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The Art world, migration and gender:  an interview with artist Holly Bynoe 

    Interview by Heidi Martins and Camelia Zavarache 

    Edited by Holly Bynoe

    Zoom interview (28 October 2021) 

    Holly Bynoe is one of WEMov’s stakeholders. An artist, curator, and writer, her artwork celebrates borderlessness. She is the co-founder and director of ARC Magazine, which celebrates contemporary art from the Caribbean and its diaspora. Originally from Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Holly Bynoe now lives in Barbados and her work is inspired by regenerative practices to honor the land and Mother Earth. A graduate from Bard College and the Yale School of the Environment, Holly Bynoe is currently a Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) International Curatorial Institute Fellow in 2021. She has curated exhibitions at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (2014-2019); Halle 14 (Leipzig, Germany); Warfield Center, Idea Lab (University of Austin at Texas); Grace Exhibition Space and Gallery (Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY) and most recently at Kunstinstituut Melly, (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), among others. In 2010, she was Visiting Lecturer at Rutgers University, NJ and is currently a lecturer in the Fine Arts Division at the Barbados Community College. Her art work is inspired by decolonial practices around healing, spirituality and the land; postcolonial vestiges; memory, heritage and identity; African diasporic spirituality as well as sustainability in agriculture, among other fruitful influences. 

    Fig1. Portrait of Holly Bynoe Young by Alexander Newton.  

    Camelia Zavarache: Welcome Holly! In your Linkedin profile one can read that you are an “an artist, curator, writer and Earth ally”; that you’ve co-founded and you have been the director of ARC [Art. Recognition. Culture] Magazine (2010-2017) and you were Chief Curator at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (2015-19). Moving back to the Southern Caribbean with practical knowledge of regional cultural institutions, their health and ways to innovate and build community spirit, you are currently working more actively in regenerative and remediative Earth honoring practices, with a keen interest in plant medicine and Afrikan Spirituality while living in Ichirouganaim, the indigenous name for Barbados. About your work, one can also read that it acknowledges and honours the ancestors, the indigenous and the many seeds sown upon our lands. I will now pass the floor to Heidi, for the first set of questions. Holly, is there any updating to your profile that you’d like to make? 

    Holly Bynoe: Yes, I’ve also sat a lot with this word “regenerative agriculture” and I realized that what I am actually trying to do is to investigate decolonized practices around healing, spirituality and the land because there is such a negative connotation towards agriculture given our historical context in the Caribbean. In that, I am trying to give witness to the hardships of the  historical vestiges and traumas around agriculture (the provisioning of foods and medicine under the plantation system). Because it can be seen as very one dimensional and toxic, that kind of renegotiation with the land, the land’s knowledge and its relationship with indigeneity is something that I am interested in.        

    Heidi Martins: Thank you very much! Indeed, we would like to know more about your work, namely as an artist, curator, writer, spiritualist and medicine woman. Can you tell us more about your background, trajectory and your current activities and interests? 

    Holly Bynoe: Such a large question, but … I come from a very small island: it is called Bequia and it is part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; which is a 32-island archipelago. I was born on the footsteps of the oldest Botanical Gardens  in the Western Hemisphere (est. 1765) which is really parallel with my life in terms of it being a very generative, sacred and organic (albeit manicured and imperially curated) nature space. I’ve been working in culture and art for the last 21 years, so, for most of my life, and took the risk at a very young age to step outside of the normative understanding of what a profession means for my family. I would have been one of the first people to do a non-normative degree in the Arts, and that cemented and opened up my senses, abilities and understanding in varying, generous ways. And while I started my academic experience within the Natural Sciences (I wanted to be an ornithologist, I wanted to study birds), my creative aspirations started to grow and, 21 years later I now identify as several things: as a spiritualist, as an Earth ally, as a writer, a curator, and more so a cultural activist. And I say the word “activist” because this is very important to me, it is important for us to ground this conversation in the understanding that I come from a space that has been colonised, pushed beyond the periphery and continues to be looked at/understood in a certain kind of way and/or within a certain kind of gaze from the West.  

    From the perspective of being from the Global South, this comes with very particular kinds of connotations, prejudices and microaggressions with regards to our abilities and efficiencies. One of the ways in which I tend to think about my work is to consciously create interventions where truth telling, breaking down mythologies and understanding one’s context and history takes precedence. I practice this by looking into our regional and diasporic space, into the ways in which we’ve been made invisible and trying to unearth profound visibilities and ideation by presenting our being – actions, articulations, multivocalities and meanderings of the future. The work can be volatile because it is about confrontation and seeing, about working through the image of selfhood and the psyche. As a cultural activist, instigator and bridge, I use my work to forge connections into that internalised space of questioning so that self can come into knowing and by extension communities, nations and the world can have a better understanding around the production of material and capital in our space. I am consciously interrogating the cohering of the Caribbean, and what it means to present strategies and interventions into our space that lead to debunking the myth that we are monolithic, paradiscal, isolated, impoverished and all of the tropes that one can think about. In fact, the isolation that many creatives and Caribbean people feel was born from a very particular kind of doctrine, a colonial doctrine that fractured our tongues, corrupted the lingua franca, it was a tool that kept us in place to understand ourselves within a limited capacity. It was a violence enacted to keep us away from our wholeness. In this work, I have been able to look inside and develop a searching eye, a meandering large one-eye stare that is at once critical and intuitive, drawing from the traditional knowledge before me while engaging with the changing eruptions of our globalised world.  

    I am always trying to figure out how to negotiate my position as somebody who comes from a matrifocal space. I come from a space that honors the woman as the center of home––the hearth––the domestic engineers and GrandMothers who organize the mundane things of life. Today, I stand honoring the ways in which the women who have gone before me have done invisible work to make sure that I could share these words. Much of this work  acknowledges the past, understanding the things that we need to do in terms of negotiating our way forward with our strategies of thrival, language and our being, but never forgetting that this negotiation has to come into balance with the past and what it means to be a woman from the Bynoe clan, carrying on a certain kind of legacy in this world.   

    Fig 2. The St Vincent botanical garden, as seen from the bottom of the central walk. From: Lansdown Guilding. An account of the botanic garden in the island of St Vincent. Glasgow: published by Richard Griffin & Company, 1825 [FCDO Historical Collection QK73.S2 GUI] 

    Heidi Martins: Thank you! Well, so, can you tell us now a bit more about your own experience of migration as a woman? 

    Holly Bynoe: You know, itʼs very strange. I always asked my parents, “How did we end up on this small, seven square mile piece of land?”. There were all these rich stories about seafarers, about men building boats, going out into the world and not conquering but provisioning, because we didn’t come from a conquering legacy, that is the other side of colonial whiteness. But we came from the seafarers, and the only reason these seafarers were able to do the work of provisioning was because the woman, the mothers were able to stay at home, stabilize families and communities while building everything, including homes. I grew up in a house that my mother helped build. And my experience of migration started when I was looking into my family archives. To think about all of this work that I was doing, because I was feeling this stringent exile when I was in New York doing my MFA, and I couldnʼt negotiate my belonging. I took up space as an exile and I realize now that that was a brief period which allowed me think about re-centering my identity and what it means to be a woman of color who presents as white, who presents as this Type A negotiator and manifestor of my own experience in a space that is fraught with classism, racism, social tensions around capital(s) and misogyny. Of course, I had to go into the archives and what I found there was something really interesting.  

    Barbados was settled in 1627 by the British, and some of my ancestors would have come in the early 1600s as a part of the indentured workforce. Then in the 1700s you would have had more complicated migrations from Portugal and France, because Saint Vincent was tossed back and forth before the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The French occupied the Grenadines decades before the Treaty. Prior to that they couldnʼt inhabit the space because the indigenous forces were too strong. So, when General Ambercromby defeated the indigenous forces, and killed Chief Chatoyer in 1795, the British layed further siege and started to make the space more “hospitable” for very small, humble settlements. And of course, I am also thinking about the other part of my genesis story with the enslaved from Africa, which started after settlement, which is at this time invisible, obscure and a great fiction, as I’ve had to fill in gaps. So, these periods mark the first trans-Atlantic crossings for my ancestors. The settlement in Barbados is the area where I draw some tangibles in. The indentured Irish, Scottish and continental European labourers were commonly known as poor whites or “Redlegs” and they would have been a part of the workforce on the plantation. They were not a central part of the labour force on the plantation, given the emergence of British slave society from 1627 onwards, but on the periphery of the plantation and through allyship they were seen as essential. In the 1860s, after the emancipation proclamation was passed in 1838, there would have been a mass migration happening from Barbados to the Windward Islands which would have included St Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent, and parts of Trinidad as well. There was a considerable exit of about 1,000 people to St. Vincent, about 100 of them settled in the place of my great great grandmother’s birth, Mt Pleasant, Bequia. [Saut de retour à la ligne][Saut de retour à la ligne]I come from a space where we have a deep legacy of moving, of transiting. In the mid-90s, I started my movement. I moved from Bequia to Trinidad to do my first degree, and then I moved from Bequia to New York, to the Magnetic North at 21 to start my art experience, as a creator, as somebody interested in images, but as somebody who also wanted to do deeper work around film.  I have always identified as itinerant, in fact I know that Barbados is the final space for me, I am making my way back home, returning to the smallness and simplicity. A loophole. A retreat. 

    The Caribbean has never been this fixed or static space with an adherence to the colonial ordering of things. Straight off the bat we wanted to know each other, we wanted to have more exchange, andnow, looking into the creative space of the Caribbean there is this urgency to really work against the linguistic divides… to move beyond the strictures our ancestors reckoned with. I was not given the opportunity to learn another language because of St. Vincent’s geopolitical status as a British Colony. Whereas people who are born in St. Lucia, Dominica or Grenada have a fluent Creole/Patois tongue. Even though the Anglophone Caribbean is viewed as homogenous, it seems that St. Vincentʼs dropped into another dimension or we lost our creole/patois fluency. And thatʼs probably because of the indigenous battling, genocide, onslaught that was happening. There is some of that. 

    Fig 3. Obelisk/monument to St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ only national hero, Joseph Chatoyer, Paramount Chief of the Caribs. The monument is located at Dorsetshire Hill where the Carib Chief was murdered. Image by Akley Olton. 

    Heidi Martins: So, this question is a bit a mixture of the other two. How do your activities and projects connect to migration and representations of migration, particularly with women and migration? 

    Holly Bynoe: The Caribbean is a hot-bed for intra-connectivity and I was saying before that it is essential that we work to dismantle these barriers so we can provision ourselves with a deeper knowledge of our space and combat our unknowing of each other. In terms of the work that I have done I could just highlight one very important project that I started at the National Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). It is important to understand that my curatorial lens very much elevates the work of women of color, LGBTQ+, BIPOC who are working with issues around land, decolonization, neocolonialism through the lens of tourism, spirituality and indigenous practices.  As such, I worked to refine a pilot project called Double Dutch which had seven iterations during my tenure and itʼs a series of collaborative exhibitions that supported bringing Bahamian and regional artists together, irrespective of where they were residing to combat the xenophobia, classism and racism that is very rampant in the space of The Bahamas.  

    The Bahamas has a very interesting history. From the 1790s, Haitians sought refuge in The Bahamas from the upheaval of the Haitian Revolution, and as such they became a formidable part of the workforce. This has continued through today with the political and social deteriorating over time even though, today, blood lines have been mixed for over 200 years. Of course, we understand that there are certain kinds of blackness within the Caribbean space that are still very much problematic to those who still embody and uphold racist ideology. And it was very important for me to consider how the work of women starts to shatter and break down these boundaries, borders, unknowing and apathy because this action of putting up a border is very superficial and in our region symbolic.  

    I know that once these boundaries are set in place, over a period of time that people tend to think of them as non porous, rigid markers of relationality. What art and culture does is give us an opportunity to know each other, to negotiate our differences; and it provides a platform for us to speak through affinities and divergence. This can become a pretty powerful strategy in that we move beyond the boundary and are able to unlock the sentiment of the personal, the subjective, the empathy and love. We are able to think about personhood in a very, very particular way.  

    Before the Double Dutch started in 2015, the NAGB welcomed very few non-Bahamian artists into their space. The engagements didn’t seem to offer substantial exchange programs or further collaborative energy and could be critiqued as advocating hyper-masculinist sentiment while obliterating the work of women. Nonetheless, the Double Dutch programming through its iterations allowed moments within the national space to unpack notions around Bahamianness, intra-Caribbean migrations, Blackness, climate change mitigation and evolving gender and sexuality dynamics.  To bring these kinds of nuances in gave the institution the ability to think about roots and routes, the construction of nationhood from a more dynamic perspective, family lines and bloodlines which remain very interlinked regionally.   

    If you look at the transits during the Transatlantic slave trade, you see patterns of arrivals (ports) into the region, in them you come to know how families were torn apart, how settlements became founded and how knowledge was irradicated from various settlements. So, when you disconnect people from their customs, traditions, rituals and beliefs you destroy and impact the psyche. This psychological assault and weaponization is in place. We are all feeling it, all across the region, at every moment but the art practices are giving us ways to have that conversation, to speak about a certain kind of violences, to speak about erasure, forgetting and the BIG BIG traumas. 

    Fig 4. Double Dutch 7 Hot Water. A collaboration between Plastico Fantastico and the University of The Bahamas. 2019 

    Heidi Martins: Thank you! How does honouring women through art help to break down the superficiality of borders? 

    Holly Bynoe: Absolutely, my art and life celebrates borderlessness and acknowledges ways that we can weave new threads of knowing to each other. This is possible because of the family dynamic that I grew up in, it never felt hostile to other people, so my parents did their work. And I would say that this was mostly unconscious as we didn’t have to sit down to plan our knowling. My father was a mariner and because he got to see a lot of the world during his lifetime, we were all just very interested in knowing other spaces and had that curiosity.  

    Some of the ways in which I see my work celebrating that is also through the lens of this rhizomatic almost mycorrhizal relationship that we have in the Caribbean. So, going back to the work of stalwarts like Édouard Glissant and thinking about how we see and unsee, and then how we tend to not want to become uncomfortable with the seeing. There is a lot of comfort within invisibility. Within the not seeing there are no uproars, there are no revolutions, we are all just OK with not knowing each other. This isn’t true. And for a long time, I wondered about this pathology, of siloing ourselves. What insecurities have to gestate for this to be foundational, what woundings and fractures. At times, I am absolutely lost in the root/route of that train of thought. 

    One of the ways my curatorial practice celebrates borderlessness is by simply becoming familiar, intimate. I know that this is a part of the methodologies, and I know that this is a part of all of our work, getting into a space where knowing feels intimate, messy/fussy, where we acknowledge from the get-go that certain kinds of criteria are going to be essential for me to know and for me to come into knowing.  

    This criteria links back to me acknowledging the work that someone else does, understanding and asking the questions that would elicit a kind of conversation. Also, thinking about how to draw more affinity and deepening our knowledge through a very organic, intimate setting, so oftentimes the women with whom I have co-created with, there is this establishment of relationship and then prolonged engagement, where we move from the superficial to the deeper parts of ourselves. So, I am always thinking about the territories that I havenʼt exposed within my physical and emotional landscape and  how that relates to another. This helps me to develop more articulation around the strength of our collective action and our ability to be accountable and loving, in a space that is deeply threatened by accountability and by truth telling. These are some of the ways in which I tend to formulate relationships that would allow for the historical divisions to become less of a hindrance and more of a welcome. As we know itʼs easy to not want to know someone else. 

    Fig 5. Imperial (2010), by Holly Bynoe; digital collage on aged durotone newsprint. 40 x 60 inches.  

    Heidi Martins: Can you tell us more about your new projects as well as your work on women and migration, such as Imperial which happens to be the cover of a collection of essays edited by two of WEMov participants? 

    Holly Bynoe: I’m having a flashback to 11, 12 years ago.  Imperial comes from a series called the Compound series. In 2009, I began working through photography and image manipulation to create this series, which were digital collages. Often, they used a lot of my familyʼs archive which is precious and very small. Because of their economic position, being from a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) they weren’t able to amass a bountiful archive; in fact it was rare to see images of my mother as a child. I have very few images from my father’s line – one of my great-grandmother Iris, and that is as far back as it goes. She died 100+ when I was a child. So, my family’s archive is a very precious repository. But, I didn’t treat it as precious at all and I was the only one in my family that showed interest, so I started to think about these photographs as ways to think through memory, place, exile, and the spaces in between, this kind of liminality. In negotiating the complexities of my own difficulty in understanding myself it became very apparent that the palimpsest, that kind of technique of layering, erasure, digging, kind of working a little bit like an archaeologist, was about trying to think about what fragments mean, trying to think through the fissures. Also, the articulation around writing about this work, follows a lineage and a legacy of other decolonial, post-colonial practices which plunge into the exploration of the grey areas around Otherness and about trying to find anchors of belonging.  

    This was a very important image for me because it came so quickly. I did about 15 or 16 within this series and this one came really fast. It was ready in the pipeline of my dreams to come into being. It is a pleasure to use the sliver of my grandmother as the standing figure and then trying to think about my older family members, speaking about this wonderful blissful experience that they had as children being a British subject. I always felt like “British, what?” because we are in the Caribbean on a small island not having any kind of experience of Britishness, but there is this elevation of the colonial times that puzzled me. Looking back, now I know why. In the series, I was working through that power dynamic, negotiating who we use as this representational tool of power, how the Queen is looked at in our space and revered by most of the older generations. The younger generations are absolutely trying to develop more space to determine who they are and it is so far away from that reality. Now, countries like Barbados, which turned into a republic on November 30th, 2021 are moving away from the Commonwealth, from the Empire.  

    Fig 6. Generation Fight (2010), digital collage on aged durotone newsprint. 40 x 60 inches.  

    Looking back into that work right now it was a really foundational space for me to think through the losses in my family as well. I was doing this work around the same time that my dad was sick and I was trying to make new stories for him to connect with. In fact, he was a collaborator on my thesis show. He allowed me to archive his voice and spirit, they are now imprinted into the digital forever more archive of YouTube. In one way, the work was dealing with thematics that are very common within the post-colonial theorised academic world, and on the other hand, I was dealing with the massive shock and trauma of losing my father.   [Saut de retour à la ligne][Saut de retour à la ligne]Naturally of course, it became more complicated because I started to move away from the archive as primary, and started to use dust, bone, elixirs, plant decoctions, hair and maps and skin so the palimpsest, these surfaces started to become more dynamic and cursory as well because I wasn’t committing to anything. [Saut de retour à la ligne][Saut de retour à la ligne]This  work was about trying to not commit. Because I had to be OK with the losses, I had to be OK with the algorithm selecting coding from the imagery to delete forever. I had to be okay with the image loss, which was probably the most profound lesson of that work. And moving from that into the new projects. 

    I am currently in the process of developing a HOME garden project, a sacred space on Bequia through The Hub Collective, which is the non profit arts sanctuary that I have been placing a lot of my creative outputs and growth into for the past 18 months as Director and Generator. We secured some funding from the Prince Claus Fund (the Netherlands) and Goethe Institut (Germany) to develop the Bush Medicine Revival project, which will give us time to consciously engage with ancestral knowledge, memory, Bequia’s archive and the elders of our community. I am working to expand that project to include innovative strategies around medicine and food security through community gardens. All of that to say that the intention is still very present.  

    L’attribut alt de cette image est vide, son nom de fichier est Capture-decran-2021-12-02-a-12.00.10-1-1024x890.png.

    Fig 7. Giant Milkweed, sp ​​Calotropis gigantea. Image from a private garden in Nassau, The Bahamas 2019  

    My newest creative project called “Sour Grass” is a collaborative engagement between Annalee Davis and I; Annalee Davis is a Barbadian writer, artist and cultural activist. We’ve been working together for the last 10 years and have birthed several projects including Tilting Axis, which is an arts platform for, from, across, and through the Caribbean. It is a call to action to rethink the position and conditions of contemporary art practices in the region. Its perspective, informed by artist-led initiatives within the archipelago, recognises this space as central rather than peripheral and is fed by multi-generational voices. Tilting Axis has developed a strong Fellowship arm, and we are collaborating with the Het Nieuwe Institute and several partner organisations in the Netherlands to produce  our 4th fellowship. And Caribbean Linked which is a residency project in Aruba and a crucial space for building awareness across disparate creative communities by bringing together emerging artists from Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanic and Dutch Antillean Caribbean islands. So, we have been doing a lot of work from an intra-Caribbean perspective.  

    Sour Grass was a way for us to think about negotiating this transnational understanding that we have grown for the last 10 years. Our rituals align with slow cultural work, with degrowth, with thinking about the ethics around witnessing, around curiosity and care. We do this while also thinking about the Caribbeanʼs geopolitical framework in the bigger scope of things and women’s labour. The Caribbean was at once the epicentre of the birth of capitalism, the starting of this plantation economy, so what does it mean for women to now labour under these evolved and modern conditions? A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same. 

    Sour Grass’s manifesto is a decolonial active resistance but within it, it is also an active gift of sisterhood and community, we really want to connect to all of these collective imaginations which draw from the pool of our ancestors. Their cunning, secrets, strategies and recipes.  

    I am also thinking about the ferociousness of our space and how we transmute that ferociousness into care. We want to care for the Caribbean imagination, and the artist’s curiosity and we want to be able to care for ourselves. I come from a deep legacy of intergenerational poverty, and this has impacted me in ways that I can’t yet articulate. Sour Grass acknowledges parity, equity, and compensatory and fair labour. We come from a space that is founded on extractivism and so, to now negotiate, in my fourth decade, to be seen, honoured and remunerated for our work is essential.  

    We are at times battling the Magnetic North, and the ethos of devaluation and rapaciousness, from bioprospecting to cultural extortion. They want knowledge, and more opportunities to exchange but are hesitant to develop new kinds of reciprocal relationships that acknowledge our histories, realities around capital limitations. I am not only speaking about financial capital, here. I come with some permaculture knowledge, so I am also framing capital in a holistic way and within the eight limbs which build resiliency; culturally, spiritually, socially, experientially, etc. I am very much ensuring that I am in a position to build that discipline up in my DNA, so as the future generations come along, that they too will have a lot of strategies to, one: examine their state; and two: to fight against systemic cycles of abuse and injustice. 

    Heidi Martins: Thank you so much! It’s fascinating, you are talking now about a new generation and I am fascinated with honouring the ancestors, honouring the past and all of this. I will now pass the floor to Camelia. 

    Camelia Zavarache: OK, so the second set of questions: your participation in the Cost Action Women on the Move is a unique opportunity for us to look at migration and gender through the perspective of art. How did you hear about this COST Action and why have you decided to join? 

    Holly Bynoe: In December, 2018, I was moving through a deeply personal and professional shift in my life, and I was trying to think about how to leave the Institution (NAGB) and it took me a long time to arrive at letting go. I was training young professionals, working to build a more expansive creative community and a particular group of women who were comrades in the trenches. We bonded in a very special way, I became a bit of a  mother figure and couldnʼt fracture it. I was moving through that deep watery transition when Bénédicte [Miyamoto] reached out to share more information on the Art and Migration publication, and enquired about the use of Imperial. We started a very, very organic conversation around COST Action, the broader initiative etc, and then I saw more information on it. So, I would say that I am coming in as a stakeholder in the good faith that more will manifest from this encounter. More than that, the initiative is very interesting because my decision to join is also attached to the fact that I might be seen as somebody on the periphery of all of this context. I am not EU-based, but once upon a time not so long ago my ancestors lived there, and it is really important for me to honor the legacies and lineages that were formidable in my being.  

    Epigenetics is a very powerful tool of recalling things from the past and I acknowledge that I identify easily with paganism, to other kinds of spiritual and earth honoring practices birthed across Europe. They don’t feel foreign to me, they come to me like dreams do, naturally. I bring up this spiritual aspect because this is something that I am so invested in, at this moment, and because I am so unclear with mapping back, the timelines and anachronisms.  There is a mapping to Barbados and then there is this fracture and then the wide expanse of the imagination. There are other kinds of data that sometimes contradict and/or affirm the places that I belong to. And then there is this deep, deep subconscious, this collective unconscious that is bringing information to me all the time through dreaming about what my grandmothers were doing, and thereʼs no way for me to not acknowledge that as real.  

