photo courtesy of Katsumi Nagamori
In University, the first book I was assigned was The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich. This book presented me with two challenges, the first, that the edition which we were assigned was in Spanish, the second was that Gombrich stated that there was a difference between Art (Fine Art) and art (handicraft).
In Belize, it is my belief that that line of distinction is less defined, maybe, it would be possible to say that it may not even exist. We experience in Belize a rich environment where art envelops both handicraft and the highly revered Fine Art.
Thankfully the international contemporary art scene has become a rich mixture of craft as art or art as craft. For example visual artists have begun to utilize 'craft forms' to create fine art. I say this considering several artists who participated in the Landings project. The Landings project featured a series of exhibits with participation of visual artists from Belize, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
One Landings artist, from Mérida, México who works in a similar fashion is Vanessa Rivero. This artist utilized basic concepts of handicraft, with drawing elements, i.e composition, scale, negative space etc. She generally does large installation pieces where she combines the elements of drawing with media that are not always identified with Fine Art like sewing or tiling.
It is not a rare or strange thing. The word art defined by Oxford dictionary states, "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power." It states further "a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice."
Based on the second definition we can see why we say the art of cooking, or the art of public speaking.
From these definitions, two things can be established that art, be it Fine Art or Handicraft requires skill, expression and creativity. And if this is the case, then I dare to say that the only distinction then may be their consumption. In the case of Fine Art it is generally exhibited and sold to museums or collectors, whereas handicraft may or may not be exhibited and has a wider purchase base, or may even be geared solely towards enriching the tourist experience.
In the Belizean context, I'd like to highlight two artists who work diligently at their craft. Delisiah and Jaime "Jimmy Jam" Medina are new installments to the art scene of North Front Street in Belize City. These artists create chains, earrings and bracelets right on the spot using all natural materials including conch and wilk shells, corals, that have washed up on the beach, beads, cohune seeds and coconut shells.
The couple had first been working and living in Caye Caulker village, where they said they were inspired by the beautiful beach and friendly island vibes to create excellent pieces. There, Delisiah said, they had a steady income because the tourists were very supportive and constantly looking for exotic-looking jewelry for themselves, and to carry home as gifts.
Definitely the market for their artwork here in Belize City is much smaller than on the island.
Still, Jam and Delisiah arrive religiously early to 91 North Front Street every morning, from Monday to Friday, and set up their table with the all-natural treasures. Most times they end up selling their priceless pieces at a minimum to Primary School students who have saved up their lunch money or to the locals.
This does not stop Jimmy Jam, he can be seen Monday to Friday beading chains with his wife on North Front Street.
He has a need to create, so he creates despite the fact that the market is meager.
An artist does after all create because he needs to, not because there is a market or not. For as long as there is something to express and discuss, art will be created.
This brings me to the point I've harped on for almost the entire year of 2012. Artists need support. Punto final! Artists, Artisans, Musicians, Dancers, Poets and Dramatists!
NICH make it happen for 2013. I'm calling you out, because this should be your primary concern. Try to aspire to a pre-2008 NICH curriculum.
Fifty is not always over the hill. In fact, in the new millennia where thirty is the new twenty, fifty has the ‘cougar-ish’ appeal of forty.
Last Friday night, the Image Factory Art Gallery hosted Art Beyond 50, New Art from Cayo which in this case spoke of miles rather than years. Eight painters all residing fifty or more miles outside Belize City limits exhibited their work. These artists Ernest Garcia, Jose Gabb, German Figueroa, Carolyn Carr, Marlon Thompson, Lincoln Gordon, Jeanne Seawell and Orlando Nah ignited the walls of the gallery with fresh images from fifty or more miles away.
Luckily I got the chance to interview four of the artists at the launch on their style and artistic aspirations.
Orlando Nah, originally from Roaring Creek village, who is now residing in Camalote village said that he was inspired to paint by a Psalm in the Bible and that spirituality is a very important part of his work. Nah elaborated “for example Psalm 121, which says ‘I look up to the hills’ when you look at nature, you are inspired. When I read that I was very young, about seven years old, and it inspired me.”
Orlando nah hopes that when we see his work we would “understand that we need love in our lives and that the reason there is so much violence and crime is because we do not have love.”
Jeanne, who signs her work with her first name only, is a painter who is self-taught and resides in Belmopan. She, like a painter from the Romantic era of painting, is greatly inspired by nature and other artists’ work. This, in the art world of Belize, is something that may scare artists out of sharing their pieces to avoid ‘copy cat-ism’.
But if we are to call ourselves contemporary artists, we’d realized that we knowingly and unknowing take inspiration from everywhere and everyone. Jeanne shares this viewpoint and says “I’m inspired (by them), but I do my own variation of it. I do my own thing, and I love doing it.” She hopes that we see her work and are inspired to be creative.
Lincoln Gordon is a hyper-realist painter from Roaring Creek who studied Fine Art in the U.S and later taught art at the Belmopan Comprehensive School. His style choice is interesting as it is not widely used here in Belize. When asked why he chose hyper-realism he said that it was the genre that chose him and not the other way around. “I never pretend, whenever I meet someone I show them who I am, I am always real. I think this is reflected in the work that I do. I am real to myself so I am real to my project. So that is the reason I chose hyper-realism.”
Gordon hopes that when we see his work, his theme being urban landscape, we pay closer attention to all that surrounds us and thereby not take for granted the simple things and appreciate the beauty in them.
Marlon Thompson said he recalls finding coal from the fire hearth and scratching all over his grandma’s walls. Thompson also lives in Roaring Creek and said “he has been creating since birth, that this is something that has been in him, since the beginning.” He hopes that we would see his work and share his vision and the same feelings he had.
The artists have since returned to Cayo, but their works can still be seen in the Image Factory Art Gallery on #91 North Front Street. The exhibit will run until the end of November.
These images, along with the others, highlight the essence of the Belizean experience and ask us to live our culture, not just reenact it.
November 27, 2012
Walking towards the Mexican Institute of Culture on the night of November 15, I could hear the faint but rich beating of Garifuna drums wafting through the door. The Mexican Embassy had invited the public to the launch of Pen Cayetano’s most recent exhibit ArtCulture.
Just before the opening speeches started, I pulled Pen away to ask a few questions about his latest art installment. He obliged by explaining the concept behind the exhibit.
“This ArtCulture exhibition is a special exhibition to me because, we are losing our culture and only art could revive it. So, we are only reenacting our culture every time a big celebration comes around. Just like how it is in done other countries. They used to live their culture, but now they are looking towards the galleries to see some of the aspects of their culture because we are not living it (culture) as how it used to be. So ArtCulture is; first there was culture but now it is art.”
I asked Cayetano to give his view, both as a musician and an artist, about young Garifuna artists, if he thought that they were living the culture or a parody of it.
“I think totally the black culture in Belize is deteriorating, in truth. Most of the things we used to do or value in our culture we are not doing again. We are adopting most of the North American culture and other cultures. Take for instance our celebrations last year, we were depicting our dance. Our cultural dances have gone to a step where not only it is not depicting culture, it’s a seductive kind of dance and it’s vulgar. We have to go back to school to study and re-learn our culture, although we think that we know our culture, we don’t know. We might know, but we are not acting it. And by not acting it we are losing it. You know? So I think the young people today should take another step and study our culture. Because this culture, our culture, was a strong one, the black culture. We are taking some other direction of cultures that is influencing our culture and even dominating it. That shouldn’t be. Let’s take the old Garifuna and the old Creole roots, the mahogany days, when the men would cut their mahogany or prepare their mahogany and the women would prepare the food for their men. Nice dinner! Nice Creole dinner. It was not the garbage we are eating now. Even so, we are losing our culture, (with) what we eat.
That is what we should do, live our culture, although the world is changing. So young people, and we the elders, have to make a strict rule: that we have to learn our culture and the strength of our culture.”
