we will be facilitating a Caribbean-wide discussion focused around one main question: “How do we better engage young people socially, economically and politically?”

#YouthEngage is a Guardian Global Development Professionals and Guardian Public Leaders initiative is a 24 hour conversation, 1 hour per region, which invites YOUth from across the world to discuss what matters most. Join us in this conversation on topics including: education, employment, governance and leadership. Tell us your ideas on immigration, is it really better elsewhere? Do you feel that you can get your voiced heard and become leaders? What support do you need from family, community, government? What is important to you? Tell us & tell the world!

Let us know you are joining by tweeting, “I’m joining @GuardianGDP’s #youthengage tweetathon in the Caribbean on 24 Oct 4-5pm”


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

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[Video] Groundation Makes Heads Spin at National Consultation on Constitution Reform

On Wed. 15th October 2014 Groundation Grenada Co-founders &  Co-Directors, Richie Maitland & Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, presented at the National Consultation on Constitutional Reform in collaboration with GrenCHAP. We proposed an expansion of the bill of rights of Grenada to include protections for vulnerable populations including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People. The forum was held in the National Trade Center, open to the public and broadcast live. Due to time constraints we were unable to complete the full presentation but we will be recording and adding the full audio to the Prezi (aka next generation powerpoint) that we used in the days to come. Below you can find a list of our previous articles/campaigns related to the issue of LGBT rights and a video of Wednesday’s presentation. We would love to hear your thoughts on whether the anti-discrimination section of Grenada’s constitution should be expanded and if so, who do you think should be included? 

More from the Groundation Grenada blog connected to this topic:


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

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My Cultural Caribbean Smoothie

A Groundation Grenada art residency account by Robin de Vogel

A continuous exchange from the moment I stepped off the plane and that warm gust of wind hit my face. It’s just one of the things that’ll be hard to forget about my residency in Grenada. The whirlwind of events that followed was invigorating, inspiring and at times truly magical without any exaggeration. I can only describe it as though I had been thrown into a blender with Groundation directors, figs from the forest, local visual artists, writers, musicians, fellow creatives, fresh spring water a dash of nutmeg and mixed together into some kind of creative cultural Caribbean smoothie. I was hooked after the first sip.

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The purpose of the events during ‘Forgetting is Not an Option’ festival Phase N°1 was mostly to encourage and invite creatives of all sorts to submit their work to this multimedia cultural memory project. The project is not necessarily about the Grenada Revolution but more so, addressing the idea of cultural memory and how this relates to our national identity. After avidly researching cultural memory for my Bachelor Thesis, on the subject of souvenirs, I considered it a fitting starting point for my visual arts workshop within this festival.
In my artistic practice I am especially interested in how we can feel a certain intimacy with objects that capture emotions or memories. We keep them around us in mementos, photographs or stacks of megabytes. The things we keep or collect tell stories about all of us.

IMG_3The creative participants of the Reinventing Mementos Workshop

The primary goal of my “Reinventing Mementos” workshop was to invite participants to think of new ways to remember Grenada and transform these ideas into objects. By creating our own souvenirs, the questions of what one should remember and what one should not forget are inevitably embedded. Souvenirs often possess very stereotypical iconography and therefore become icons in and of themselves. The souvenirs sold in the Caribbean are often mass-produced elsewhere and imported to be sold to tourists as mementos of the Caribbean. These mementos are quite disconnected from the source they claim to be representing. Working with clay, the participants shared the space, learned about each other’s backgrounds, personal interests and challenged stereotypes around souvenirs. We then proceeded to mold these characteristics into our tiny objects. The results were playful, pure, personal and authentic interpretations of a unique island.

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Creativity on Clay

Next to mingling at the ‘Saracca’ opening night at The Priory, the hike with Mr. Drakes and the smooth vibes during the acoustic jam session, one of my favorite events was the Caribbean film night. It was such a great way to immerse myself into stories and experiences from within the region. The use of a visual language, a specific combination of symbols, rhythm, colors and elements that feels appropriately familiar.
Due to the weather we had to take the party inside, which made it feel like a family movie night way back when, sitting on the floor. The rain made the temperature drop just a bit and the atmosphere was humid and perfect for debating about pot hounds, coco tea and barrel culture. After the festival came to an end I managed to sneak in some time to wander around town and take photographs. This led to me stumbling onto a beautiful spot at the Grenada National Museum to install a small intervention in public space.

