(Not) a Fisherman’s Wife (2018)

As part of an ongoing project in which I explore island cultures, I participated in a residency at 2 Rooms Artist Residency in Newfoundland, Canada. I reflected upon similarities and differences between the Caribbean where I grew up and the east coast of North America. Geographical aspects made Newfoundland feel intrinsically familiar to me even though I had never been there before: the omni-presence of the sea: physically, culturally, economically; the constant wind, the smell of the ocean, views of the coastline. Contemporary life on this giant island is deeply marked by outward migration that came with the cod fishing moratorium, similar to decades of Caribbean people migrating abroad in search of a better life. During my residency, I visited a number of small historical museums in the Bonavista Peninsula and noticed how, at the museums, the colonial discourse was privileged, indigenous history all but erased and the island’s connection to the Caribbean was only briefly mentioned. But, while those settlers were colonizing already inhabited land as if it was theirs to take, I felt conflicted as I read books, such as Tilting: House Launching, Slide Hauling, Potato Trenching, and Other Tales from a Newfoundland Fishing Village by Robert Mellin, which demonstrated how hard the daily lives of early settlers were in Newfoundland, much like in the Caribbean.

As I spent time on the island, I contemplated how it was only by chance that my family did not choose the east coast of Canada as their destination in the 17th and 18th century, instead of Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad and St Kitts. Should my family have migrated to what is now Canada back then, the destiny of the women throughout my family’s history likely would have been to be fishermen's wives. The self-portraits recognize how history remains present in our individual contemporary lives - we are who we are largely because of the people and the history that precede us that is based on circumstance.

(Not) A Fisherman’s Wife is a photo series of up to 18 images of various sizes and one looped video Remapping (Newfoundland). The images consider objects and spaces that were familiar to me in terms of island life, such as the caned rocking chair found in many

Caribbean homes, sea eggs, seaweed (in the same year that I went to Newfoundland, the Caribbean was experiencing the worst stranding of sargassum in history which covered beaches with tonnes of noxious smelling algae, effectively hurting deeply the tourist and fishing economies but seaweed has a beautiful skin-like texture that as an artist is lovely to work with). The spaces/places, like the interior of the traditional Newfoundland saltbox house, the small villages on the coast at times showing their poverty with a pile of junk outside, also made me reflect upon what life may have been like for the women who came before me.

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