Alberta Whittle was born in 1980 in Barbados, in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, and currently works between Barbados, Scotland and South Africa. She is an artist, researcher, author and curator. In 2018 she was a RAW Academie Fellow at RAW Material in Dakar, and was the winner of the Margaret Tait Film Award for 2018/9.
C&AL: What drove you to become an artist?
Alberta Whittle: I’ve always felt driven to be an artist. I am very lucky to have very supportive parents who also went to art school. My dad is an artist and we have collaborated a number of times. I have fibromyalgia and I was diagnosed as I was a child. I often spent time in my room drawing, painting, making collages. In some ways I feel like as if I am still looping back to some of the ideas that I was working on when I was on my own in my bedroom.
C&AL: Your work addresses notions of colonial legacies, in order to create awareness about collective healing and reparations. Can you expand on what do you mean by collective healing and reparations?
AW: What I pursue within my artistic work and within my curatorial practice is the hope for meaningful conversations, where we can come together, listen, and share openly. We need to enter into a state of collective listening, which hopefully will lead to moments of healing. In terms of recognition of how crucial radical listening can be in working through uncomfortable issues, in particular reparatory justice, Niv Acosta’s work on resting as a form of resistance has been influential. Niv suggests that healing can be achieved through taking time for “black power naps”, that is for black bodies to make time to prioritise rest, since they have historically always been pressured into a dynamic of over-production and excessive labour. Contravening these racialised expectations for black labour has become a big concern within my practice: how do I make sure that our interactions with each other are more compassionate, as well as critical?