Artist’s Statement, Catherine Forter Chee-A-Tow: Caribbean Casuals open at Art Splash on 14th Dec. 2013 in Hastings, Ch. Ch.
“Through the eyes of the artist” It is to me a very important notion and a true understanding of the meaning and freedom of being an artist. A means of expression, not only in the execution of the art but the amazing ability and will of the artist to give form to imagination. Peter Minshall, (I don’t need to introduce this huge Trinidadian artist) says in Mas Man that Art is about capturing the essence of a people, or a place and giving it a very unique form.
Over the years, I have questioned the definition of creole and subsequently creolization and creoleness, not to pretend to a definition in terms of history (there are actually many definitions) but to satisfy my need and wish to understand a people and a culture that I now call my own. I gave it my artist interpretation; I liked the depiction of women in their Caribbean elegance and antics. Why women? In a great part because Caribbean women in their diversity, antics and apparels are a forever source of inspiration for artists. It was a way for me to pay tribute to their beauty and elegance, too many times are they represented toiling in the fields! But my choice was also because the word creole stems from the Latin “crear” to raise/ to nourish/ to create.
The Portuguese crioulo is considered the oldest term for creole although the first documented use of the term is the Spanish criollo which referred originally to Spaniards children born in the new world in contradistinction with children born in the Iberian peninsula. The term was later extended to adults and made a distinction between people born in the land of their heritage and people born in the, then, colonies. The term was used equally to refer to blacks or whites as in white creole or black creole.
What is very important in my view, is that by claiming a creole identity, people from colonized land mark their difference from the original colonists and their descendants in the old world. It was, I believe, the beginning of the process creolization and the birth of the concept of creoleness. In the process of creolization, heterogeneous heritages, African, European, Asian, Levantine are the foundation for forming a new common culture. And here again I would like to quote words from Peter Minshall in an interview stating ” … they say I’m a European, they say I am a Chinese, an Indian, they say I’m a black but I am all of that – I’m a Caribbean.” And this brings the notion of creoleness or “creolité” which started as a literary movement with the French writers Confiant, Chamoiseau, with the political purpose of carrying the message of a Caribbean Identity .
I would like to make reference to Caribbean Reasonings in which George Lamming refers to a Caribbean sensibility carved and perpetuated by the imagination, itself influenced by our sense of belonging and historical context. I quote: “Whether you are from Barbados or Jamaica in the West Indies… there has been created within the historical context of this archipelago a particular kind of sensibility that links you to a place in a very special kind of way… we have to undertake that the sense of belonging is not erased… is not lost, especially at a time when they are saying that the world has no bounderies in terms of power structures . We will make sure that the bounderies of sensibility are not destroyed. It is the imagination which maintains the bounderies of sensibility.”
Although Mr. Lamming refers in many instances to the literary arts I do believe in the role of visual arts as a vehicle of the Caribbean sensibility to and throughout generations of Caribbean people but also as a sensibility transcending in its own right the geographical and cultural borders of the Caribbean.
In other words, I would like to toast to art and thank all of you here this evening. This is an evening dedicated to ART and I would like to acknowledge the presence of fellow artists, Mario Porchetta photographer and musician, Ariel