Eat Caribbean exhibition explores cultural experiences

Written by By Sandy Bruno, CNN

After nearly six decades, a question remains for those struggling to cope with the aftermath of a natural disaster: “What should I do with the remnants of my loved ones?”

The problem lies in the gap between physical and spiritual remembrance.

“The tragic nature of a natural disaster often compels us to focus only on our physical devastation,” writes Katie Rippon, a journalist and author, in her new book, A Caribbean Tale.

The day to day must be replete with help and comfort. At the same time, there must be a continued reflection on what happened, which bonds families and communities to their deaths.

Rippon’s book, released in January 2018, focuses on the perspectives of six Caribbean islands, many now heavily reliant on tourism as a revenue source, helping to compensate for dwindling land availability.

Australia welcomes Chinese tourists

It shows a range of perspectives on the way humanity deals with tragedies from a visual standpoint. For example, this is from artist Curtis McTeeman, with the topic “Hobart: An Aquarium”? A view of the ancient Tasmanian people, giving thanks to nature.

Another is focused on Bishop Solomon and Bendigo, where 30 years on, members of a local church feel they haven’t been sufficiently credited for helping to spearhead Australian tourism efforts.

In many of the places Rippon visited, the wealthy are disregarded by less affluent communities. “Developing cultures have only recently begun to push back against this obliviousness,” she writes.

Churches and museums remain the link between the old and new

Rippon has also spoken to people, such as Dr. Veronica Moon from Saint Lucia’s St. Rose of Lima Parish, about their desire to be a part of writing their history — in both oral and written forms. A Lutheran and Episcopalian, Moon has conducted oral testimonies for visitors looking to see firsthand the way the Caribbean is remembered.

“The destruction was all-encompassing,” she tells Rippon. “It seems we have forgotten how the Caribbean was built … Things are changing.”

Showing a recent example, the Turkish-owned Baha Turkish Hotel in Cape Canaveral, Florida, a ghost town since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, has reopened in a new, sustainable way. A feedlot removed from the town is integrated with the property in order to produce “organic eggs and eggs for fresh supermarket items,” according to Bloomberg.

The Eat Caribbean exhibition (at Melbourne’s Museum of Contemporary Art) has new features to promote the tourism industry across the region. It features more than 400 items of Caribbean art, including some that have been the subjects of the artworks and the artworks themselves.

Rippon writes that it “puts recognition where it counts, using a generous amount of advice about a broader genre of Caribbean art that’s all around us and yet hardly ever seen or talked about.”

The exhibition has provoked several new ways of thinking about tourism in the region, says curator Heidi Gwynne.

“Anybody who appreciates art around the world will want to know more about the artwork,” she tells CNN.

Art is a powerful medium

Gwynne has now gathered pieces from around the world for the second Eat Caribbean exhibition, set to kick off at the Melbourne Museum’s Docklands facility on October 5.

They include pieces from all over the Caribbean as well as Latin America, with requests for art from the US Gulf Coast and Australia’s Gold Coast, with one piece from Australia being the Hell’s Gate in Guyana, a series of 20 sculptures exploring the mythological Greek gate, says Gwynne.

“Arts and culture are at the core of who we are. And we want art that can show our real identities in the Caribbean, so we can tell our own stories, where we’ve come from and where we’re going.”

The Baha Turkish Hotel’s new digs

The exhibition shows how art transforms by offering a “chance to browse through our memories,” according to Gwynne.

Cultural experiences during the exhibition have been set up on vessels with history links. One of the vessels is a “magnolia hibiscus, known as the incarnation of thy God”, says Gwynne.

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