White Creole Conversations: New ways of thinking about whiteness in a Caribbean context

White Creole Conversations

 

Where you are understood you are at home.”

John O’Donahue[1]

The white Creole Caribbean voice has largely been silent or mis/understood in ways that suggest that the white community is monolithic, timeless, and homogenous. The context for this project is the small island of Barbados, where despite its diverse population, social life and kinship are predominantly lived in subtly separate racial spheres.

‘White Creole Conversations’initiates a new dialogue privileging open and honest communication. Rather than asking ‘who am I?’ the question posed might be ‘who are you?’ The focus of the conversations will pivot on issues to do with race and class in this small post-colonial island space and will take place between the artist and the participant.

This audio project attempts to remove the mask of the white Creole, unpack stereotypes around whiteness and reveal the individuality and diversity of this minority population. Also, this project hopes to facilitate exchanges that challenge singular authoritative ideas toreveal different understandings of the white Creole with a desire to generate self-reflection, self-awareness and fresh understandings.

The medium in this artwork is ‘conversation’ which in and of itself becomes an aesthetic device in understanding and shaping civil society. The assumption is that there are generally few opportunities for meaningful dialogue about race in Barbados. ‘White Creole Conversations’ imagines that a more integrated society on a small island is possible when enabled by candid speaking and empathic listening.

Patterned on Theodore Zeldin’s ‘Oxford Muse’, who reminds us that, “the most important networks are those of the imagination, which cross from the conventional to the unconventional, refusing to accept that what exists is the only thing that is possible, Zeldin writes that we are all wearing our masks.[2] It is now time to unmask ourselves.

 

Engaging in meaningful discourse is one way of developing empathy and affinity.A menu of questions from which the participant may choose to respond to might include the following: what is the most difficult conversation you have ever had? What is your relationship to the colour of your skin? Have you ever crossed race or classboundaries in love? Have you felt pain because of your race? Where do you belong? Define home? Who are you?

Given that little has been studied about white Creoles and understandings often operate as myth, one goal for this discursive project is to develop more complex renderings that inspire us to think about this minority in ways we might not have considered before. The recorded exchanges will be accessible as portals allowing listeners to enter the world of the speakers with a view to destabilizing the often fixed, narrow definitions of this minority group while offering more subtle and ambiguous understandings.

As an artist, my intention is to use this audio project to invite participants to respond to questions about their experience as a white Creoleand investigate how race is privately/publicly experienced. Phase II will open up the dialogue to all members of the island community.                                                                             

It seems to me that life becomes even more interesting when we know each other more intimately. ‘White Creole Conversations’ may allow us to do so.


[1] John O’Donahue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom 1998

[2] Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity 1995

 

 

Participants:

Debra Hughes
Debra Hughes Helen Klonaris Peter Laurie Derek Maingot Sharon Millar
         
Francois Piquet Matthew Reilly Monique Roffey Sonya Sanchez Arias Katherine Tafari
Adam Taylor Nadja Willis Keith Jardim Nicky Marshall Holly Parotti
         
William Abbott Alex Kelly Pearl Macek Karen Martinez US Virgin Islands Participants
         
Diana McCaulay Lennox Honychurch Andrew McKenzie Natalie McGuire Evelyn O'Callaghan
Diana McCaulay Lennox Honychurch Andrew McKenzie Natalie McGuire Evelyn O'Callaghan
         
         
         

 

 

 

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