Barbadian artist explores plantation life through family artifacts

Marina Vences

“This Ground Beneath My Feet — A Chorus of Bush in Rab Lands,” an art exhibit which highlights the effects a plantation-based economy left on Barbados, is set to open on Sept. 15 in the Gordon White Building. 

Annalee Davis, the Barbadian creator of the exhibit, is a descendant of both plantation owners and servants. She created the installation after two years of gathering artifacts from family and historical archives from the early 1800s century to the 1970s. 

Davis said she uses her art to imagine a Barbadian economy and society post-plantation era. 

“I wonder what repair work looks like, – healing, renovation, restoration, rejuvenation – in post-plantation economies,” Davis wrote in an email. “And how we might shift from seeing nature as a commodity, to instead considering the landscape as a site of genesis and regeneration.” 

Davis said the title of the exhibit came from how she interacts with her environment every day. 

“Many mornings and afternoons I walk the fields of Walkers Dairy, formerly Walkers Plantation,” Davis said. “This is about my engagement with this particular piece of land.” 

Davis said her inspiration for the artwork came from the plants she passes on the plantation. 

“I am inspired by the resurgent diversity of an emerging botanical archive of wild plants,” Davis said. “Their growth in former sugarcane fields seems to me like a quiet revolution taking place in the landscape.” 

Lise Ragbir, director of the Warfield Center Galleries which will host Davis’ exhibit, said she chose to display this exhibit because of its roots in a culture which are difficult to understand. 

“Through her examination of plantation-life, Annalee Davis encourages viewers to consider a range of ideas,” Ragbir wrote in an email. “Ideas from healing, to identity — that affect people in the Caribbean, and beyond. The Warfield Center Galleries are spaces intended to encourage discourse, and promote the exchange of ideas … this explores narratives that affect all of us.”

English junior Ivan Moore said he hopes to visit the exhibit, 

“By studying the history, we can make connections and remember not to repeat [plantation] history,” Moore said. “But also, to see how those things are different and how they affected each culture and country.”

There will be a meet-and-greet and opening reception with Davis on Sept. 15 in GWB Room 2.204 at 5:30 p.m.