Life and art of the Carribbean

A woman contemplates a sculpture during a tour of the Haitian Cultural Center's Caribbean Symposium on Saturday, March 6th. The group viewed art by artists from the Caribbean before listening to lectures by several artists and scholars.

The Caribbean brings to mind white sandy beaches, palm trees and piña coladas, but this is the Caribbean of travel brochures and TV commercials, not the reality of typical island life.

UM hosted a three-day Caribbean lecture series on literature and culture, which allowed attendees to look beyond the stereotypical idea of what Caribbean culture is like.

The Caribbean Literary Studies program (CLS) began conferences in 2000 and has subsequently held two every year since with different themes. This year, CLS and the department of English presented “Global Caribbean: Interrogating the Politics of Location in Literature and Culture.”

For the first time, they joined with the Little Haiti Cultural Center and renowned artist Edouard Duval Carrie for the conclusion of the series on Saturday.

“The interesting part about partnering with the center [is] giving opportunities to bring artists, academics and scholars into the same space to start a dialogue,” said Josune Urbistondo, a program coordinator and CLS graduate student.

Saturday’s events began with a walking tour of a Global Caribbean exhibit led by Carrie. The tour showcased talented artists from Barbados to Cuba and Jamaica, whose work included portrait photography, lithographs and found objects. The exhibit originally premiered during Art Basel Miami.

“Some of the material [was] reflections of circumstances in producing the art,” said Patricia Saunders, UM associate professor in English and one of the event’s main organizers. “Sometimes all you [had were] wine bottles,” Saunders said, pointing at one of the pieces.

Carrie moderated the first panel discussion during which Caribbean artists demonstrated the pieces they had created throughout their careers. The artwork related to the conference’s central theme of location.

For example, Joscelyn Gardner, an artist from Barbados, sketched lithographs of head torture devices used on Caribbean slave women for submission purposes.

Also, Carrie posed a few questions having to do with culture and the earthquake in Haiti.

“As artists, how do we react to it and move forward?” he asked. “What do we do about archiving our lives?”

Carrie believes the earthquake was a wake-up call for artists to not only restore the culture of Haiti, but to ensure the protection of art and culture in other Caribbean countries.

Carrie said Haiti’s archiving was done by foreign entities in a systematic way. At some point he intends to bring back pieces that got sent away.

“We can’t go on our merry way,” Carrie said. “Our histories [were] so intermingled and we have our own perspective.”

Gardner said culture is a crucial part of life in the Caribbean.

“In the Caribbean, people live their cultural part of life, not somewhere in a museum,” she said.  “Culture [is] the foundation of bringing people together in the Caribbean.”

Andrea Concepcion may be contacted at