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See what the world saw

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Shortknee examines abstract painting by Oliver Benoit

The seeds of inspiration come home.

After months of planning and creating the Shakespeare Mas for the La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, the exhibition finally comes to Carriacou.

Featured in the Grenada Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition from April 23 to Nov 27, 2022, the exhibit officially opened yesterday (March 02) at the Mermaid Beach Hotel in Hillsborough for viewing until March 05.

“It’s about time,” said Samuel Ogilvie, a member of the Cypher Art Collective told The Grenadian Voice.

“These are pieces that were inspired by us; it’s not a one to one recreation,” he said, referring to what “the seeds of Shakespeare Mas have done inside my work in particular; but everybody else’s work too.”

A video collaboration by Ogilvie and Ian Friday, paintings by Oliver Benoit and Susan Mains, an installation of found objects by Asher Mains and historical research by Angus Martin were experienced by more than 100,000 visitors to Grenada’s Pavilion.

As Susan Mains, who also served as Commissioner for the Pavilion, previously explained, the Collective “explored the many inputs that have created the unique synthesis that is the culture … of Carriacou” and how the ritual of playing Shakespeare Mas served as an inspiration.

The Pavilion was yet further proof that “our authentic culture holds great interest for the world,” Mains told this newspaper.

The six-member collective began collaborating for the international show during the COVID-19 pandemic, having been forced to communicate via Zoom. Three year later, the show is ‘home’.

Leo Joseph, owner of the Mermaid Beach Hotel, is honoured to have the exhibit in the conference room.

“Anything about the culture, about sustaining the culture is good. I feel good about it,” he told this newspaper.

The Grenada Arts Council (GAC), in a February 20 press release announcing the “reunion of Shakespeare Mas Art to Carriacou’, stated that “never before had these folks in the big world seen such a dissection of the performance culture played specifically in the streets of Carriacou on Carnival Tuesday morning.”

Indeed, the exhibition arrives on the heels of a successful Kayak Carnival 2023, which concluded on Tuesday (February 21) with ‘Shakespeare and last lap’.

“To come full circle, some of this art and artists will now come to Carriacou to be seen by the very people from whom it was inspired,” the GCA stated.

Samuel said it was always the intention of the Collective to bring the exhibit to Carriacou so residents “are able to experience it themselves.”   

An integral component of the exhibit is the authentic costume, which involved nine volunteers, including two seamstresses, in its creation. Made up of a petticoat, shirt, bull whip, face mask, crown and kata, a ring made from dried air roots of the Fiji or Ficus tree to protect the crown, putting it together combined long held traditions that have evolved over time.

A decision as to where the costume, now considered by some as a “national treasure”, and possibly other pieces from the exhibit could be permanently displayed, has yet to be made. When asked if the Carriacou Museum could be considered, Rina Mills, marketing executive for the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) in Carriacou, agreed.

“That would be a good place to start,” she noted, adding that picture of the uniform with explanations would be educational for locals and visitors.

After being part of the exhibit and serving as Commissioner at Grenada’s Pavilion, Mains declared that: “Art has the ability to be a powerful ambassador.  We are so happy to bring our stories full circle.”

The GAC, acknowledging financial support from the Ministry of Culture through the National Lottery Authority and the Grenada Tourism Authority, “as well as private corporations in Italy and Grenada, and many, many individuals,” expressed the hope that “this exercise will help to bring out the knowledge that art has the capacity to interpret our culture, and to share it on an international level.”

The official launch of the exhibit will also unveil the project conceived for the 2023 Biennale di Venezia for Architecture. 

“This project also in a major way emphasizes Carriacou, as it is about the building of wooden boats.  Imagining, designing, building and launching a boat is also ‘architectural’ work, understood as the ability to transform the visions, plans and examples born from the knowledge and skills of previous generations into new objects, solid and real, capable of facing the depths and uncertainties of the sea.  Venice also has a history of building wooden work boats, and we will coordinate with a group there to emphasize the global connection of small islands,” according to the GAC.

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