    This is another reason why I am making further alliances into Europe. This can be transformational for me as a person, but also transformational for other women who are looking for more connective tissue. Women are looking to connect back to this ancestral venerating community of women doing the work of healing and mitigating all of the rupture; the rupture within our balance with Nature, the land and our livingness with each other.  

    I am also thinking about how customs and rituals survive and how they retain contemporaneity. Some customs remain very similar so, letʼs say when I visit places like Scotland, I am enraptured by the retention in our language, the way our plant medicines co-relate, the way that alchemical bonds have fortified over time leaving us with a remnant. I would like to know more about the remains. Till I am able to have more time in that pagan space,  am I allowed to tell the story or do I have to wait until there is evidence?  I could always create fiction. I make healing and fiction with plants.  

    My current and ongoing ally is the Vitex Agnus Castus. I like to daydream about some Great Grandmother of mine, setting blooms, distilling medicine, birthing babies, warding off husbands with the intoxicating scent of lavender. In the Palo Mayombe and Santeria/Lucumi traditions, Vitex a.k.a. Vencedor belongs to the Orisha Obatalá – King of the White Cloth – the father of all the people. The plant is used in the preparation of baths to overcome difficulties and to gain triumph in this world. It is a sacred plant used for cleansing homes. In this tradition, the male plant is used for work with women and the female plant for work with men.  

    One of the reasons why I have decided to continue on these Earth honoring traditions is to turn that fiction into non-fiction, to find the tangibles. 

    Fig 8. Vitex Agnus Castus, or Chaste Berry/Monk Berry

    Camelia Zavarache: Thank you, your answers are so philosophical, but at the same time so personal, so thank you! Speaking about the main objectives of the COST Action, we would like to reflect with you on the relationship between art, migration and gender. According to you, how does art contribute to mediating the experience of migration? 

    Holly Bynoe: Mediation is such a profound thing. We all need mediators in our lives and art is such a powerful meeting point through which we are able to articulate differences and similarities. I canʼt tell you how profound this meeting is, where women can gather  and cultivate a deeper engagement, to move forward knowing. This kind of knowledge exchange affects our deep humanity. I’ve been thinking about one word in particular, and this word is super contentious in the Caribbean space, but here it is: hospitality. We mostly connect or associate it to the service industry, it’s not commonly used outside of the tourism industry. Cultural workers and artists have embodied this in less problematic and polemical ways. We have been able to negotiate aspects of hospitality that move into deep care and consideration. So, for instance, the work that I do with Caribbean Linked, I leave my home and go to Aruba,  where as a part of a team I have to think about how we are going to negotiate young artists, writers, curators and other professionals coming in. For some it is their first time leaving their home countries. There is a lot of caring involved in welcoming someone to a new home for four weeks. Something similar happens with the Tilting Axis Fellowship. We have awarded two Cuban architects the opportunity to research and build networks in the Netherlands for three months. They’ve also never left their country and we are thinking about how to make sure that this hospitality is able to hold people where they need to be, to ‘presence’ them in their fullness, and give them the things that they need to be able to thrive while being elsewhere.  All of this done to consolidate the abandonment that is oftentimes rampant in our Caribbean creative ecologies.  

    In migration, you could feel like you have entered into this space of orphanhood. In the Caribbean, a lot of creators are orphans, not because they donʼt have parents, but because there aren’t nurturing, generative, caring systems to support us/them. 

    There is an absence of tertiary level institutions, caring and progressive cultural spaces, and formidable capital in the likes of  grants, aid and cultural policy to keep us present, living and possible. There is little to none of that in my home country. I acknowledge that I am platforming and bring forward an experience from a very particular context, but because the other work that we are doing is trans-Caribbean and trans-national, I too have gathered information from other territories, other spaces, throughout the Hispanic, Dutch and French Caribbean to know that even though there’s support, it seems very, very superficial.  

    Sometimes the support does one thing, maybe lets you cover your head, or gives you one meal a day, it gives you shelter, but it doesn’t provide for the essential nutrients that one would need to become fully whole. So, this word “hospitality”, is one of the great tools and one of the great powers that we can deploy, because when two people come together–– I come to you, you come to me––we have to figure out how to mediate, we have to figure out how to make our language accessible to each other and we have to grow understanding. As somebody who is co-creating the container, you really have to ensure that you are asking yourself very ethical questions around “How would you want to be cared for?” You always have to take it back to the personal, because perhaps we could fight for things for ourselves, but when it moves into a  group dynamic some of that gets lost. We are always very conscious of looking at the ethics of how we work and our values.  

    Being hospitable, also means that we are able to think about, as women, how to provide that nurturing space that could combat the patriarchal toxicity, this fragile masculinity that we exist within. Because remember, even though parts of our culture are matrifocal, the conditions of post coloniality are systemically very patriarchal. There is always some double consciousness arising where as women we want to occupy a certain space, we want to provide and nurture, we want to have the ability to also dismantle the system that has taken so much away from us. So, whatever we build has to have that deep watery wisdom of survival within. Thank you to Alexis Pauline Gumbs for writing one of the fluid manuals for this strategy with Undrowned

    Once we provide this foundation then whatever will emerge will be generative, well informed, tactical, and moving away from mindsets of scarcity. It is really speaking up a wholeness, and passing on emergent strategies of survival to the young generation. So, if a 19 year old comes in from Haiti, who has never traveled before, and he is able to meet and have this encounter, this encounter is an encounter of strangers, but then it quickly becomes a family because you have to negotiate this tiny space with each other for one month within your personhood. It is a little bit of an experiment, and it has worked for us in tremendous ways over the last six iterations, because we see the connective tissue still bearing fruit, forging new bonds.  

    We are also working consciously on our blind spots as it relates to gender bias. There is a significant amount of LGBTQ+ violence in the Caribbean and we are trying to make safe space for trans-women/men and also non binary persons to  feel like they can express, and be, and that they can have a safe space to exist in. Some of this is new to us and new for society. It is another conscious awakening. So, there is a lot of room for negotiating what this mediation can do as our regional and global societies evolve. I am really looking forward to thinking and acting through, and being able to be more supportive as we transition deeper into the non-conformity/expansion. 

    Fig 9. Caribbean Linked III participants at the home of Ryan Oduber and Alydia Wever, with CLII alumni Kevin Schuit and Germille Geerman. All photos courtesy of ARC Magazine. 

    Camelia Zavarache: Do you feel that art has the power to impact migration representations, politics and practices? In which ways? 

    Holly Bynoe: Yes, absolutely. There is a piece of connective tissue missing between the makers and the policy, right? In terms of migration policies from the Global South, there are a lot of ways in which people of color continue to be instrumentalised and exploited within this dynamic. In the Caribbean, we are negotiating a series of crises be it political, climate or economic. We are moving into new realities acknowledging that we have a problem with refugees while trying to negotiate the narrow space of nationhood. I am thinking about how art gives us an opportunity to create new boundaries in our daily knowledge of self and our communities, and how these boundaries can become less rigid, once we begin to deepen the work around cultivating safe spaces. Arts activism in particular is giving us so many models of resistance, and the way that social art practices are manifesting is changing the way we communicate, and how we show up for ourselves at the table. As we  occupy a seat at the table we can present information that would influence policy, equity and representation. But all of this has to start on the personal level and within our community first, before it moves into a legislative arema.  I am thinking about CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, which was formed in 1973 predating the European Union by two decades, and contemplating that we have had enough time to consider these negotiations with our neighbours and sister islands. We have had over 70 years to ponder on the effects of regional migration (emigration), see Windrush Generation. After World War Two, Caribbean people migrated to other Caribbean countries, intra-migration was a norm, but because of this hostility that has grown with nationalism, there is so much vulnerability and insecurity in the national space, couple that with poverty, extreme social conditions and you have a situation that can be unhealthy and rife.  

    To put all of this on art can be a burden, but there is space, so, I would say that yes, it has the power to impact all of this, but I feel that we are still missing an important mediation tool between the artist, the community and the policy makers. I know this dynamic also exists in the developed world, but there hasnʼt been any reconciliation with regards to pushing these social movements forward and then having a way to communicate new needs, on a basis that looks at art practice as formidable and serious. In many ways, the art, the output continues to be instrumentalized.  

    Other people are at the frontline doing some of that work, and perhaps they are very disconnected from their respective creative communities and this is why it continues to be hard. As people on the frontlines of climate change in our not so comfy front seat, it still seems as though we havenʼt been able to have a proper negotiation with regards to how we treat other people in our space. I wonʼt go into the levels of toxicity between Guyanese and Barbadians, and/or the Haitian-Bahamian/Dominican dynamic, but this is a long standing engagement with self-hate and a vestige of colonialism.  When we don’t know each other, it’s easy to project otherness, so, yes, yes. I would love for us to be able to think through our policies and our practice in a way that feels holistic and generative, rather than this continued divisiveness. 

    Fig 10. The North East coast of Barbados at Pie Corner overlooking Little Bay.  

    Camelia Zavarache: I was thinking when you were speaking about the same thing that we have here with our Roma communities, we donʼt see their reflection through art on themselves and how they see us, we only have this projection of our view on how they are. So itʼs so unfair, and itʼs unbalanced. So, I can totally relate to what you were saying. So, our next question would be: does art offer a particular or/and privileged place for women to be visible in these processes? How? Or, on the contrary, is it still a very men’s place?   

    Holly Bynoe: Within the context of our ecology, it is hard to say if men or women have this privilege. To think about how migration has impacted them and how to move forward, because the bias and the xenophobia is still very much super-present coupled with rampant Right Wing Trumpian ideology which has re-infected our space. So, perhaps, maybe 10 years ago, there was a little bit more movement, and now we are all struggling to figure out how to articulate our belongingness and everybody wants to belong but there is very little space to move ourselves through. Even as we move into the expansion beyond genders, there is so little space and Iʼm thinking that, of the smallness of the space. And how we move in smallness.  

    From my experience in The Bahamas, a cultural institution doing work to recover the obliteration of history, to give rise to new articulations around  blackness, should be honoring and elevating important geopolitical relationships. Haiti, the first Republic in the New World, 1804 has left an indelible mark on that country, but it was a fight to honor and represent that even though it is reflected in families, communities, and how labour is enforced. But, there is so much psychological warfare and  double consciousness, within the actual, day to day activities that most see the violences and perpetuate the bitter stereotypes rather than working to bring families together, and/or individually making  investigations and mappings of bloodlines. So, there is this way in which we are all a little bit held in check, and I am unable to see through that question, because of our context. 

    I know that men have this privilege, I know in other spaces men occupying this space is the status quo. So, what does it mean for someone like Cuban artist/activist Tania Bruguera living and working between Cuba and the US, and dealing with the fall outs of the Castro dictatorship/regime. She is this very formidable presence that has been speaking about this continuous negotiation between these two spaces, and the disenfranchisement that artists face on the ground while trying to live and fight for their freedom. So I am holding her practice as something that is transformative, beyond selfhood, geographies and personhood. This rise in nationalism and in Trumpian disorders, I would say has taken us into a season of retrograde.  

    Camelia Zavarache: What are your views on current migration challenges? 

    Holly Bynoe: When we were producing Tilting Axis 2: Curatorial Strategies in 2016 at the Perez Art Museum Miami, PAMM one of the things we wanted to speak through and to give a new kind of listening into was this migration challenge, and then some invited artists who we wanted to participate couldnʼt attend, because they couldnʼt get US visas. There are many countries in the Caribbean that have been flagged as risky; for example Jamaicans have to apply for a Shenghen visa to go to Europe. Jamaica is a part of the Caribbean Community, a part of CARICOM,  I am a part of CARICOM, a Vincentian, I donʼt need a Schengen visa, because they lifted that requirement a few years ago, but they kept it in place for Jamaica because of economic concerns around people fleeing, going to the US, Canada, Europe and seeking asylum. It all reeks of racism as well. But this thinking, I would like to think that we are beyond that, but this kind of thinking still is very perpetuated especially by European institutions towards Caribbean people. As of recently, this has impacted our ability to access, move, and to be mobile. And with more hostile conditions permeating the UK, culminating in the introduction of Brexit, where UK nationals given leave to remain after 1971 are being deported, we continue to be discriminated against, again.  

