Unity and Black history on show at BSoA
Jahbarri Wilson’s feathered deities are tall and proud.
He created them in the spirit of Bermuda’s Gombeys and decided they were a perfect contribution to Bredrin, a BSoA exhibit celebrating Black artists as part of Black History Month.
He remembers just how excited he was to be invited to participate in the show, which he believes has “unity” at its heart.
“I took it as like finally, we can show how unity works; we can be part of something great together and not just have a show where we're just trying to show off our individual talents,” he said.
“It was [about] unity and family and I feel like everybody pulled from that. I don't want to talk for others but that's what the show felt like for me and that's how I felt when I got the invitation.”
He submitted two pieces of work for the exhibit: the three deities, which he posed in a ritual circle, and a collage depicting people of colour.
“[The deities], they're in nice, beautiful exaggerated dance poses and the feathers cover them from head to toe. They are like a spiritual predecessor of a Gombey; it comes from the same space that the Gombey comes from,” he said.
“The collage is kind of dreamlike and surreal but it feels very at home to me, and I feel like it would feel very at home for the rest of my bredrin also. It’s just different depictions of Black people doing different things. One is a Black man and his daughter petting a hyena; another is a Native American sculptor just meditating upon the water. They represent the spaces that we came from and the spaces that we are in still to this day.”
At the opening on February 10, he drew a picture on the wall around his collage while viewed by a supportive audience. Created on the spot and completely “instinctual”, the artist insisted that doing it in public “helped settle [his] nerves” while people viewed the two pieces he had submitted.
“They fit how I felt about Bredrin,” he said of his work. “The collage is called Where We Were and Where We Are and it just embodied the whole essence of knowing where you came from and knowing you're not by yourself and things like that.”
That the show was an invitation to Black artists and celebrated Black History Month did not impact his choice of work, Mr Wilson said.
“I am a Black Bermudian and I create as a Black Bermudian every day of my life; that's just what I do. I don't make it extra Black. My artwork already comes from this space and this place.”
He was familiar with the work of “a good bit of” the artists in the show, so was particularly excited to exhibit alongside them.
“Everybody did their thing; all the works in there are beautiful and amazing. They have their own story but they can also intertwine. It made me excited.
“It shows how talented Bermuda’s artists are. All ages made artworks and put artworks in and it's just beautiful to see the affinity of everything and what we like to relate to and what we find ourselves creating as a group, but separately. It's pretty interesting to see we are all on the same page in how we feel Bermudian art should evolve.”
The show, he feels, is a must-see for anyone interested in Bermuda art and was a great experience for him personally.
“Anytime I'm a part of anything where I get to show myself with my friends and people I know and people I've been looking up to, it's just a great experience. I had a beautiful experience doing that with other great people and great artists.”
Bredrin is on at the Bermuda Society of Arts until March 7. For more information, visit www.bsoa.bm
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