‘Barbados Ah Come From’ by Artist Kia Redman
by Karen Rollins Nov 22, 2021
We create the story.
Sometimes I forget that, while our history may be old, our country is young. Fifty-five years can’t even be considered one human lifetime, especially not with so many centenarians in Barbados.
Growing up, independence felt like a time that was so long ago; something left for dusty history books. Yet the older I get, the more I realise the privilege we have.
We are all living historians, witnessing the beginnings of what I hope will be a country that lasts several lifetimes. We each have the power and the responsibility to shape the foundations of what our home will become. We create the story.
People rarely realise when history is being made. In the moment, it’s a simple action, reaction, necessity, or accident, a side effect of simply living. I bet you that a century ago no one thought that donkey carts, chattel houses, and jukking boards would become symbols of culture. They were just a part of life.
It always makes me wonder, what overlooked everyday thing around us now, will one day become iconic. What story are we telling without even realising it? What story can we tell if we really gave it our focus?
The things that strike me as purely Bajan aren’t the typical picturesque paradise most foreigners would imagine. They are things that only we could understand the true meaning of, no matter where in the world we are. These things make me a Bajan.
When I think of the sun, sand, and sea, I don’t see a tourist brochure. I think of my mother dragging me through town on a Saturday in the blazing hot sun; I remember how “the sea ain’ got no back door” and I feel its waters poured from an old mauby bottle, washing the sand off my feet before I step foot anywhere proper.
When I imagine the things only we would know; I hear the kites outside my window, high up in the clouds; I remember how a quart was big money in kicks and bites and how my Grannies wouldn’t let me play past 6 o’clock because that was when everybody was glued to the TV finding out what was happening with Marlena.
When I imagine, I smile, knowing the most controversial debate on the island is Wing Dings versus Tenders (#teamwingdings); I hear the men I pass on the street calling me “thickey sweets” and feel the memory of my fingers freezing when I would eat a suckabubbie.
With my art, I elevate these everyday objects and experiences into national treasures. In “Home”, eating around a Shirley biscuit and saving the house until last, transforms into a video, where that house battles obstacles trying to find its way back to the rest of itself.
In “It Poppin in de Van”, a balloon squeezes into a packed van and tries not to pop from the loud music, potholes, and cramped quarters. In “National Treasures”, sentimental Bajan objects are covered in plastic, just like furniture, in an effort to protect something precious.
These artworks, and countless more, stem from the memories and experiences I, and so many others, have had growing up and living in Barbados.
This is what it means to me to be a Bajan. These are the stories I choose to tell.
What stories have you created? What stories will you tell next?
Kia’s art can be seen on her website – www.kiaredman.com.
This article will feature in the 2021-2022 phone directory which is ‘Saluting Barbados’ 55 years of Independence’.