Log In

Reset Password

At the BNG: Keishunda, Haute Ghetto and Family

First Prev 1 2 3 4 Next Last
Connections and partnership: Keishunda Curtis's installation, Family, is on display as part of the 2024 Bermuda Biennial (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

If your idea of art is limited to sculpture or painting, Keishunda Curtis’s work likely won’t tick any boxes. Hers are installations created from found materials. On display as part of the 2024 Bermuda Biennial is a collection of palmetto leaves, each suspended individually from the ceiling with a fishing line.

Ms Curtis named it Family.

Family is a representation of the importance of connection and partnership,” her artist statement reads. “It is also a play on dichotomies such as beauty and pain, trash and treasure, life and death. The installation is alive. Therefore, even in its state of death and disintegration, it will naturally move and change form with time.”

It’s an unconventional way of thinking that got her noticed by Biennial jurors Ebony Patterson and Helen Toomer. Family is one of 32 works by 25 artists now on exhibit at the Bermuda National Gallery.

The idea of doing it struck Ms Curtis out of the blue. Having spent years creating art out of natural or found materials, she took in her surroundings and realised the palmettos around her could be put to use.

“I was at a friend's house – a beautiful property surrounded by palm trees. They were really, really old ones, really tall; almost like a blanket of palm trees. I was swinging in a hammock, just micing and the idea just dropped in and I said, ‘I'm gonna recreate that.’”

Connections and partnership: Keishunda Curtis's installation, Family, is on display as part of the 2024 Bermuda Biennial (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

She formed leaves into “roughly six clusters”, attached the name Family and submitted her work for consideration.

“It's definitely a technique that I've developed – to hang them at different angles to create the illusion of how a palm naturally grows and then decomposes,” she said.

“It was just something about me in the hammock swinging in the sun; the Bermuda breeze and this blanket of palms. I knew that I wanted to recreate those scenes that we see on our island every day.”

It’s likely the idea sprang up because, at the time, she was “obsessed with palms” and the various colours they took on in different seasons.

Connections and partnership: Keishunda Curtis's installation, Family, is on display as part of the 2024 Bermuda Biennial (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The idea tied in with another passion project: The Haute Ghetto. Ms Curtis describes it as “a Pan-African social enterprise which uses Black art and T-shirt couture to heal and create connections in the Atlantic world”.

“Haute Ghetto translates to ‘high-end ghetto’. I became obsessed with this word ghetto, with the understanding of ghetto because, to me, it was a hub for creativity – there’s little means and so you pretty much have to use your brain and your creativity to create.”

At the time she had limited buying power but a love of “top designer clothes”.

“It forced me to use what I had to still look cool and different. And so I started cutting up T-shirts, because I just had them everywhere, and that started T-shirt Couture, as I called it.”

Connections and partnership: Keishunda Curtis's installation, Family, is on display as part of the 2024 Bermuda Biennial (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Ms Curtis was able to push the idea forward while a student at Central Saint Martins, an art university in London, England.

There it became “a Pan-African social enterprise”, a “business with a purpose” that she intentionally structured as a partnership with continental Africans.

“For my particular brand, Haute Ghetto, I work with a Ghanaian tailor. We haven’t been able to meet each other yet because of Covid – we were all booked and ready and then Covid hit – and so we have this digital relationship,” she said.

“What the Haute Ghetto reflects and what my research and development aim to prove is that there is a lot of value in these transatlantic relationships, that particularly as Atlantic Africans we need to learn to reconnect.”

Ms Curtis hopes that desire comes across through her installation. It’s the reason why she decided to call it Family.

“I'm just obsessed with us relearning ourselves and redeveloping our relationships with each other and making them good,” she said.

All of her art comes from within. Ms Curtis, who is self-taught, believes her works are fitting for the time we live in.

“I mentioned in my [artist statement] that we're entering or we are in a meta modern era according to some theories.

“I interpret that as meaning we are appreciating or re-appreciating nature whereas we just came out of postmodernism where everything was flashy, everything was expensive and Donald Trump like. And now we’re sort of tapering off of that,” she said.

“Today, luxury can look like a bath and art can look like a palm installation. We’re coming full circle.

“In other cultures that I’ve visited, I see it more prevalently. The Japanese, for example, they seem to have an amazing balance between the old and the new. And that's kind of what my art reflects within me.”

The Biennial isn’t her first exhibit. Ms Curtis has shown her work in the Charman Prize at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art and while a student at Central Saint Martins, in London, England, and Hong Kong. The artist’s work was also part of a group exhibit at the Bermuda Society of Arts.

She had applied to be part of a previous BNG Biennial but was not accepted.

“This time I took a chance,” she said. “I knew Ebony Patterson’s work and her medium was unconventional as well. And so I knew it was a chance, possibly, that I'd be recognised. And luckily, I was,” said Ms Curtis, who took time off from her full-time job to create the work.

“It was the confirmation I needed to know that I was on the right track.”

Thirty-two works by 25 artists are on display as part of the 2024 Bermuda Biennial at the Bermuda National Gallery until January. For more information, visithttps://bng.bm/exhibition/2024bermudabiennial/; thehauteghetto.org

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published June 06, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 07, 2024 at 8:11 am)

At the BNG: Keishunda, Haute Ghetto and Family

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon