Who is a Bahamian? Essay

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Public displays of Bahamian pride have adorned Bay Street and the profound Nassau Art Gallery (NAG) since the later part of 2012. An attractive cadre of portraits, arts and craft has captured various dimensions of the Bahamian life in efforts to increase national awareness of Bahamian ethnic identity, history, and culture and to attempt answering the loaded¦ question of who is a Bahamian?(Wells1). Arguably, nationalism in the Bahamas has been poorly understood as evidenced by researched articles published by Sabrina Lightbourn, Patricia Glinton-Miercoles and Nicolette Bethel. Therefore, we now probe the underpinning concepts of what makes us Bahamian. The challenge is that many Bahamians intellectually lack interest in this research and it therefore affects their understanding of the dimensions of national and ethnic diversity that has uniquely blended to create what we know today as Bahamian.

Bahamian renound photographer, Sabrina Lightbourn in her recent editorial written by Erica Wells in the Nassau Guardian of Who is a Bahamian? highlights her aims to increase Bahamians awareness of a multi-cultural ethnicity often unseen, ignored or misunderstood (Wells 1). She expresses her views not in so many words but with photographs of random Bahamians with varying skin hues, hair types and facial features that seems to beckon Bahamians to address their roots. Presently, Bahamian whites as she expressed in her editoral, often find it challenging to live in The Bahamas where the general consensus is that being Bahamian means having a dark skin complexion with thick Negro hair. She alludes to the fact that even our spoken language is also a determinant of who is a true Bahamian. Bahamian dilect is comprised of jargon special to the Bahamas and its natives. However, if a Bahamian, born and raised, speaks with proper diction and clearity one would assume he or she is not a true Bahamian.

What complicates this claim is if the person is of a fair or white skin tone then difentely the blood that runs through their veins is not that of a Bahamian. Geographical locations within the Bahamas can also decide if you are truly Bahamian. Nicolette Bethel eludes to this in her article National Identity and the Archipealago when she states: race and colour, central components of Bahamian identity are fundamentally affected by the geography of the archipelago. (3) The NE6 Kingdom Come art exhibiton at the Nassau Art Gallery is comprised of 49 participating artists of Bahamian descent or living and working in The Bahamas, with 25 female artists and 26 male artist including artists from the Family Islands (Edward 1). These Artists individually bring a unique twist to produce original artwork around a theme of change. This uniquely fits the ideals Sabrina Lightbourn projected in her editoral about recognizing the faces of change as Bahamians.

The exhibition included five distinct segments: identity, spirituality and balance, justice, transformation, survival and specific features of the Bahamian landscape (Edward, 1). Chief curator John Cox explained the rational behind why the artists collectively chose the sub-title of Identity in his essay as: Knowing who we are makes us confident about who will become. Do we, as Bahamians, understand truly who we are today? (Edward 1). Female artists Sabrina Lightbourne, Kishan Munroe and Susan Moir Mackey esentuated the images of depicting the various cultural identities that Bahamians assume. Above all, Sabrina Lightbourns assorted photographs seemed to have hit target in proving that what Bahamian is is individual diversity with a common ethinic bond. This ethnic bond is that we are all descendants of the black race. Therefore, regardless of physical differences that often are used to sterotype a person in a particular class or group such as hair color and texture, skin tone and facial structure, Lightbourn shows in her photos that these features truly cannot define who a Bahamian is or should be.

The exhibition lacked historical national legends like Sir Lynden Pindling, the suffergeates, Sir Milo Butler, the Fountain of Youth in Bimini, the chickcharnie of Andros or the Lusca of the ocean holes. All of these myths and legends have founded Bahamian cultural identity. Androsia print was lacking in the craft piece by Lillian Blades Mystic Veil. However, each photograph Lightbourn displayed captured the unique features of a Bahamian that is deeply embedded in our lives today with traits from the Lucayan, Taino, Siboney Indians, the Englishman of Great Britain, the Yoruba, Nango, Congo and Ebo Tribes from Africa. This proves therefore, that while Bahamians may consider differences more than similarities, deemed to have no common link with other cultures or even exalt themselves on a pedestal over other nationalities, ignorance becomes more treacherous to the vitality of the Bahamian heritage. As Lightbourn states; we may look different and we may sound different but we are all Bahamian.(1) Kingdom Come offered two outstanding pieces that describe a Bahamian.

Firstly, the painting of Monsieur Louis Taylor by Thierry Lamane depicted an elderly male who seems to be a fisherman from on a Family Island dressed in attire of his trade and decade. A craft structure that represented the strength of the Bahamian woman was by Apryl Burrows. Overcoming gender restrictions and oppression in the Bahamas has been a long and tedious fight beginning with the Suffergeates of the 1970s. Their ferocity helped to form the foundations of legislature that govern the prejudices that were held against women in the Bahamas in the past and governs the present thus becoming an example of the rights for female equality worldwide.

A video installation by Claudette Dean in Resurrection is a visual depiction of how Bahamians need to resurrect themselves from a cultural grave by believing that they are superior to other cultures, nationalities and ethnic groups. Dean reminds viewers that even though each Bahamian has different features when the layers of differences are peeled away the true revelation is that we are diverse human beings sharing a common bond of being Bahamian. Dylan Rapillards Existential Crisis using the cotton swabs encased in small wooden frames each had a different label but on a whole they are identical. This means once again that it is tragic for Bahamians to think they can only be black, have a certain hair type, have a certain facial structure and body structure, speak a certain way or live in a certain part of the Bahamas in order to be truly Bahamian. Tour representative at the Nassau Art Gallery, Cynthia, expressed that she is disappointed with the lack of interest shown by Bahamians towards this art exhibition.

She states that it seems as if Bahamians either are not aware of the exhibition or simply are not interested in such matters as their ethnicity and cultural heritage. She projects that if this exhibition was held somewhere internationally, the overall response would have been overwhelming. Cynthias predictions seem to be correct as evidenced by a recent observation of the hustle and bustle of the downtown area which revealed that not many Bahamian natives stop to take note of the intrinsic art displayed before them.

In contrast, disembarked cruise ship tourists and other visitors, can be seen snapping photos while standing in awe at the unique displays of nationalism. If true national pride is to be achieved, Bahamians need to understand their origins and the innate transformations that the Bahamas as a country has undergone. The Bahamas is a country of blended ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and racial heritages. As Nicolette Bethel asserts; the internal sea of the nation fosters the development of a variety of separate but interlocking traditions which interact one with another, but are not necessarily replicas of each other the development, in other words, of a number of centers without margins. (14)

Works Cited
Bethel, Nicolette. Navigations: National Identity and the Archipelago. Journal of the Bahamas Association for Cultural Studies (BACUS) Vol I. (2000): 1-15. Print. Russell, Edward. National Art Gallerys NE6 explores transition in modern times. The Nassau Guardian 17 November 2012. Web. 24 January 2013 Wells, Erica. Who is a Bahamian? The Nassau Guardian 19 January 2013. Web. 24 January 2013

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