The exhibition one month after being known in that island, at the newly opened art space of the Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger in Basel, Switzerland, showcases the enormous wealth of contemporary visual arts in the present-day Caribbean. As expressed by curators Yina Jimenez Suriel and Pablo Guardiola, the exhibition hopes to provide insight into how the arts produce and reproduce understandings of a Caribbean that is different from the common stereotype, more critical of its history, diverse, anti-colonial and emancipated.
The title for the exhibition is a sentence from the Treaty of Basel, signed between the Spanish monarchy and the French Republic in 1795. The document put an end to the Roussillon War and included, among other concessions, surrendering the island of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti) to France. According to Jiménez and Guardiola, the brief reference to “that island” reveals the efforts to obscure colonialism. With this re-reading, the curators explain, “the exhibition poses Edouard Glissant’s créolité as a strategy of resistance to confront the colonial and neocolonial logics in our region. (…) We understand créolité as a theoretical body that defines a process of rupturing with imposed and inherited cultural forms and patterns in order to create a different mentality”.
Among the participating artists are Ramón Miranda Beltrán (Puerto Rico), Minia Biabiany (Guadeloupe), Christopher Cozier (Trinidad), Tessa Mars (Haiti), Elisa Bergel Melo (Venezuela), José Morbán (Dominican Republic), Tony Cruz Pabón (Puerto Rico), Madeline Jiménez Santil (Dominican Republic), Guy Régis Jr. (Haiti), Sharelly Emanuelson (Curaçao) and Nelson Fory Ferreira (Colombia). The project is the result of a collaboration between Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger and the Caribbean Art Initiative, and is accompanied by a publication of the same title that includes texts by Marta Aponte Alsina and Rita Indiana.
C&AL: Why is it necessary to stimulate a conversation between Caribbean visual artist?
Yina Jiménez Suriel: Because this is something quite unusual in the cultural sector of this region. With our exhibition, we wanted to open a conversation about working methods and especially about the thinking and the multiple political layers that envelop the Caribbean. Culture is part of our daily lives and reveals dimensions that would otherwise not reach the surface.
Pablo Guardiola: Another reason why we envisioned a conversation is that, in the Caribbean, communication between the islands and the mainland is very limited, at least for visual arts. With this project we want to join forces with other bridge building strategies.