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My Intervention in Public Space at the Grenada National Museum

I remember thinking to myself how strange it was, feeling so at home in Grenada from the moment I arrived, as I walked from The Priory to the National Museum. I had to keep reminding myself that I should watch right, left, right before I cross the street here – instead of left, right, left. There were still traces of oily black handprints on the buildings, echoing the jab jab’s that were occupying the streets just a few days before.

I crossed the street near one of the only traffic lights in town. Every time I would pass by them, they made me smile because one of the Groundation directors said “traffic lights here are more like suggestions than anything else”. Maybe it’s because I enjoy a suggestion more than a command. The way an artwork could suggest a different angle of looking at the same thing. I suggest we keep suggesting.
The light turns green.

Right, left, right. Go.

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With much gratitude to Prins Bernhard Fonds for granting me this opportunity by way of financial support and thanking everyone at Groundation Grenada for hosting me as an artist in residence.


Robin De VogelRobin de Vogel (1987) is a Dutch artist raised on the island of Aruba. After
completing workshops in photography, drawing, painting and installation art at Ateliers ’89 in Aruba, Robin moved to Amsterdam in 2008 to further her development as an artist. In the summer of 2013, she obtained a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from the Ceramics Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Robin’s work often takes the form of installations that revolve around the sensibility of the viewer. Her pieces, mostly site-specific interventions, aim to serve as a subtle disruption of the daily routine. Throughout her career, Robin has engaged in various collaborative projects, residencies and exhibitions in Europe and in the Caribbean. Residencies include a vigorous working period at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen China,a fruitful exchange at Caribbean Linked II in Aruba, a theoretical exchange program with the students of the Zürich School of Arts and working together with a collective of Dutch-Caribbean artists under the UniArte foundation. Robin’s pieces have been exhibited in and acquired by De Nederlandsche Bank and her work is currently on display in Kasteel Keukenhof’s sculpture garden in Lisse. @rdevogel www.robindevogel.com

Grenada: My Desired Stop

A Groundation Grenada art residency account by Rosabelle Illes

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No, it’s not fake tan, It’s natural sulfur from the ‘Cha cha’ Sulfur Spring in Hermitage, St.Patrick’s

There is one main road and the bus stops wherever you need it to – on that main road. There are no bus stops because the bus stops wherever you need it to. Oh you come from a place where there are fixed bus stops? Me too. But it took me about two seconds to adjust to the Grenadian method. All I had to do was recall the moments when I wanted to politely ask the driver back home to pullover as I saw my house pass me by while the bus came to a halt a few blocks further at the official bus-stop, where I would have to walk all the way back. I thought about the moments when I had to decide between a bus-stop prior to- and a bus-stop anterior to my most convenient stop. After getting off at the former a couple of times and counting the amount of steps it took to reach my desired stop, I would get off at the latter a couple of times and do the same. The anterior stop was closer but I was never satisfied with either. All I ever wanted was to be dropped off at my own desired location. Is that too much to ask? Not in Grenada.

During my residency at Groundation Grenada in the month of august 2014, I met extraordinary people and I engaged in inspiring events at the historic Priory on Church St. and Clark’s Court Cave at Ft. Matthew. These were all part of Forgetting is Not An Option Phase N°1 a collaboration with Arc Magazine. A Yoga class from Groundation Grenada director Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe challenged my self-imposed physical limitations. Visual artist Robin de Vogel’s workshop on reinventing mementos increased my awareness about the souvenir industry. My own creative writing workshop on dismantling the Caribbean cliché allowed me to experience ‘on the spot’ fearless writing by Grenada’s emerging and established authors. The Caribbean film night and the Take Tellings Jam session reinforced my belief in the talent our region cultivates. And the hike to the sulphur spring brought me into a state of automatic moving mediation. It was evident, I was a visitor in Grenada but I was home. Not that Grenada closely resembles my native island of Aruba or my current home The Netherlands. To the contrary, Grenada is a lot different, inside and out. It was these differences that sparked a notion of home, but home in terms of origin, home in the sense of the source, if you will.workshop

The ‘Dismantling the Caribbean Cliche’ Creative Writing Workshop at the historic Priory, Church St. 

