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The island of splendour and paradise of colours

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Exploring island colour: Bermuda Society of Arts director Nzingha Ming with Nina London (Photograph supplied)

If you ask me what is my favourite place in Bermuda besides the ocean, I would answer without hesitation: the Bermuda Society of Arts gallery.

The first time I came there was exactly three years ago.

I was looking for an opportunity to work as a volunteer and saw an ad looking for someone with social-media skills.

I entered City Hall, climbed to the third floor, opened the door and stepped up into another world: of bright, bold colours and happiness.

There were countless pictures of smiling children’s faces, colourful houses surrounded by flowers, proud roosters, blue ocean waves, white sailboats, kids locked in strong handshakes, laughing suns, an owl with surprised round eyes, an orange lion of curled paper, numerous hearts, smiling dogs and cats, fantasy fish and dancing girls in bright dresses.

It was so marvellous that I did not immediately notice the exotically beautiful woman with a regal bearing, a high complex hairstyle, hoop earrings and a stylish red dress quietly sitting at a computer. “Hello, my name is Nina. I want to volunteer here,” I introduced myself.

“It is very nice to meet you. My name is Nzingha Ming, I am the director of the gallery,” she replied with a radiant smile.

“Her name is as solemn as that of an empress, and it suits her so well,” I thought with astonishment. It turned out her father named her after the queen of Angola.

After I began working there I liked to watch how she attentively talked to artists, how she sincerely tried to help each one of them and how friendly she was to every person who came to the gallery. I admired how hard she worked each day to produce a new exhibition every three weeks.

The first one I saw captured my heart. It was the work of students from primary schools around the island, aged 5 through 12.

I realised that art from children this age does not go through many of the filters found in adult artists. It is a window into the child’s soul, a direct look at their inner world.

Sometimes it is a mirror of their strongest feelings of love or fear; the things that make them most happy and occasionally the things that bother them the most.

Yet, what struck me about Bermudian children’s works was the intense colours; dark reds and blues and yellows and oranges and purples and greens.

I was gazing at a vibrant self-portrait from an eight-year-old when I felt a window open inside my memory and I found myself at a child’s art show from my past. It was winter and my daughter, Maria, had some pictures in her school exhibition in Irkutsk, Siberia.

She was 9 years old. Suddenly, I saw the childish sketches of concrete buildings, grey tree trunks and scattered figures in the white, empty landscapes of snow.

The feeling was emptiness; that the people and buildings were placed close together on the big, white confines of the paper.

These sparse works raced past, then dissolved into the intensely colourful pictures on the walls of The People’s Gallery in Bermuda.

What was so different between these children’s images of their worlds?

I thought of how both Irkutsk and Bermuda were isolated communities.

I thought how children are joyful everywhere. It was obvious, yet it came to me with a new certainty.

Colour! The vibrant tapestry of the Gulf Stream waters with infinite shades of blue and silver beneath indigo sunsets, the delirious mosaic of pastel houses and bright roofs and flowers.

I compared it to the austere and rolling expanse of Siberia and the grey, industrial factories of the Soviet era.

Colour was what was shaping these children’s inner worlds, and these artworks were a mirror of their environment.

I felt a moment of awe as I realised how lucky the children of Bermuda were to grow up on this extravagantly colourful island.

I thought of Bill’s daughter. How she sailed and snorkelled in an aquamarine ocean and went to birthday parties in green gardens full of pink oleanders and red hyacinths.

Bermuda is a paradise for children and the colours of their world flowed through the exhibition in a stream of pictures and paintings and drawings that mirrored it in every bright shade imaginable.

I realised that we live here in a world of colour therapy. When the sun shines, we feel good and the intense colours bathe our consciousness with a subtle joy.

They say Bermudians are some of the happiest people in the world. I looked around at the rainbow array of children’s artworks and thought how it starts early here, surrounded by the joy of colour.

Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com

Work on display in the Bermuda Society of Arts gallery as part of an exhibit by primary school students (Photograph by Nina London)
Work on display in the Bermuda Society of Arts gallery as part of an exhibit by primary school students (Photograph by Nina London)