The Cultural Attaché Arq. Domingo Rodriguez Semerena in his opening remarks at the launch of ArtCulture, expressed his happiness with the success of the cultural exchange the Mexican Embassy does here in Belize through their Cultural Institute. Indeed, Mexican and Belizean artists have exhibited in the Mexican Embassy’s cultural spaces. Not only in the ambit of visual art but also in terms of music, where the Embassy has invited Mexican musicians to play here and has sent Belizean musicians, Pen Cayetano included, to Mexico.
The paintings were oil snap-shots of Belizean moments and culture. Lindbergh’s Landing on the Barracks, with what Pen described as his own interpretation of the sky, another painting shows women braiding hair on the steps of a wooden house; there is also a beautiful Garifuna Nativity. These images, along with the others, highlight the essence of the Belizean experience and ask us to live our culture, not just reenact it. ArtCulture was on display for the month of November at the Mexican Institute of Culture, which is located corner Newtown Barracks and Wilson Street.
Only days after his launch, on November 18, 2012, Pen Cayetano unveiled Hayawadina Wayunagu (the images of our ancestors) in the Dangriga Town Hall. The presentation was done in grand Dangriga style with drumming and dancing. The event was attended by His Worship Mayor Gilbert Swaso, the President of the National Garifuna Council Mrs. Phylis Cayetano, Leader of the Opposition Hon. Francis Fonseca, Cultural Attaché of the Mexican Embassy Arq. Domingo Rodriguez Semerena, Mexican Ambassador His Excellency Mario Velázquez Suarez and the general public.
Pen explains the mural as follows “The mural talks about the landing of the Garinagu, it talks about our ancestors, and of great Belizeans, some have died some of them are still alive. And to me, it is a great thing that Belize has a mural now that is depicting a strong culture. And that is only the beginning; I think in the future there will be murals depicting not just the Garinagu culture, but all the other cultures. This, I believe is just the beginning of cultural murals which will be operating in Belize. Because as I said earlier, the culture is deteriorating, we have to look in galleries and museums to find it, or maybe in books or other things, video and so forth.”
Surely placing this mural in the Town Hall a symbol of the governance of Dangriga is a significant one. As without culture what have we to govern, but a people without an identity. Cayetano hopes that the students will asked to visit this mural, so that they can see and reconnect with their roots and culture.
Pen’s message to the youth for Garifuna Settlement day was that he hopes that the youth be more culturally conscious. He reminded us that the youth are to engage in other dance forms besides the Punta Rock, and to careful of how they express themselves. “Don’t be vulgar!”
I can hardly say I disagree with Pen's advice, being the father of Punta Rock, he more than any, can tell us a thing or two about the ‘shake it, shake it’ as he calls it. So here’s to hoping that we ‘live and not just reenact our cultures!’
October 22, 2012
Belize City, Belize
If asked what it is, what else could it be described as but as a forum for the ‘Banana Republic’ kids (a
term I borrowed from Yasser Musa’s Banana Boy Project) to share their ideas on life in the marginalized
What is the marginalized?
Well here in Belize, I feel like we are the most marginalized and culturally malnourished of these countries.
While other countries of the banana republic may have struggling economies, at least they can say that
their children are enrolled in ballet, French class, painting and drama lessons. In these other countries,
with wider populations and wider ‘telenovela’ MoMa and Hollywood aspirations there exist cultural
gestation, programs, grants, education and scholarships. There is a demand because there is a supply
In Belize, we have super potential as well, we have talent which would benefit from being enrolled in
cultural programs. Brains which could be fed the words of Camus, George Price, Salvador Dali, Sappho
and the like...
But there is a supply shortage here in Belize. Most public schools have no art programs. So art, culture in
the wider scheme, remains a bourgeois commodity.
Landings this was an opportunity to allow the forum of contemporary art to rise, from the arid cultural
deserts of Belize and to be washed over with oases from all over.
I don’t feel that the other countries are spared from cultural deprivation, but I speak from what I know.
I know Belize, as an art college drop-out I can say that there is no environment here from which I can
suckle, being a baby brain in the art field.
I remember the sureste (Merida, Yucatan).
One of the first words I learnt in Spanish was ‘periferia’ that is to say periphery, that being in the
Southeast in the Mexican Art world, was to be on the fringe of it all, to be on the wrong side of the art
I could not believe what my ears heard when what my eyes saw were exhibits everywhere, free classical music
concerts, ballet; contemporary, modern, classical, Performance, something I’d not seen at home.
Still, the teacher from DF (Mexico City) called us fringe artists.
It is not all together a bad thing, we used it like a badge, to produce, to inspire ourselves do projects to
either address the fringes, or showcase its super potential.
So Landings I would have to say offered the forum for fringe artists to produce art, not fringe art, but
actual art that could be displayed in Belize, Washington, Cuba and Taiwan.
If it had gone to Badajoz, that would have been the art, the mere fact of the fringe artists returning to
the home of the conquistadores to present art from the fringes, but that was not fringe art, art from the
At the risk of sounding like a hopeless dreamer, world class art from world class artists who reside on the
Today Francis Palacio launched two books to the crowd which gathered in the Image Factory Art Gallery. Middle Schoolin’: 50 Stories about the Challenges, Humor and Rewards of Teaching (co-written by Jacques Paul Rallion) and Facebook Education: From Middle School to Old School and From the USA to Belize. The first book, as Image Factory’s director Yasser Musa, puts it “catalogues and records the teaching experience.” The second book Facebook Education records Dr. Palacio’s initial apprehension to join the social media website, the impact it had on his life and how he now uses it for research and to connect with Belize and the world. It features interviews with a college professor, a deacon, an actor, an engineer, a beauty queen, a nurse, a business person and the founder of beinggarifuna.com Teofilo Colon Jr on the facebook experience.
Palacio believes that Facebook can be used for good. He states that this, Facebook, like any other tool, can be used either to destroy or create. Used properly, he said, it promotes business, networking on the international platform, and even “saves you the cost of a phone call with its ‘instantaneous’ connectivity.”
If you are a member of Facebook, and live in a world of 'likes', 'pokes', 'timelines' and 'video/photo tags', or even if you aren't and have heard that you were tagged in someone's album, this book will speak to you. Like it or not, we live in a Facebook world, the seemingly unescapable ever-growing 'international friend connector'.
Palacio is a graduate of California State University, Los Angeles. He obtained a teaching credential and a Masters Degree in Education from Chapman University. In 2005, Frank was one of a select group of teachers chosen to attend the UCLA Writing Project as a fellow.
901 million monthly active users at the end of March 2012. Approximately 80% of our monthly active users are outside the U.S. and Canada. 526 million daily active users on average in March 2012.
488 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in March 2012, and more than 500 million mobile monthly active users as of April 20, 2012. During March 2012, on average 398 million users were active with Facebook on at least six out of the last seven days. Information from Facebook's newsroom page: http://newsroom.fb.com/content/default.aspx?NewsAreaId=22
Yes, Facebook, my dear Belizeans, is the new epidemic. It emerged unto the scene in 2004, and eventually, sometime in 2007 or 2008, gained popularity in Belize replacing social media giants hi5 and Myspace. In 2012, everyone and their grandma has a Facebook account. Some people, in order to browse, to put it lightly, other people's timelines undetected, have two or three accounts.
Facebook, with its mission "to make the world more open and connected" has certainly made it easier and possibly cheaper to "stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them." I question, though, the quality of the Facebook connection. Teenagers, surviving heartbreaks, high school dramas and victories on this forum, still feel disconnected or mute in the Belizean society. Here, even in the most successful social connection service, an estimated 125 billion friend connections, at the end of March 2012 (according to Facebook), logging in is not connecting us with our youth.
Still, the interface has proven successful to connect us, young, old and in between, on key issues in Belize via Facebook groups. Definitely the public outrage resounded on Jasmine Alert, a Facebook group with 1,479 members at present. This is a group where Belizeans gathered to share information on the missing child Jasmine Lowe, updates, the sad discovery of her murder, and information on the arrest of the suspected perpetrator. This is virtual space, which I believe, transcended its limits and offered a space to 'come together' for a cause.
Now, Francis Palacio, an educator, presents Facebook, Education: From Middle School to Old School and From the USA to Belize. A book where he gives an account of the social impact of the social media network. The book features interviews which will offer distinct perspectives on Facebook. In this book, one is able to live the "Facebook" experience as a college professor, a deacon, an actor, an engineer, a beauty queen, a nurse, a business person and the founder of beinggarifuna.com Teofilo Colon Jr.
If you are a member, and live in a world of 'likes', 'pokes', 'timelines' and 'video and photo tags', or even if you aren't and still have the website sneak into conversations, or have heard that you were tagged in someone's album, this book will speak to you. Like it or not, we live in a Facebook world, the seemingly unescapable ever-growing 'international friend connector'.
Palacio is a graduate of California State University, Los Angeles. He obtained a teaching credential and a Masters Degree in Education from Chapman University. In 2005, Frank was one of a select group of teachers chosen to attend the UCLA Writing Project as a fellow.
There is the old adage that if you do what you love, then you'll never work a day in your life. The underlying premise is that following your passion you don't feel the burden of the work, but rather the joy of creating.
With this in mind, I've often wondered how simple it would be if my passion would be medicine, law or finance. Then it would not matter if I were a slave to following my passion, because I could undoubtedly reap the financial benefits. Still, I have never been one to opt for the simpler things.
I was born on Saturday, August 16, 1986, at approximately 7 a.m. screaming at the top of my lungs. As I think on the course of my life, I'd like to consider it my first performance. I was born with that insatiable need to express myself to the world. That is my passion.
This is beyond any attempt to garner extra attention. Over the years I've perfected the art of attracting the wrong kind of attention. Any witness to my nights-on-the-town could attest to that.
I just need to paint, write, sing, scream, shout, photograph, video or perform. It is my passion, surely, because when I am in the process of creating, I know no other intense, euphoric or more comfortable space.
My dilemma is that I have a passion which is considered akin to extras, not the core or basic needs of Belizean society at present day.
Can there be a premise more flawed?
How can a society even consider existing without culture? After all, what defines a civilization are culture, scientific achievements and government.
If we are not yet aware, the Belizean art scene has suffered severe bouts of neglect and abuse, consequently it is in a state of disrepair and dysfunction.
Shyne is our Musical Ambassador, I could elaborate on why this is a clear demonstration of dysfunction, but there would be no end to this article.
What does the government plan to do? What will the institutions do? What will schools do? What are artists prepared to do?
Will artists stand and watch as our livelihood and creative dignities are threatened?
I fear that most people will use the 'we no have money' excuse. This is bullshit, trust me. I marvel at Haiti, their art, literature and film movements. According to Wikipedia Haiti's nominal GDP per capita (for 2011) is $738, and Belize: $4,349. Needless to say, money only becomes an obstacle if we allow it.
As long as we are content to have 'pretty paintings' hoisted up on the walls of a few galleries once in a blue moon, we are in grave danger of losing it all. We need to be exposed to all art forms as utilized by Belizean and international artists.
This famine can be tackled once the hunger is recognized can dealt with. Even if the process is not swift or instantly successful, it must be attempted.
At the risk of sounding completely cliché, what about the future? What about the children? If we can not rescue it for ourselves, we must at least salvage it for them.
For almost fifty years, Belizeans have been enjoying panades, ducunu or rice and beans with Coca Cola and making the internationally successful beverage, a Belizean staple. To commemorate this golden achievement, Bowen and Bowen Limited teamed up with artist Gilvano Swasey to actualize the Open Happiness competition. This competition invited the participation of professional and student artists from each of the six districts to create their version of a Coca Cola moment under the theme open happiness. The art competition, also a traveling exhibit, commenced its tour of the country at the House of Culture (Government House) in Belize City on May 8, 2012. Another element of the competition is an auction in support of Lifeline Foundation, which supports children.
Thirty professional artists were invited of which twenty seven participated in addition to the invitation of thirty schools, of which twenty three participated. Each artist or school participating in the competition was given a canvas and a stipend to purchase art supplies. A total of 50 submissions were entered from which a panel of judges, comprised of a photographer, a sculptor, a graphic designer and a representative from Bowen and Bowen Limited, was to select a first, second and third place winner from the two categories.
Definitely the panel had a challenge to select only three peices from the twenty seven, as the competition received entries from Pen Cayetano, Lita Krohn, Caryolyn Carr, Eduardo "Papo" Alamilla, Deborah Usher, Rachael Heusner, Terryl Godoy (Man at Work), Manuel "Daza" Gonzalez, Lola Delgado, Briheda Haylock, Kelvin Baizar and Daniel Cano, to name a few. All the professional artists brought the symbology of Coca Cola to their signature style. Viewing all 27 pieces together was surely a sight, as these all verbalized Coca Cola but in the artists' native tongue. This is to say, that Marcos Manzanero, for example, speaks a different visual language from Greta Leslie, Ernest Garcia, Debbie Cooper, or Anton Leslie. It is always rich to see something, as seen through an artist's brushstrokes, especially when they were all given the same theme and object to translate.
The task was no easier for the panel in the second category, as all the participating schools brought their respective 'A' games to the competition. The youth, humour, and vivid chromatic display offered by the entries from Corozal Community College, Pallotti High School, Sacred Heart College, Orange Walk Technical High School, Delille Academy, Toledo Community College, and the other 17 entries, were truly spectacular. The visual language which the students, of the twenty three participating schools, are developing must be commended and their teachers and principals recognized for fostering and nurturing the talent of the young Belizean artists.
Still, winners had to be chosen, and for the professional artist category Carolyn Carr placed third, Eduardo "Papo" Allamilla placed second and Terryl "Man at Work" Godoy placed first. Mount Carmel High School, with an entry from Jose Martinez, placed third, Muffles College, with and entry from Jareny Rivera placed second, while Maud Williams High School, with and entry from Michael Martinez, Gaynel Vernon, Marlon Ack, Kiara Vargas, and Ruel Riverol, took the first place.
All these pieces showed the artists' representation of a Coca Cola moment and these, along with the other forty four paintings are currently on display at the Government House until May 25. You can swing by to see for yourself how each artist expresses Open Happiness.
Society Killed the Teenager is an art exhibit which screams ‘we will not be ignored anymore!’ After years
of teenagers’ opinions being locked behind room doors, plastered with posters and keep out signs,
which were slammed shut after heated exchanges with their parents; the door has now been flung wide
Briheda Haylock and Ruhiel Trejo are the young artists featured in Image Factory’s most recent art
exhibition. The art which the artists display in this show are some of the strongest pieces I have seen in a
while. Society Killed the Teenager is definitely a step forward for visual art in Belize with its mixed media
pieces, graffiti and digital imaging prints.
I asked both artists how they feel about the outcome of the show. Briheda said she hopes that people
get the message. She wants to inspire people to be open and to be themselves. “I would hope that
people would not care as much about what others think and know that they have a choice to be unique.
They could be more open-minded to different genres of art and types of expression.”
“I want to inspire people to do the art that they want to do.” said Ruhiel.
Haylock, stating her view on art’s role in society, says art is communication not just for pleasurable use.
Art can be used to talk to people and is anti-propaganda. Trejo says that he would like people to create
beautiful pieces to put on walls all over the country. “You know, so that we wouldn’t only have ugly ads
to look at.”
The artist said that they have been receiving feedback on the art presented in the show already. Briheda
said that she has felt a lot of judgement from the interviewers. “I notice that they only focus on the
depression pieces. They didn’t even look at the love, life and relationship pieces. I think the media feels
that I am craving or seeking attention.” What’s wrong with craving attention?
“I’m not craving attention” said Briheda “I’m just evidencing the ignored topics. Most people when they
realize that someone is depressed don’t even bother to find out why that person is depressed. They are
satisfied with their assumptions.”
