Annalee Davis, experienced visual artist, activist, designer tells us about a recent project, ON THE MAP, a documentary video project. For artists who are interested in venturing into making documentaries and some activist projects, Davis sets an example.
What is 'On the Map' about and what does it seek to achieve?
ON THE MAP is a thirty minute video project airing intimate discussions with undocumented Caribbean migrants who speak of life between the cracks. More specifically, it looks at the movement of people from Guyana to Barbados, revealing gaps between the official stand on Caribbean integration & the experience of unskilled Caribbean migrants, within the context of the CSME (The CARICOM Single Market & Economy).
The goals of ON THE MAP are:
1.To give a voice to the numerous voiceless and tell a contemporary story of intra-Caribbean migration.
2. To sensitise the public and policy makers to key social issues.
3. To contribute to conflict resolution at the community level while promoting tolerance, understanding & respectful coexistence.
4. To foster policy debates and political attention to the development of sound socio-economic policies under the integrative sheme.
5. To use my voice as a visual artist as a legitimate language to back chat to the state and engage in debate.
How did you transition into making documentaries from your earlier work ( paintings, drawings etc.) and do you see the documentaries as a part of your fine art practice or are they two different realms?
On the Map evolved naturally out of work I had done in relation to notions of home, longing and belonging. The region's attempt at becoming an integrated space is ultimately a question about Caribbean people claiming the archipelago, hundreds of years later, as home. The fact that we 'otherise' some Caribbeans as less then legitimate, is questionable. It seemed that the most effective way to speak to the migrant experience in the way I wanted, was through video....the project determined the transition into this new media...new for me. I am not sure that the On the Map exists in a different realm to the rest of my work...I see it more as a progression through ideas which are being developed thoroughly.
How do you finance and actualize your projects and is this something that the Barbadian Government participates in?
I received a government seed grant to assist with some of the pre-production and production costs of the project. A lot of it is self financed. I was producer, director, script writer and gopher! I worked with Omar Estrada, a Cuban artist who was the cinematographer and editor. I also worked with two other Cubans - David Alvarez, the director of an orchestra in Cuba and a musician, who came to Barbados to compose the music for the project and Henry Garcia did the animation for the video. It was a small team - underpaid, and over worked. The Barbados government has expressed interest in supporting projects which fit into the state's agenda to earn foreign exchange and grow Barbados' economy....not necessarily to develop the contemporary visual arts as a stated focus.
Your blog is quite socially activist and politically involved, how does this act as a medium for your documentary and fine art work?
The blog has helped to increase awareness about the issues while providing a broader platform to participate in the national and regional debate. It functions as a constant back up to the project, keeping it current by archiving issues related to intra-Caribbean migration. It is one of my projects which has received the widest attention, outside of the art community, resulting in my participation as a writer in the regional press and on panels on radio programmes. I like the fact that the medium which generated the public's interest in my perspective on this issue, is the visual arts.
Is there a particular atmosphere as it relates to the art in Barbados that fuels your work?
Although there are a number of artists who are producing intelligent work throughout the region; as an insular island, Barbados does not enjoy the attendant supportive institutional framework needed to develop the visual arts in the way, for example, you might see in the Spanish Caribbean. I am committed to this part of the world where I continue to live and work, with all of its frustrations, and at the same time, am developing relationships regionally and internationally to build opportunities for the work to be seen.
What kind of projects and collaborations are you open to across the region?
On the Map has evolved into Project 45....a suite of 45 projects that continues to examine the anxieties surrounding the free movement of people, while questioning the parameters that define who belongs and who doesn't. I recently worked with a videographer, someone who relocated to Barbados last year and who produces video documentary. Together, we recorded an interview with a Vincentian woman who wanted to tell her story of being harassed on the local bus by Police and Immigration authorities. (The state has recently taken to spot checking travelers' documentation to prove their legal status to live, work and reside in Barbados.) I am interested in collaborating in this kind of way, with individuals on projects that expand this discussion. In addition, I am collaborating with Canadian based, Barbadian visual artist, Joscelyn Gardner to launch a web-based project to facilitate critical discourse and opportunities for all kinds of interactions among artists and writers.