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An evening of art

Dancer Rene Blackman and vocalist Jennifer Pollard joined others in interpreting this wood piece, Secrets.

by Latoya Burnham

A mixture of “bluesy” and almost rock-like chords filled the Grand Salle of the Central Bank last night as patrons interacted with the arts. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe what transpired for the Crop-Over Visual Arts — An Evening of Interpretation.

As patrons mingled having cocktails, in the main hall, chairs spread between beautiful and creative pieces of art waited to welcome them, while a four-member Barbados Community College Ensemble warmed the room with selections like Suga and Blue Bossa.

It was an evening where artists, through dance, spoken word and music, interpreted the various pieces of art in the several exhibits across the City.

The first to do so was NIFCA award winner Rene Blackman, who sought to interpret Wayne Hinds’ Ballad of Art Is Words From A Poet: Call of A Nation Casa, a creative guitar in mixed media hanging in the gallery of the Grand Salle. His was an expressive interpretation as he moved between the pieces of art across the floor of the main hall in bursts of energy that quite accurately portrayed the piece he was examining.

His moves, sometimes jerky, sometimes fluid, gave a sense of the nails stuck into the instrument, even as those movements seemed to also be taking in everything around him in this very evoking piece that was as varied as the mixed-medium art he was interpreting.

What was totally fascinating in the entire production was that the BCC Ensemble, accompaniment in the background to Blackman’s dance was improvisation at its best. The band interpreted the piece in music even as the artist did the same in a dance that moved the audience.

When Keoma Mallet took the mic to perform a spoken word interpretation of a piece he called Conveyor Belt, his presentation transformed an already exciting night into a forum where the arts blended in the purest form.

Moments later the BCC Ensemble would revamp Harry Belafonte’s Day O and Work Song to reproduce Roger Prescod’s Bodi Girl in music it was enough to give you goosebumps.

The strength of the guitar, influenced by rock felt elemental in a way that one could almost smell and feel nature in the room behind the music. With the sax solo in the midst it served to sooth where the guitar had excited and just as you thought the music was fading, it hit a crescendo that brought the audience back to the precipice. One could almost see the Bodi Girl from the wooden piece of art twirling and dancing across the floor to the chords of these instruments.

The screams of approval at the end of their performance were enough praise for the masterful piece they had created.

It gave way for an equally moving impromptu by spoken word artist Louisa Babb, vocalist Jennifer Pollard and the BCC Ensemble, with Blackman in an interpretation of Secrets by Kenneth Blackman. It was in a segment when the mics were opened to the public to do their own interpretations of any of the pieces they had seen and liked.

Margaret Gill also rose to give a brief interpretation of Ballad of Art Is Words From A Poet: Call of A Nation Casa, and Daveney Ellis presented I Am Black in spoken word based on Ireka Jelani’s mixed media basket.

The final pieces for the night included Ghelisa Mayer’s gorgeous and utterly moving interpretation of Transformation by Matthew Alleyne in dance and Keisha N’zingha Griffith’s spoken word tribute to Remnants by Shauntelle Fergus.

It was easy to feel the pain and rejoice in the beauty that was Mayer’s portrayal, even as Griffith got the audience smiling and reminiscing with her as she recalled memories of her late grandmother who had taught her skills like turning cou cou and sewing, even as she sat at her feet in the kitchen conversing.

The evening could easily be declared a success, and cultural officer Rodney Ifill noted that they would like to have more of these types on interface in the arts. There will be another Evening of Interpretation on August 2.

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