A visitor enjoying one of the paintings on display at the National Library Service’s exhibition entitled Voices of the Fisheries in Independence Square. (S.Pilé/BGIS)

Documenting the changes in the island’s fishing industry is an urgent matter and the National Library Service has been praised for playing its part in preserving Barbados’ fishing history through its art exhibition, Voices of the Fisheries

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, Jehu Wiltshire commended the exhibition, stating it documented the “invaluable contribution” of the fishing community to the development of the local industry.

Approximately 45 paintings paying tribute to fisherfolk by 12 local artists are featured on the walls of the National Library Service in Independence Square, Bridgetown, and will remain there until Friday, November 29. The public is invited to view the artistic display free of charge. 

Mr. Wiltshire, who was speaking at a cocktail reception held to launch the exhibition, explained: “With all the changes in the fishing industry over the years, including the retirement of aging fishermen, documenting their experiences is indeed an urgent matter. We must capture these invaluable stories as there is a risk of lives and memories lost as chapters in our history and heritage close. This is significant, as oral history serves to fulfil the library’s mandate and that is to preserve and document the history of Barbados while at the same time educate and empowering the people of Barbados.” 

He lauded the National Library Service for taking the initiative to preserve the history of the fishing community not only by recording their stories, but by using art to “evoke memories” of ordinary Barbadians. 

The Permanent Secretary pointed to a poem by artist, Mr. Markley Clarke on sea egg diving which he read to the audience. 

The PS said the poem made him remember  his father, an avid sea egg diver, who always seemed happy and fulfilled after fishing, whether he had a successful haul or not. 

Professor Emeritus Sir Henry Fraser in an animated discussion with artists Everick Lynton (left) and Virgil Broodhagen at the launch of the exhibition Voices of the Fisheries yesterday. (S.Pilé/BGIS)

“Oral history is not only about the recording and archiving of the people’s memories, feelings and attitudes but about traditions and stories passed down from generation to generation… It allows ordinary people whose voices may not otherwise have been heard to share their stories and to give a more accurate picture of the past.”   

Mr. Wiltshire added that art captured a “snap shot of a particular time in one’s life in a profound and subline way” and he complimented the participating artists for “portraying such vivid and poetic language, the experiences of the fishing community”.    

 Also speaking at the cocktail launch was Acting Director of the National Library Service, Grace Haynes. She said part of the National Library Service’s mandate was to “collect, preserve and make accessible the oral and recorded knowledge of the country’s tangible and intangible heritage”.

She noted that the National Library Service used exhibitions to raise awareness of the island’s cultural legacy as well as to inform, enlighten and entertain the public.  In 2018 alone, 59 exhibitions were staged at the library’s headquarters and various branches. 

Mrs. Haynes said the Voices of the Fisheries art exhibition served as a lens through which persons could learn more about the history of the Barbadian fishing experience and marine life.  She said it was important to preserve this knowledge for future generations. 

Representing the participating artists was Mr. Neville Legall, President of the Barbados Arts Council, who said the exhibition was a culmination of months of planning and lobbying with artists. 

Acting Director of the National Library Service, Grace Haynes; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, Jehu Wiltshire; and President of the Barbados Arts Council, Neville Legall, at the opening of the exhibition Voice of the Fisheries at the National Library Service yesterday. (S.Pilé/BGIS)

He said initially they had planned to exhibit 30 pieces but due to response the number was increased to 45. 

“I contacted persons who I think were easy to work with because you creative people know it is not easy working with other creatives. It could be the most difficult challenge…. Then there were some artists who heard about the exhibition and wanted to take part as well,” he explained.  

Mr. Legall, who lead a toast to the artists, said the artworks on display were for sale. 

The paintings of Virgil Broodhagen, Markley Clarke, Debra Durant, Susan Alleyne-Forde, Sir Henry Fraser, Rodney Ifill, Glenroy Jordan, Neville Legall, Everick Lynton, Jill McIntyre, Don Junior Small, Lorna Wilson, and Sheri Nicholls are featured in the Exhibition. 

The ‘Voices of the Fisheries’ art exhibition forms part of the National Library Service’s build up activities for Vision 2020: We Gatherin’. 


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