Ruhiel says that that the feedback that he has received has been good, bad and indifference. I asked him
which response he liked best.
“Good and bad. I don’t like indifference. I don’t want anyone to leave the show not feeling anything at
all. There are ideas discussed in each piece, if you are indifferent it means that you have no ideas, and
that would be bad.”
The art presented in Society Killed the Teenager may shock, anger or even amuse you; it will most
definitely provoke strong emotions. More important than the provocation however is the fact that the
youths are speaking, will we listen?
“Hey you, teacher, Leave them kids alone”
So many years after Pink Floyd immortalized those lyrics, society still struggles with the fact that it is better to involve youths than to suppress them. ‘den young pipil crazy. I just no andastan dem at all’ is a common chorus sung by many parents, teachers and elders in society. It is easy to blame the generational gap, but how many of you take the time to actually listen to the voice of the youth?
I recently had the opportunity to speak with two young people about Art, Politics and sexuality. Briheda Haylock and Ruhiel Trejo candidly spoke about these topics after showing me their artwork. “Society Killed the Teenager is the name of the exhibit” said the pair in unison. I resisted the temptation to ask why they had chosen that title. As the interview progressed however, I noticed that the recurring theme in their work was ridicule.
Is ridicule something that impels you to work? “Society discourages people from expressing themselves and being their true selves” said Ruhiel. Would you boldly say then that Belizean society suppresses rather than supports youth? Briheda and Ruhiel answered with an emphatic yes.
What leads 19 and 21 year old persons to such a drastic conclusion? I never profess to have all the answers. Still I believe that our society, though warm and seemingly tolerant of difference, is intimidated by square pegs which try to accommodate themselves in a round hole. We have openly accepted house music but shake our heads and laugh at any young woman sporting a fluorescent green Mohawk hairdo.
With curiosity about the title of their upcoming exhibit, I ventured into the interview. I asked both artists to discuss what they say with their artwork. Briheda said that her artwork is about self expression, being confident and not worrying about what people say. “I also incorporate Gay Pride in my work.” Haylock said after a short pause “We imitate everything American, except homosexuality. Motivation should be focused on fighting for a better Belize, not banning homosexuality.” Briheda said that she feels that people are afraid to be themselves in Belize for fear of being ridiculed about dressing differently or for being different.
Ruhiel, in answering the same question, said “I say everything that everyone else thinks, but I am brave enough to say it out loud. Sometimes I am even ridiculed by people who feel the same way.” He also said that he is more of a thinker than a talker and lets the art speak for him.
Andy Warhol said ‘Art is what you can get away with.’ What do you think about that?
“I think you can get away with anything. Just be you!” was Briheda’s response.
Trejo said “that is actually my favourite quote from him. I also use it to explain things. Another quote which I like from him is ‘Do things that the average person doesn’t understand because those are the only things that matter.’ I believe that these are things that promote a better place. For example, with public art, a meme is something that people can connect with and relate to.”
Who or what influences you to create?
Without hesitation Haylock answered “Society and my own struggles; also creating things that have never been done before, painting, sculpting, and graphics. I got into stone work recently. I am eager to continue but I have no equipment at present.”
Trejo said “at first I was inspired by video games especially the 8 bit graphics as in Super Mario. I grew up on the Southside (of Belize City) and so I got used to hearing a lot of different genres of music.”
He also said that he believes that the music a teen listens to says even more about him than the words that come out of his mouth.
“As you listen to music you hear things which you also say and feel. It makes you feel like you aren’t the only one who thinks or feels that way.”
Honestly I am impressed to have had such a mature conversation with the artists. I am amazed at the force in their work, and that they have chosen art as the platform to discuss their political ideas. It is certainly thrilling to experience art which transcends its canvas. Here for us exists an opportunity to truly listen to what two youngsters have to say. They have opened the floor for discussion on how society killed the teenager; so let’s listen.
Society Killed the Teenager will be launched at the Image Factory Art Gallery on March 16 at 7:00 pm. The exhibit will be on display for one month.