Sonia Farmer’s erasure of one of the most formative descriptions of the English Caribbean in the seventeenth Century, Richard Ligon’s 1657 guidebook, A True and Exact History of Barbadoes, uses the language at the core of this text to interrogate narrative as a device of cohesive history in the Caribbean space. Presented as an artist book in “We Suffer to Remain,” the closing of this exhibition reimagined this poem as a performance, available to hear below, and available to read through a script published by Poinciana Paper Press.
Using eleven speakers to represent the eleven separate parishes of the island, their voices inhabit and exchange threads of these dispersed narratives, ultimately calling into question what it means to write “a true and exact history” of anything:
Mik Bancroft — Speaker One: An Ex-Pat
Sonia Farmer — Speaker Two: An Immigrant
Jason Evans — Speaker Three: An Undocumented Island Resident
Yasmin Glinton — Speaker Four: An Island Citizen
Jodi Minnis — Speaker Five: An African Slave
Nicolette Bethel — Speaker Six: An Historian
Ian Bethell Bennett — Speaker Seven: A Colonial Slave Master
Craig Smith — Speaker Eight: An Indigenous Person of the Caribbean
Patricia Glinton-Meicholas — Speaker Nine: The Edenic Island
Matthew Rahming — Speaker Ten: The Colonized Island
Natalie Willis — Speaker Eleven: The Free Nation
Audio editing and mixing by Liam Farmer of Team A Recordings.
Purchase A True & Exact History: a Reading from online booksellers including Amazon.
On July 29, 2018, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas hosted a finissage for “We Suffer to Remain” with a catalogue launch and performance of Sonia Farmer’s poetic erasure, A True & Exact History.
Watch a video recording of the performance with an introduction by NAGB curator Holly Bynoe.
Read more about the event here.
About this “De-colonial Soundclash”, Natalie Willis writes:
“…As it is currently displayed in “We Suffer To Remain” in book form, Farmer’s own artistic voice plays into the difficulties and dynamics of power in the space – the voice of man, of woman; the voice of whiteness, of Blackness. Language, and how we wield it, is incredibly potent in this space – it is what makes this region so very particular. The re-framing of language moved us from place of exile to place of healing in the Western gaze and imagination, and now Farmer takes the historic words out of a white, English mouth to remove his hold on this place, to take his own words in an act that is political and subversive to give voice to this myriad of characters whose tales have not been told nearly enough in the Caribbean story.
For the finissage and closing event of the exhibition however, Farmer gives cord, throat, and air to these voices and makes them flesh through a haunting reading of the poetry in “A True and Exact History” (2018)…
…Shifting from colonial English confidence, through to unabashed dialect, to lush, hushed voices of Caribbean garden to the confused and crestfallen colonized-turned-free nation, the speakers deftly take us through not only the voices of the poem, but of many of the schizophrenic and sedimented feelings we have as both Bahamians and Caribbean people. They reflect our history, our present, the utopia we hope for and the dystopian realities we deal with as postcolonial people and nomads….”
Read the entire article here.
Special thanks to Manfred Ginter, Natalie Willis, & Maelynn Seymour-Major for the images of the event.