    The migration challenges are huge in the Caribbean. We have been in tune with what is happening with the South American exit of migrant Haitians to the US, and the encounters at the border of Texas. This follows suit and draws my attention to the “Parsley Massacre”, which happened on the northwestern frontier of the Dominican Republic in 1937. Under the Trujilo regime, Haitians were rounded up and forced to pronounce the word ‘perejil’ as a sprig of parsley was held in front of the detained. Dominicans and Haitians intonate the rolling ‘r’ with sonorous differences  and as such it was a dead give away. This was another kind of violence enacted upon Haitians while at a border edge, at a river territory. So, the more things change, the more things remain the same.[Saut de retour à la ligne][Saut de retour à la ligne]At times we are still trapped within this exotic narrative, we havenʼt been able to cultivate a critical mass of freedom. In terms of how the trope of tourism has broadcasted the Caribbean as one particular thing, meaning everybody could come in, but not everybody here could go.  

    Holly Bynoe: When we were producing Tilting Axis 2: Curatorial Strategies in 2016 at the Perez Art Museum Miami, PAMM one of the things we wanted to speak through and to give a new kind of listening into was this migration challenge, and then some invited artists who we wanted to participate couldnʼt attend, because they couldnʼt get US visas. There are many countries in the Caribbean that have been flagged as risky; for example Jamaicans have to apply for a Shenghen visa to go to Europe. Jamaica is a part of the Caribbean Community, a part of CARICOM,  I am a part of CARICOM, a Vincentian, I donʼt need a Schengen visa, because they lifted that requirement a few years ago, but they kept it in place for Jamaica because of economi

    Fig 11.  Jasmine Thomas-Girvan. Bathed in Sacred Fire, curated by Sour Grass. Installation shot of Real Princess (2016)  which features a drawer which explores the atrocity of the Parsley Massacre. Image courtesy Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam.  

    Camelia Zavarache: I totally agree. How would you define the links between migration and/in the art world? 

    Holly Bynoe: Our links are stronger because of our make-up. We come from a very syncretic, hybridized space. Hybridization has made us adaptable and we come into an understanding of new visualities and ways of being, pretty quickly. Since the 20s, Caribbean scholars have been articulating different ways of being, which have informed the Global world in incredibly influential ways. This intellect was birthed in the merger, forged in violence and now we are in fluxus to liberation.  

    It would be hard for us to move through the lens of homogeneity (sameness) to create something profound and truthful about the Caribbean experience.  Our mixing, trade, ancient and contemporary migrations, transits and sea crossings shape the ways in which we have come to know each other. From time immemorial has informed our identities and ways of being. Nowadays, we donʼt  think about migration as something positive because of all of the social and geopolitical dynamics around it. But, I would hope that that can still be generative. Generativeness happens when we tap into the knowing, into spirit and Source, when we tap into openness, into nothing, into faith.  

    It becomes a tool of negotiation. Again, knowing yourself, knowing other, coming into otherness, moving away from selfhood and then trying to reconcile all perspectives at the very end. This is the real power that art has, the storytelling and sharing of perspective. This opens you to the world and vice versa. Transformative. 

    Camelia Zavarache: Youʼve said it so beautifully, thank you! I will now pass the floor to Heidi, for the third set of questions. 

    Heidi Martins: Thank you, Camelia! So, we would finally like to leave you with a reflection on different kinds of cooperation, in this case between Academia and the Art World. So, migration processes generally trigger political, social and economic challenges. To understand and overcome these challenges, the intersection between class, ‘race’ and gender should be addressed. Do you think that a collaboration between Academia and the art world would be beneficial in this process? How? 

    Holly Bynoe: We are always negotiating with the institution in some capacity. There needs to be more collaboration all around, to extrapolate and build upon the solutions/strategies/intel being called up and invented through the artistic perspective. Academia could very much benefit from creating more direct lines, to the creative communities, to the makers of culture. Think tanks are really useful to generate actions, arcs of development, within the theoretical and  practical framework. 

    It is often critical for all stakeholders to have meetings with more responsible and transparent forms of monitoring and evaluation, so that people don’t feel that you parachuted, extracted and left. Within the migration process there are a lot of vulnerabilities and exposures, so safety is often under threat. It would be ideal to see how the Academic world sees this dynamic evolve. I havenʼt seen whatever that strategy would look like articulated back into our space, because we’re still experiencing parachuting. So, that means the information isn’t being understood, assimilated. 

    More somatic work can be done to offer points of intersectionality. These should move beyond understanding and the mind, it should also move into the experiential.  

    The Academy can feel rarefied. How can we create more threads of intersectionality to get into our communities with these studies, new syllabi, living education material. Can we progress to have all access to more humanistic STEAM technologies? For the last 15 months, I have been engaging with the work at The Hub which locates itself in the non-profit sector with a focus on developing alternative education modules with the youth. Youth let you know immediately what their needs are, what their boundaries are and what seems like a fit. I like them a lot already.  Connecting to that energy and ideation would transform the Academy.  

    Fig 12. The Hub Collective youth involved in painting workshops. Image courtesy of The Hub Collective and Alex Amengual.  

    Heidi Martins: Thank you! Yes, could you give us some examples of (potential) collaborations between Academia and the art world, relying on your past and present experiences? 

    Holly Bynoe: The generations of alternative models of education for youth can be beneficial to the Small Island Developing States, in the Caribbean. Academics are oftentimes on the front line of theory and practitioners are doing, making actions and innovations to bridge these gaps creating a healthy civic space.[Saut de retour à la ligne][Saut de retour à la ligne]Having a healthy understanding of ethics regarding partnerships and collaboration would be useful, we come from a territory that has been, historically exploited and we are still very much working through modern day dynamics around slavery. [Saut de retour à la ligne][Saut de retour à la ligne]Yes, we are 150 and 160 years onward, but the practices remain very much entrenched in this parochial way of doing and thinking. The extractive habits have given license to others to parachute, lift our intel and indigenous knowledge systems, our traditions.  I would like to see more academics and institutions being mindful of the kind of work they need to do on the ground. They need to be looking at the broad context and see the needs and potential impacts. This can transform the collaboration into something generative. And if there are remarks about not having enough capital, we remind ourselves to think of capital as beyond financial.  

