Artists Aim For A Better Future
Global Earth Day gives people a chance every year to reflect on how they can change their lifestyle choices into more sustainable and harmonious ones for the planet on which they live, but that doesn’t matter unless they are honored the other 364 days of the year.
Such is the message by two Bahamian artists who are transforming communities and minds through their work and artistic efforts.
On April 22, while Tyrone Ferguson unveiled a new sculpture on the island of New Providence, Antonius Roberts took his message to Eleuthera. The pair celebrated Global Earth Day in the only way they knew how: through sharing their work that takes inspiration from its environment.
Joining his sculptures already on the grounds, Tyrone Ferguson unveiled a new installation at New Providence Community Church. For this artist, who often creates sculptures using repurposed metal and wood, sharing the sculpture and speaking during their Sunday service was a chance to inspire the NPCC community – and beyond – to treasure their surroundings.
“We can make this world and community a better place if we all just put our hands to it,” he said. “God said we must use our creativity and imaginations to take care of this earth. When we intentionally put our hands to what God has provided us with, then we can experience what God has given us, we can experience healing and wellness and a closer walk with God.”
Indeed part of the decision to install more of his work at NPCC ties into his overall vision to transform the community church grounds into a place where members and visitors alike can find a spiritual connection with nature.
Already NPCC employs a number of recycling programs and considers itself deeply passionate about environmental justice. Such a philosophy has gifted space for sustainable sculptures by Ferguson and fellow collaborator Antonius Roberts on the grounds, including Ferguson’s new piece.
At the top of his sculpture sits a globe carried by many hands – traced by NPCC members and cut out by Ferguson – while underneath a doorway sits atop a repurposed bank vault door as a base. Ferguson hopes that the doorway creates a portal for its viewers – that by walking through it, no matter what day of the year, they focus on how to improve the earth.
“The hands hold the globe in a symbolic gesture of us participating in creating the world,” he said. “But there’s a disconnect here – we speak it, but are we intentionally making the world a better place, not just on Earth Day but beyond?”
“It’s going to take all of our hands to do this, it’s going to take commitment, time, talent and resources to do this,” he continued. “Pulling up a few casuarinas on Earth Day isn’t going to cut it; we want to hand off a better community to our children. We need to take it to the next level. We need to celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year.”
Doing just that is fellow artist and collaborator Antonius Roberts, whose artistic practice and community building initiatives always repurpose discarded wood to make gorgeous pieces. This Sunday he too unveiled a new sculpture at the Leon Levy Reserve in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera as part of the One Eleuthera Foundation & Nature Conservancy’s celebrations this past weekend which also had the support of the government and the Bahamas National Trust. The sculpture was a male and female figure carved beautifully out of wild Tamarind wood salvaged by the Leon Levy staff after Hurricane Irene.
“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to breathe life back into the wood,” said Roberts. “It was a spontaneous piece that follows the form, spirit and grain of the wood. My thought is we are stewards of the earth and I thought God has given us domain over this earth in a biblical sense.”
Indeed the figures, placed in such an environment as the breathtaking Leon Levy Preserve, create an Edenic atmosphere for visitors to ponder the beauty of nature and the need to preserve it.
The first national park on Eleuthera, the reserve not only acts as an educational resource for visitors but is also a haven for native plant species.
Adding to that environment, says Roberts, is the addition of three new benches in the space as part of his National Bench Program, which works in conjunction with the government’s Job Readiness Program and Baha Mar to turn discarded wood from the invasive species of casuarinas into beautiful and practical benches.
But the important aspect of this program is not so much the sustainability of material but of the craftsmen themselves. For the National Bench Program, young men have trained under Roberts in the craft of bench making, giving them vital skills and an awareness of sustainability in their field. The three benches in Eleuthera were made by two young men in high school under the National Bench Program.
“People were able to come and not only celebrate the sculptures we did but the spirit of transformation,”
said Roberts. “These men were so excited by the program that they would like to set up a bench-making industry on the island of Eleuthera when they return back from college because there is a proliferation of casuarina trees there.”
“So for me when we talk about preservation, the reality is we need to talk about sustainability – we need to create opportunities for our people to buy into the whole process of preservation,” he continued. “I think it is important for us to work with the schools and engage young people in the process so that they can take ownership and be responsible stewards.”
That’s just what Roberts aims to do with the National Bench Program. He adds that he was pleasantly surprised to see that over the weekend, Baha Mar had added 15-20 of these benches – made from the discarded wood of casuarinas during the clearing for their development – to their walkway flanking natural wetlands on the new rerouted Cable Beach Strip. The move was an appropriate one given the tone of Sunday.
Rather than be varnished and perfect additions to the environment, Roberts explains that these benches are made to weather over time along with its surroundings.
“They will be properly maintained and treated, but they are meant to grey and age like driftwood so they are part of the environment and landscape instead of just being placed there – they will weather and allow nature to take charge of how they wear,” he said.
Overall though, he finds the most significant aspect of the new display at Baha Mar is the work behind them by young hands. Such a practice is a promise for a better, more sustainable future in a rapidly developing world.
“I’m so proud to see these are benches made by young men,” he said. “I took them out today to have a look at those, and you should see them beaming with pride. The benches just look wonderful.”
Arts & Culture
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012