In March I was invited by Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator to be one of six artists from the United States to partake in an International Cultural Exchange in Guadeloupe. DVCAI is an arts organization based in Miami-Dade County in Florida. Its mission is to promote, nurture and cultivate the talents of emerging artists form the Caribbean and Latin America Diaspora. The cultural exchange they foster brings together artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to engage in exhibitions, studio visits, and workshop intensives in the Caribbean. I was invited by Rosie Gordon-Wallace, DVCAI’s executive director and curator, whom I met at a portfolio review hosted by En Foco in 2009. The exchange served as a powerful affirmation; finding commonalities with so many diasporic artists working all around the globe was invigorating.
DVCAI’s exchange is a collaboration with L’Artocarpe, an artist-driven residency and exhibition space located in Le Moule, Guadeloupe. Its director is Joëlle Ferly a multidisciplinary artist whose goal is to create a space that nurtures international artists to create work. The seven participating artists from L’Artocarpe were Kelly Sinnapah Mary, Francois Piquet, Henri Tauliaut, Annabel G, Florence Poirier-Nkpa, Joëlle Ferly, and David Gumbs. From the US the six artists, aside from myself, were Rosa Naday Garmendia, Francesca LaLanne, Juana Valdes, Nadia Rea Morales, Aisha Tandiwe Bell, and Jaquenette Arnette; supported by Vincent Scatliffe, Continuous Line and photographer Roy Wallace. The first half of the week long residency was dedicated to artist presentations and studio visits to acquaint each other with our work. The rest of the time included exhibition openings, portfolio reviews with local high school students, and discussions culminating in a group exhibition of participating artists.
Alternate Currents: New Art from the Diaspora was the group exhibition co-curated by Rosie Gordon-Wallace and Dr. Alix Pierre a professor in the African Diaspora and the World Program at Spelman College who is originally from Guadeloupe. The exhibition was cohesive and a huge success. At the beginning of the exchange there was a lot of eagerness to connect among artists, but it was challenging communicating between French and English speakers, More complex was navigating the differences between American and French-Caribbean culture.
The differences only meant we had to spend more time together talking everything out. The most exciting moments were the “aha!” moments where I saw eye to eye with another artist and we realized we understood each other. The beauty of that experience reminds me of Mrs. Gordon-Wallace’s mission statement. She states, “A diaspora is about the dispersion of a people. Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator looks at the places where our paths cross and intersect, how we sound and who is standing at these points of connection.” In all our activities, workshops, and conversations the moments of magic happened when we noticed that regardless of our upbringing or how far we live from each other, something in the shared history of our dispersion created countless points of intersection.
Mrs. Gordon-Wallace, like a loving mother, advised us individually not to forget to think about ourselves. Take the time to contemplate our own practice. We can get lost in the act of doing, networking, and applying in art making that we forget to take a breath for ourselves. She also spoke of how she creates these opportunities to make us feel special and see the value in ourselves and in our work. The 2015 International Cultural Exchange to Guadeloupe definitely provided this and more to my practice. I cannot wait to continue the dialogue with the new friends I made during my trip, and I especially cannot wait to share their work with my artist community in the United States.