“History a forgotten, insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.” Derek Walcott in his Nobel lecture, The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory, explores the diverse lineage of the Caribbean through vivid imagery and the assertion that the landscape and elements within it are part of our collective epic consciousness.
Our ideas of value and beauty in the Caribbean are constantly being contested by other civilisations’ products and aesthetics. Conversely, value and beauty in the Caribbean are constantly being defined from the outside as a region good for its beaches, rum, and renditions of “Yellow Bird”. Other civilisations point to its ruins as a legitimizing element of its history and projects onto the Caribbean that it is lacking in ancient marble edifices just as it is insufficient within civilisation.
Our identity in the Caribbean is intrinsically linked to the landscape and the elements within it. The epic memory of the land is only surpassed by the illimitable expanse of the sea. The things that wash up on our shores tell us stories and the things we find in the rain forest have always, always been useful. The beauty of a landscape and elements of it such as the banana fibre in this work are empathic and mnemonic. A ruin has never told such a personal story to us as standing in a familiar place, or handling a familiar object. A ruin has never sparked that part of your identity that comes alive when you realize that someone else has a shared memory of an object or a material. The light that enters into the conversation when people exchange stories of how they remember relating to a material is the light that interrupts the restless night of history.
The banana fibre itself is riddled with a visual vocabulary that looks as if the fibre itself has a memory. How are we able to see a landscape – a seascape within the natural pattern of the fibre? What are we trying to remember? I have arranged the material in a way so that we can view it together outside of its usual context, laying beside the young trees that grow where it once stood. I have arranged this material into a tower because as people we revere the towers of civilisation. Genesis only made it 11 chapters before building a tower. We should piece together our towers with parts of ourselves and the things we know. Our towers should be built from our stories as we collectively contribute to our epic memory.