I did most of my thinking while using the island’s public transportation system. In fact, I felt most at ease when I was packed in these mini-vans with about 15 passengers while loud reggae music distracted us from the heat. These buses describe so much of what I have come to experience as the island of Grenada. The driver honks at people on the street to check whether they need a ride. I wondered if these pedestrians ever got annoyed at all the honking or appreciated the gesture. Analyzing it in my fixed-bus-stop perspective I would suggest constructing official bus-stops, as it would rid the driver of looking for passengers while pedestrians would no longer need to let every driver know they will continue on foot. People would simply wait at the bus-stop which would automatically indicate that they wish to make use of public transportation. Then came more flashbacks. I recalled the moments in fixed-bus-stop land, when I would run to the bus-stop in the rain or snow waving frantically to bus drivers while being seconds late, only to have them look me in the eye as they proudly continue their route perfectly on time. I already know that the next time this happens to me, I will hear the Grenada bus honk resound gently from my left ear to my right.

So what does all this public transportation have to do with my residency? Everything, you see. On one of my last days on the island I took a bus that was in very good shape compared to the others I had been traveling in. The seats had nice new covers free of holes and what surprised me most were the bells above each window. You see when you wish to let the driver know where you prefer to stop, you must knock on the sides of the bus and the driver will let you out. Up to that day, that was the only way I saw everyone declare their desired stop. In this new van however, passengers were to make use of the bell when they wanted the driver to pull over. I was not the only one unaware that some busses made use of bells. When one local passenger gave the usual knock, the driver did not stop. After two louder bangs and her desired stop moving further out of sight, the passenger yelled “STOP!” And the driver pulled over. The passenger asked the driver whether he did not hear her knocks and the driver, in an angry tone, instructed her to ring the bell next time.

After this lady was dropped off I told the driver where I would like to stop since it was dark and I could not recognize the area. He then let me know that I was on the wrong bus because he does not go as far as my destination. He told me I had to go back to town to get another bus. The other passengers told the driver to just take me the extra five-minute ride as it was already late. The driver did not appreciate the behavior his passengers were expecting from him. Although I of course wanted to reach my destination as soon as possible and despite my biased interests, I could also understand the reason the passengers expected this gesture from the driver. After spending some time with the locals last year when I visited Grenada, this trip reaffirmed the existence of some sort of powerful trusted karma on the island. I say trusted because I noticed that the Grenadians I encountered tend to give with confidence. It seems the full circle is so automatic, so imminent, so imbedded that spending time recollecting favors takes away from time best used to continue giving. Despite the passengers’ peer pressure, the driver pulled over to let me out so that I could take a bus back to town to subsequently take a bus back up. Once I stepped out of the van I began walking to my destination instead of trying to get a bus back to town. As the driver slowly began to move his vehicle, the other passengers kept telling him that he cannot let me walk in the dark and that he must do me a favor.  After a few back and forth’s between the driver and the passengers, the driver told me to step back into the bus. Once I arrived my destination I paid the driver double the price of the ride but it did not seem like he considered the payment a display of the trusted karma in action.

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Rosabelle on a hike with Syisha Williams from Mango Bay Cottages

That night, after the experience in the new van with the perfectly covered comfortable cushioned seats and fancy bells, I kept thinking. Up to that point, my bus rides in run down vans with friendly people, nice music, seats where the filling was coming out and no bells, were one of the highlights of my days. Sure I questioned development as I looked inside the busses and wished for the island to have newer vehicles and yes I questioned development as I looked outside the bus and wished for the island to renovate buildings and possess newer technology and resources. Yet as soon as I experienced a developed bus-ride I wished to go back to the good old days when we knocked instead of ring bells.

So I contemplated development. Must it have a negative correlation with humanity, with that warmth, kindness, with that trusted karma? I began working on a piece that has a few phrases such as

“Develop me gently,

I want to keep my humanity

I want to recognize when to say it’s okay

leave that payment for another day,

next week or you know what don’t worry about it

I want to give with confidence

knowing you won’t exploit it

my kindness

you won’t destroy it

you’ll manifest it

share it with someone else

so someone else can be kind to someone else

so when I need someone else they too shall say it’s okay

leave that payment for another day,

next week or you know what don’t worry about it

Develop me gently for I give with expectation

I refuse to let kindness cease with you

I will follow you around

I will tumble you down

until you release kindness to someone else

so someone else can be kind to someone else

so when I need someone else…”

There’s this small phrase I kept hearing from many Grenadians, it still resounds gently from my left ear to my right: “it’s okay”. On my second day in Grenada, I entered a store in town to purchase a bottle of soap. I did not have enough coins to pay for it so I asked the gentleman where I can find an ATM machine. He told me where the closest ATM machine was but he said he wants to make a deal with me. For now, he’ll let me take the soap for the coins I had, “it’s okay” and next time when I come back to shop there I can give him the remaining coins. At this point I thought great, I do not look like a tourist because who would make such a deal with a visitor who’s stay is temporary and is less likely to return to the same store?

By my fourth day in Grenada, I was already getting used to how “okay” many things are: cars are left unlocked while parked in public places, home doors and windows left open at night. So on that fourth day when I was looking for some breakfast, I entered a small diner in town and asked a young lady whether she had any fruits. She said “just two bananas will that do?” “How much?”, I asked. She said “it’s okay”. It’s okay? I felt an internal rant coming up so I took out my cellular phone to set it free:

“How can it be okay if you’re in your store, not just at home where you offer visitors refreshments and snacks at no cost? How can it be okay if it’s during opening hours? How can it be okay if you do not know me, clearly I am a tourist why are you not trying to screw me… over? I gave her less than it was worth where I come from and she gave me change HOW IS THIS OKAY?!”

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A Grenadian bus. Image Source: www.sailneytiri.com 

Yes, during my residency in Grenada I heard about the problems, the issues, the history, the revolution and the challenges the island faces. It is not my wish to ignore parts of Grenada while magnifying others. However, despite its difficulties, I feel Grenada is in a fortunate position. It is on the verge of increased development while it is populated by heart. What I am trying to convey is that the people have heart, the people are hearts. Yes, all islands and all countries have their troubles but to me, Grenada — as a state of mind — is where I wish to stop. It is my desired stop. It is where I would knock on the side of whatever I am being transported in and get off. It is from where I wish to cultivate wisdom to render myself capable of moving forward. So that when I develop, I can trust with ultimate confidence that it’s all okay.

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  “Trust the wall” with Groundation Co-Founder  Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe

During my residency I realized that Grenada is an island I wish to visit more often and I would like to continue working with Grenadian artists. For this reason, I am ending this account with a call to current airline companies operating in the Caribbean region or those looking to engage in a new business endeavor and start a Caribbean airline company: It should be easier, quicker and cheaper to travel between the islands in the Caribbean region. A direct flight from Aruba to Grenada would take approximately 3.5 hours. It took me 9 hours to reach my neighboring island. Yes we have been colonized, yes our past lurks and yes we are limited as small entities, but we have all of that in common. So let’s grow closer as a region and continue to inspire each other while developing ourselves gently.

Groundation Grenada you have been most kind, see you soon.


RosabelleIlles1Rosabelle Illes (1987), is an Aruban writer and artist. She is the author of two collections of poetry “Beyond Insanity” (2005) and “Spiel di mi Alma” (Mirror of my Soul, 2010) and the creator of an art calendar entitled “Wholism” (2012). Her short story “Stars for sale: a buck each” (2013), about a woman who becomes mentally ill after the baristas at her favorite coffee shop repeatedly misspell her name on her coffee cup, is published in the 11th issue of Gone Lawn Journal. Her experimental piece “The invisible short-story” (2013) features in theNewerYork Press and her poem “True Friendship” (2014) can be found in the 13th volume of My Favorite Bullet. Her most recent work “Species” is published in the Spring 2014 anthology by Crack the Spine Press. Presently, Rosabelle is working on a children’s book in collaboration with Curaçaoan singer-songwriter Levi Silvanie.
Next to producing works of art, Rosabelle also dedicates her time to teaching the craft. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Rosabelle led a two-week workshop on creative writing as part of the Pancake Gallery’s global educational arts program “Art Rules Aruba.” She has also taught creative writing and held lectures at Webster University Leiden, the University of Aruba and The Pedagogy Institute of Aruba. She holds a BA in Psychology (Hons) with a minor in English from Webster University and an MSc. in Social and Organizational Psychology from Leiden University, where she is currently a doctoral candidate in psychology. @rosabelleilles www.rosabelleilles.com

Mt Zion Library continues to move forward!

