"Re-Framing the colonial Caribbean: Joscelyn Gardner's White Skin, Black Kin: A Creole Conversation Piece" in Postcolonial Studies, 15
The article discusses the role that the visual arts and museums-through the way their framing and selection choices shape viewers' perception-play in the construction and deconstruction of post/colonial Caribbean identities. The locus of the analysis is a multimedia installation titled White Skin, Black Kin: A Creole Conversation Piece, which was mounted at the Barbados Museum by Barbadian Canadian visual artist Joscelyn Gardner in 2004. The artist's aim in the installation was to expose the telling gaps, silences, and omissions in regard to black and white kinship and inter-racial relations in artistic productions of the colonial period. One such production was the sub-genre of portraiture known as the conversation piece, which was fashionable among an emerging middle class that included colonial landowners and merchants eager to use that visual medium to simultaneously document the wealth their colonial connections brought them and disavow their use and abuse of black bodies to create that wealth. In challenging the conventions of the conversation piece, Gardner recovers unspoken and suppressed stories from the colonial Caribbean past in order to re-present black and white Creole females identities; and in her use of the installation to 'intervene' into items displayed in permanent exhibits, she demonstrates how the Museum can become a site of active contestation of received knowledge.
Hyacinth Simpson is an Associate Professor in Ryerson University’s Department of English. Her areas of research include Caribbean, postcolonial, and diaspora studies, migration, immigration, identity, and non-western literatures.
Other publications from this author include: