2nd conference: Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean
Wayne Modest, New Roots: Caribbean Ontologies from Africa to the Ghetto
New Roots: Caribbean Ontologies from Africa to the Ghetto Between July 28 and November 2, 2013 the National Gallery of Jamaica staged its exhibition, New Roots:10 Emerging Artists, with an ambitious set of accompanying public events. The exhibition featured work by artists such as Deborah Anzinger, Camille Chedda, Matthew McCarthy and Olivia McGilchrist, all of whom are ‘under 40 years old and new or relatively new to the Jamaican art world’. With this exhibition, the organizers intended to ‘identify and encourage new directions in the Jamaican art world, in keeping with the National Gallery’s mandate to support artistic development and to provide opportunities for young artists.’ It was meant to ‘reflec[t] marked shifts in artistic and curatorial practice that respond to the current global and local cultural moment, especially with regards to the changing relationship between art work, artist and audience, and it presents new perspectives on art’s potential to foster social transformation in a time of crisis.’ In this presentation I want to briefly reflect on the New Roots exhibition as marking a contemporary refiguring of ways of knowing and being in the Caribbean, while it critiqued older models of thinking about the region. I am especially interested in what this exhibition proposes for how we understand notions of diaspora, rootedness, community and Caribbean ontologies. In discussing the exhibition’s intent and impact, I ask whether these new roots are in fact all that new. Wayne Modest, is the Head of the Curatorial Department at the Tropenmuseum. He was previously the Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman Museums and Gardens in London and Director of the Museums of History and Ethnography in Kingston, Jamaica, and has held visiting research fellowships at the Yale Centre for British Art, Yale University and the School for Museums Studies, New York University. His work is driven by a concern for more historically contingent ways of understanding the present, especially in relation to material culture. His research interests include issues of connectedness, belonging and displacement; histories of ethnographic collecting and exhibitionary practices; and the Caribbean and difficult/contested heritage (with a special focus on slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism). Some images, sounds or other media used in the following presentation are subject to copyright restrictions that prevent them being shown. In order to provide a complete record of the conference, these items have been blurred or silenced. Should we obtain permission to use these images, sounds and other media in the future the films will be updated.