Mt Zion volunteer Librarian Grenada

 

“Grenada has the highest poverty rate amongst the English Caribbean countries. Children and youths make up the majority of that rate.” (UNDP: 2009 Human Development Report) “Grenada’s unemployment rate currently stands at 40 per cent.” (The Commonwealth Media, web 2013) A past Minister of Education stated that the nation’s secondary school graduates are “unemployed and unemployable.” A high poverty rate and low functional literacy rate is affecting the future development of Grenada and seems to contribute to an increasing number of disenfranchised youth, a perceived lack of options and lack of motivation for self-development.

Mt. Zion Library is a collective, charitable initiative, founded by the Mt. Zion Full Gospel Revival Ministries Intl., Groundation Grenada, Oonya Kempadoo and Hands Across the Sea, in response to the closure of the National Public Library and absence of a communal space for literacy in St. George’s, Grenada. We are proud to share our progress to date:

• Our General Library is open to the public with full bookshelves, thanks to the addition of two barrels of books donated from Naugatuck Valley Community College, Connecticut.

• Our Children’s Library is also fully stocked with beautiful books and membership doubled over the summer.

• Mt. Zion Library is a supportive and youth-friendly space providing opportunities for volunteering and career mentoring.

 

Mt. Zion Library, a free community-led library located upstairs in the Arnold John building, Melville Street, St George’s, is currently open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: 2.30 pm – 5:00pm and Saturdays 9:00am – 2:00pm. We welcome all to join as free members of our Children’s Library (ages 5-12 years) or our General Collection (ages 13 – adult).

You can support the library’s on-going efforts in expanding reading, homework support and literacy programs to a greater number of Grenadian children, youth and adults with your generous donations here, by volunteering your time and expertise or by participating in our upcoming fundraising events. Funding donations to support operational costs and additional volunteers will allow the library to continue to serve its growing membership.

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Volunteering with Mt Zion Library is a unique opportunity to learn valuable librarian skills and gain insight into running a community initiative from the ground up. We have a team of amazing volunteers now and are seeking a few more committed people to lend their support for a minimum of 2 hours weekly. Head volunteer librarian Kerrisha Nelson notes, “This is an excellent opportunity in which I help others whom I never thought I could. I see how an effective small group can make a big difference in society.” Groundation Grenada Director Ayisha John says, “Reading is a pleasure that should be open to all, which is why a free library is important to me. It has been my joy to help make Mt. Zion Library a place where all can have access to books.”

As a volunteer you will become part of a community of book lovers, a supportive environment that welcomes readers of all levels. “Reading has been used as a punishment for too long and I think this library is going to be the kick start to turn that around”, says Alesia Aird, a young musician & volunteer librarian. “Volunteering is a truly rewarding experience. It’s a great way to give back to the community” says Rosemarie Rajwant, who also volunteers at Mt. Zion Library.

If you don’t have time to volunteer, you can still join the growing collective of reading and book supporters through your generous financial donations. Donations are needed to support building operating costs and employ trained staff to enhance library services and provide leadership for volunteers. Volunteering provides training and opportunities to learn about career options in teaching, library and information services and community literacy programs.

 

Help Mt. Zion Library to help others, now. Make a pledge today donate here.

Want to volunteer? Please email mtzionlibrary@gmail.com or call 457 5725. Or, drop in to the library and talk to one of our volunteers for more information. With your donation and/or participation, you will receive regular updates on our expanding membership and programs.

For more information, visit www.mtzionlibrary.com or like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/mtzionlibraryhrc

Thanks for your kind support.

Media Contact:

Oonya Kemapdoo

(473) 457 5725 mtzionlibrary@gmail.com

 


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.