Paper Wars & Ink Treaties: Swan Song of The Flamingo


In 2013 Sonia Farmer was invited to participate in the exhibition “Swan Song of the Flamingo” by Kishan Munroe at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas:

“…This project uses the tragedy of the sinking of HMBS Flamingo of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force fleet on May 10, 1980, as a point of dissection and departure, to address further historical and cultural nuances that have shaped Bahamian culture and interactions with the Bahamas’ nearest neighbour. Designed to inspire critical analysis, this investigation comprises an international collaboration with a cadre of both nations’ leading authorities in social sciences and the arts…”

In an article about the exhibition, Sonia writes that Munroe, “invited other artists to offer their interpretations of the event in their own language, resulting in a multi-disciplinary exhibition that shows us the importance of reflection through a rich offering of artistic stories. After all, history cannot be written in one voice. Memory is a messy, collaborative and ongoing experience, the only worthy way to give witness to the complexity of human existence….”

Collaborators included Patricia Glinton-Meicholas, Gavin McKinney, Cleophas Adderley, Obediah Michael Smith, JoAnn Callender, Lee Callender, and members of the National Ballet of Cuba.

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Sonia’s contribution included a set of visual poems using found language, handmade paper, collage, and letterpress printing. In an issue of Moko Magazine featuring selections of this body of work she described her creative process:

“…I struggled with how to respond to something I was not yet alive to witness. How could I use my own language to address this? As a starting point, I began to read old newspaper stories to see how the event unfolded in real time. A variety of voices came forth through these periodicals, and on these pages a war of its own took shape. My lack of knowledge on the subject prompted my creative response: I began to cut out the words and phrases I found and assemble them into new interpretations of the event. The resulting poems offer an alternate reality of sorts, addressing what happens when memories are distorted by time and ignorance. I then took these clippings and started to embed them in handmade paper, finding this act of cutting them out of one paper and placing them into another was appropriate to acknowledge the idea of context when we address history or tragedy.

The sixteen pieces that emerged, “Paper Wars”, examine the chaos of the event, their messy immediacy, through the very nature of the paper itself: colors and textures splashed together and opacities bringing words and images in and out of focus. In a second set, I used the clippings in collage and letterpress. The sixteen resulting pieces, “Ink Treaties”, imply careful reflection and precision through the nature of printing itself: simple printed symbols or carved linoleum designs with accompanying phrases supplement collaged poems on handmade papers….”

The poems were collected into Cutting Teeth/Clipping Feathers a limited-edition handmade chapbook, along with a poetic response by Obediah Michael Smith, and published by Poinciana Paper Press.

See more pieces here.

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