    Heidi Martins: Yes, thank you! So, finally, what do you expect WEMov to bring to you? 

    Holly Bynoe: I really love exchanging and came into this world with a curious/collaborative spirit. I love working with women, and know we can break down these divisions in a very formidable, human-centered way. We’ve lost a lot of our human-centric abilities and this opportunity to deepen our engagement would be the thing I look forward to the most. The connection.  

    Building out more creative collaborations, assets would be good for other Caribbean women to access. Hear more of our voices, see the visions, and work with the intellect to craft new pedagogies, think tanks, play rooms, retreats, futures.. So, thinking about how our women in particular, how they have been impacted by migration, by negotiating selfhood, Womanhood and power through their lenses could be one of the ways that we collaborate. But itʼs very open, I look forward to continuing the conversation and seeing what develops and, yes, how I could be more involved. Thank you! 

    Heidi Martins: Thank you so much for these amazing things that you told us, so many things. I will pass the word to Marie. We hope that WeMov can give you what you are also looking forward to.  

    Holly Bynoe: Thank you so much Heidi! The questions were thoughtful. Thank you for taking the time as well, I really appreciate it. It feels reciprocal!  

    Marie Ruiz: Thank you so much! You are such an inspiring person Holly, and yes, really enjoyed listening to you because as Camelia said, you say things very beautifully. And Heidi and Camelia did a great job, I am so happy. You have given us a lot of your time, youʼve been really generous. I may have one last comment about the global artist, the migratory artist and those life and professional trajectories mingled today. Do you feel like a migratory artist, do you feel like your career imposes mobility on you? Some artists work in Shanghai, in Paris, in Milan, in Rome, in New York, where the artistic scene is developing. And this is also some kind of pressure we mentioned at the beginning, like production, and being in the sphere of opportunity. 

    Holly Bynoe: If you had asked me that question 7-8 years ago I would have said, “Oh, yes!”, I would have wanted to go back into the Magnetic North. But, it is like magic where I am, and there is a deep sense of understanding and knowing that my work to come at home will be the most rewarding yet. I am always in awe of artists that are on a plane all the time, and I remember when I had that experience with ARC, for four years and it was amazing, transformative. At the end of it all I was vapour, I was not existing in my body and as someone who is very heady, I could burn out pretty quickly.  

    I never thought that I would be moving back home, but the time has come, I am just doing it slowly. Out of time. As someone with an itinerant wayward spirit, I am comfortable with landing space, but it isn’t for me. I need the rooting, grounding the foundation to be able to do the outer work. Perhaps, in all of the contradiction I feel the need to return home, to do that slow work with the community, to build something changing and responsive on Bequia, while being able to meet my other needs.  It is a negotiation around that balance, I am making images all the time, within my #islandexperiments series. Who knows, maybe in ten years there might be an aggregate of 1 million images of this very, very particular thing, and I like that kind of intimacy.  

    I also got married last year, so everything has changed and I am adjusting to daily negotiations with a beautiful, kind and wonderful man.  My mum turned 77 and I want to be with her for as much time as possible. So, the art world will always have me to a certain extent, but I’ve also reclaimed my time, and this reclamation of time feels healthy, secure and loving.    

    Marie Ruiz: Yes, I can see the evolution in your art practice, it is  visible. It’s closer to the earth, maybe more meaningful to you today, to yourself, rather than the viewer or the art scene, what the other person expects from you.     

    Holly Bynoe: Yes, right now I am watching beans grow, literally. I brought back some heirloom seeds from Rotterdam, and Iʼve planted them, and every day I watch them come up and chase away the chickens. I have been thinking alot about the three sisters and going back to sustaining ourselves by just disconnecting from all of this white omnipresent noise (tech noise). The devotion is lived now, even if turbulent, before it wasn’t lived. I don’t want to sound hauty, because itʼs practical, we import 85% of the food we eat, and I just don’t want it. Also, my food supplier in Barbados, Yosia, has the most delicious things. What she has I eat and 2021 has been my favourite food year yet. We have had to be inventive, and curious like our ancestors with the redux recipes. We are connecting back to our recent past, our past’s past. Wisdom ten-fold, I am at home with this. 

    Marie Ruiz: Well, is there anything else you would like to say, we could add to this interview? Itʼs been so rich and wonderful. 

    Holly Bynoe:  I am very grateful and humbled that you’ve waited, and now the time is right. I am appreciative that I wasn’t forgotten, because that happens, when you don’t follow the hustle, and get pulled away with the myriad things, don’t flag the emails…I am appreciative that we can have this exchange and ‘singing up’ my story. Aboriginal elder, Grandmother Mulara, shares lore and prophecies that reminds us of the importance of singing, dreaming and calling up the spirit of transformation, connection and love.  

    Marie Ruiz: No, we haven’t forgotten you, don’t worry, and we are so happy to count you in, in this adventure. There will be more, there will be more, I know, I am sure of it. 

    Holly Bynoe: I am hoping that one day we will experience the reciprocity of women holding each other in place, so we don’t  spin off and away. I am here for it. 

    Marie Ruiz: Thank you so much! Camelia, Heidi, is there anything you would like to add?   

    Heidi Martins: No, just many thanks and happy that we have this technology, allowing us to have this exchange. Grateful, to hear all of this because I took some notes, I can see the word hospitality so, I know that there are some things that I would appreciate to listen to again, because you said so many things that we need to … we need some time to …digest. Thank you for everything! 

    Holly Bynoe: You are very welcome!    

    Marie Ruiz: Yes. So much serenity, so much serenity! 

    Camelia Zavarache: Thank you so much! 

    Marie Ruiz: You’ve shared a lot of serenity, that’s what I will take from this. You’ve been extremely generous and what I take from this is a lot of serenity and feel, maybe, you have this power on people to make them feel good about themselves and more serene. 

    Heidi Martins: And if we feel like this through technology, I can imagine in a live exchange, with all the energies and real things. 

    Holly Bynoe: Thank you! It will be such an honour to hold space with you. 

    To see more of Holly Bynoe’s work visit: