Arrivants: Place, Diaspora and Art in the Global Caribbean

Eu-Lac Museums, Barbados Museum & Historical Society, November 7, 2018 – February 3, 2019 For Inaugural Exhibition In Barbados, Touring Schedule TBA (2019 – 2021)

Taking its title and its focus on “the journey” from Kamau Brathwaite’s The Arrivants Trilogy, this exhibition explores the diasporic nature of Caribbean society as documented and interrogated through its artistic production. Particular focus is given to the Anglophone Caribbean at different points in time from the early 20th century to the present day and to the cultural impact of migration from and to the United Kingdom, North America and Europe, as well as movement within the Caribbean and Central American region. Many artists are themselves migrants and have reflected on this experience in their work; and the broader effects of diaspora, displacement and migration are key themes in the work of many artists in the Caribbean and its diaspora alike. Given the recent migration crises throughout the world, and particularly the questions about the immigration status of members of the Windrush generation in the UK, the subject has strong currency and is on the minds of many cultural practitioners.

A secondary but important objective of this exhibition pertains to the representation of Caribbean art in survey and thematic exhibitions, most of which have been initiated, funded and toured by major institutions in the metropolitan centres and most of which have never even been shown in the Caribbean—a major imbalance in the representation of Caribbean art that needs to be corrected. This exhibition is curated from within the Caribbean and will also premiere there, and it emphatically casts its gaze on the issues represented from within the Caribbean itself. And while Caribbean diaspora artists are of course included, special care is taken to have a strong and diverse representation of artists and art works that originate within the Caribbean, as this is often also a deficiency in externally curated exhibitions.
The exhibition is organized along two broad, overlapping themes: Place/Displacement; and Negotiating Diasporic Identities, with sub-themes for each section:


A key issue in diasporic experiences is the connection to place, both in terms of the imaginaries that surround the original homeland, and the sense of connection, or lack thereof, to the place of arrival and settlement, as is the at times perilous and alienating process of moving from place to place, whether by force or by choice. These are common preoccupations in the work of artists who are themselves migrants, whose subjectivities are shaped by various diasporas, and who are part of the cosmopolitan societies of the Caribbean, as frequent travellers. Such a sense of displacement also occurs in the context of Caribbean tourism, which can be seen as the flipside of migration, which generates a largely fictional sense of place that is rooted in nostalgia, stereotype and exploitation.

Subthemes: Legacies of Empire; Babylon and Zion; Memories of Home; Journeys; (Un-)Belonging; Global Lives; Tourism and the Ethnographic Gaze

Diasporic Subjectivities

Between the diasporic origins of the Caribbean and the continued transnational movements of Caribbean people, identities are constantly renegotiated, with regards to notions of “home” and responses to life in the diaspora, where cultures collide as much as they do in the Caribbean itself. This shapes the experiences and definitions of self, community, family, race, social status, and gender and sexuality, in both positive and negative ways. This section explores how artists have participated in and responded to these dynamics.

Subthemes: Renegotiating Identities; De-Colonial Strategies; Modern Blackness; Gender and Sexuality in Diaspora; (In)Visibility; Diasporic Families

The exhibition will be accompanied by a film programme, performances at the opening functions, and an online illustrated catalogue with essays by key voices related to the subject.

Principal Investigator: Alissandra Cummins
Consultant Curators: Dr Allison Thompson, Dr Veerle Poupeye
St Andrew University Team: Dr Karen Brown, Dr Catherine Spencer, Kate Keohane
Exhibition Logistics: Jessica Taylor
Launch Date: November 7, 2018 (EU-LAC/MAC conference, Barbados)
Exhibition Schedule: November 7, 2018 to February 3, 2019 for inaugural exhibition in Barbados, touring schedule TBA (2019-2021)
Exhibition Venues for Inaugural Exhibition: Barbados Museum and Historical Society and other exhibition venues in Barbados TBA
Funding Sources: The main funder of this phase of the project is the EU-LAC Museums and Migration project; other funding sources help to support the implementation of the exhibition.