Goin' Back ta Da Islan': Migration, Memory and the Marketplace in Bahamian Art

Ian Gregory Strachan


Wake up early one mornin’
Kiss my Mamma goodbye
Goin’ back ta di Islan’
I say, don’ worry Mamma, don’ cry
Ronnie Butler and the Ramblers “Crown Calypso”

We are who we are
Children of the hot lands
We build fires every Christmas
And pray in earnest for cold weather
Jerome Cartwright, “Cold Snap”

I told of never coming Winter;
The boats dancing gaily in a blue bay;
Then I sang of flowers blooming, the wild ocean booming,
Thunder walking the streets of the islands in May
Robert Elliot Johnson, “The Wanderer”

These three extracts provide an introduction to our subject: the factors affecting the representation of the Bahamian landscape in art. Together they seem to triangulate the subject. The lyrics from a song performed by one of our most celebrated calypsonians, Ronnie Butler, explore the irrepressible nostalgia for a simpler rural past that permeates much of Bahamian secular music. The second, a poem, addresses our sense of alienation from our island landscape as a result of the North Atlantic’s cultural colonialism. And the last poem demonstrated the extent to which Bahamians speak in the language of the tourist brochure when describing their country to outsiders. Migration, memory and the marketplace do not exhaust the list of factors shaping our art, but they are principal players in its production.



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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v20i1.213

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