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Traditions make exhibition

As was the case for the international art exhibition in Venice, a Carriacou tradition stars in the upcoming architectural show.

With three components and entitled ‘Walking on Water’, the exhibition at the Grenada National Pavilion will feature a documentary film on legendary Carriacou boat builder Alwyn Enoe, when the show runs from May 20 to November 26, 2023.

The theme for the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, as selected by curator Lesley Lokko, is ‘The Laboratory of the Future’ and has inspired some historical insights for a multi-faceted experience for visitors. According to a press release from the curator of Grenada’s pavilion, Susan Mains, “asking itself how to participate in the collective workshop of the Architecture Biennale, Grenada has decided to present a group project (The Crew) focused on the construction and use of traditional wooden boats.”

Referring to the transatlantic slave trade, Mains noted that Grenada’s project will highlight “the legacy of this forced migration, the cultural plurality that characterizes its cultural traditions.”

As Carriacou’s Shakespeare Mas was featured in the recently concluded international art exhibition in Venice, boatbuilding traditions are documented in the film ‘Vanishing Sails’ by Alexis Andrew. The film chronicles a project by Enoe, referred to in the synopsis as “one of the last boatbuilders practising a trade passed down the generations from Scottish settlers that arrived in Carriacou in the 18th century.” The documentary follows Alwyn on a three-year journey to “build one last sailing sloop with the hope that his sons will continue the trade.”

The architectural aspects of boatbuilding offer insight for the future by understanding the past.

“By the very history of the island, the activity of building boats has its roots in the confluence of knowledge and memories from different origins, from the indigenous people, the Kalinago, from Scotland, from Africa, from the creolization of many, handed down and improved in collaborative work units such as workshops. But 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,” Mains explained.

Another component of the display will be the installation of ‘Little boats’ that draw attention to climate change.

“The sails of the Little Boats become a place where people can write a message — a sentiment of friendship, a message about global warming, against war. It is a moment of art and activism,” Mains noted.

The Flotilla will have contributors from Grenada, Barbados, Dominican Republic and the People’s Republic of China.

“The mast has been chopsticks, bamboo, or wood from the jungle; and the sails have been silk, canvas, cotton – whatever is found in the country in which they are being made,” she said.

As for the title, Walking on Water, the connections to climate change for Grenada and Venice are there.

“The title “Walking on Water” refers to the people of Venice dealing with the effects of the Acqua Alta and climate change, and now the people of Grenada facing the same in the city of St George’s.  Also, the reference is made to the “miracle” that it will take for the people of the earth to reverse or adapt to this phenomenon.”

The press release notes that this is the sixth appearance of a national pavilion from Grenada for the Biennale. The project is organised by the Grenada Arts Council; sponsors include the Grenada Tourism Authority, Grenada Enterprises Group, The Mermaid Hotel in Carriacou; Susan Valentine, Carriacou; Art and Soul Gallery; Art House 473; Art and Design Grenada; Century 21 Grenada; Insurance Consultants Grenada Ltd; Laluna Boutique Hotel and Villas; McGuinness Foundation; and Costa (light design) Italy; C & C Architettura Ingegneria Italy and Venice Documentation Project Italy.

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