A maddening combination of way-too-loud and overlapping conversations, fussy children, and overall circus-like confusion steadily chipped away at the tolerance I thought I had for dealing with airport woes. As I type this (on Monday August 1), I’m struggling to pull my thoughts together into something even remotely coherent. Chaos, both internal and external, would be an understatement.
The excitement that initially filled my stomach with wonderful but slightly violent butterflies was soon threatened by frustration. Almost three hours after I got to Timehri for a 4 a.m. check in on a 6 a.m. flight, everyone was told that the flight was delayed until 6:45 a.m. A second delay followed shortly after and the reason was chalked up to us missing our boarding time, although we were waiting unattended until about 30 minutes before the final call.
Eventually, through the whisperings of upset passengers, we heard the pilot needed his rest. This was completely understandable but there was no airline staff member anywhere to make this announcement. In fact, our only flight updates came from a monitor mounted on the wall, while our lounge-mates traveling with the other airlines had the luxury of an actual person updating them about the delays and diversions. What a treat!
There I was thinking that although I was scheduled to land in Aruba at 10:00 a.m., I would’ve cleared customs and immigration by noon, the latest. This would’ve given me more than enough time to get settled in and mingle with the other participants of the fourth installation of Caribbean Linked (CLIV). I had it all planned out in my head, a clear idea of how the day would go.
Evidently, I needed a reminder that the world doesn’t quite work that way. I took that as a cue to relax, release any preconceived ideas of how things would go and be open to the spontaneity of the next three weeks. And so I clung to that mantra for the remainder of our 16-hour delay.
Fast-forward two days later and I’m still struggling to catch my breath. But I take comfort in the fact that I’m probably not the only one in this residency going through the days in a zombie-like trance. So much has happened in such a short space of time that I’m not even sure my brain has fully processed everything as yet.
After landing in Aruba at 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, I was immediately struck by the architecture of the buildings on the island. There was no question in my mind that these were people who took pride in design elements and principles. Vivid colours were everywhere. And although it was obvious that they weren’t afraid of trying what others might refer to as “unusual” colour combinations, they weren’t the least bit tacky. Everything was just effortlessly beautiful.
That same night I met independent artist Robin de Vogel, the vibrant and fun-loving powerhouse who would be shouldering a significant amount of the administrative tasks during this residency. She, along with her sister and CLIV participant, Laura de Vogel, drove in the dead of night for what must have felt like the millionth time that day, to pick me up from the airport.
Although we were communicating online weeks prior, we had never physically met before that night. But that didn’t matter to the person I saw running towards me with outstretched arms. It felt like a warm and much-needed reunion after the day I had. Immediately, it was clear to me that there were no strangers here. This was reinforced yet again when their mom, Edith de Vogel-Mensonides, welcomed me into their beautiful home to spend the night before I moved across to Ateliers ‘89.
What followed next seemed like a haze of memories each melting into the other in strange and psychedelic ways. In addition to feeling as though I was a day behind the entire world after my airport dilemma, it became impossible at times to the place certain events that had happened with the correct days. Eventually I stopped trying. I was just extremely grateful to be present and in the moment with such an amazing group of creatives.
Whether it was an island tour that stretched on for hours or a trip to the Aloe Farm with a host who was genuinely and refreshingly passionate about his work, there was an incredible energy we all felt and shared. For me, being here reiterated the value of initiatives like Caribbean Linked in a region that is desperately lacking the infrastructure to support cultural exchange between regional territories.
More importantly, the organizers recognized the need for this and have been actively working, gathering resources and building networks so that we may all benefit from this collective experience.
Caribbean Linked is a regional art residency and exhibition organized by Ateliers ’89 Foundation in collaboration with ARC Inc. and The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc with support from Mondriaan Fonds and Stichting DOEN. In the fourth installment since it’s launch in 2012, ten artists from the region were invited to participate including Frances Gallardo (Puerto Rico), Travis Geertruida (Curaçao), Charlie Godet Thomas (Bermuda), Nowé Harris-Smith (The Bahamas), Dominique Hunter (Guyana), Tessa Mars (Haiti), Oneika Russell (Jamaica), Shanice Smith (Trinidad), Simon Tatum (The Cayman Islands) and Laura de Vogel (Aruba). Also invited were master artist Humberto Diaz (Cuba), writer and co-founder of Moko Magazine David Knight Jr. (US Virgin Islands), specially invited curators María Elena Ortiz (associate curator at the Perez Art Museum Miami, PAMM) and Pablo Léon de la Barra (curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for the Latin American phase of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Caribbean Linked IV runs from August 1 to August 24 and will be spearheaded by Robin de Vogel (Aruba) and Katherine Kennedy (Barbados).
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on August 7, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: