A mosaic that was installed on Saturday, November 30 in the Port Lucaya Marketplace has caused complaints among local vendors who believe the image misrepresents Bahamian people and culture.
The artwork, a creative project managed by Artist Jacki Boss, depicts a black man with dreadlocks standing back to back with a black woman wearing a head wrap.
According to Port Lucaya vendors, who wished to remain anonymous, the image has confused tourists who are unsure of how the persons represented in the mosaic relate to Bahamian people.
One merchant expressed concerns that the mosaic could lead visitors with limited knowledge of Bahamian culture to believe that The Bahamas is a “satellite” of Jamaica.
“I don’t understand why you’d have a Jamaican rasta in The Bahamas,” she said.
The vendor said, the space could have easily been used to portray artwork much closer to home.
“This is Port Lucaya, I would have had a Lucayan Indian village. You’ve got the history and the culture and it gets people talking about where exactly they are and the history of the country,” she said.
Another vendor shared the view that the space should have been reserved for artwork that paid tribute to Bahamian legends.
She listed a number of Bahamian politicians and athletes, past and present, whom she considered more suitable for the mosaic.
The merchant also named Junkanoo as an alternative to the present display.
“It’s a slap in the Bahamian people’s face. It does not represent the Bahamian people. It does not represent me or the children,” she said.
“We are not rastas ... that does not represent us. I think they should move it all together, because it does not represent The Bahamas.”
A Port Lucaya vendor, who said she saw the installation take place and was informed of the meaning behind the mosaic admitted that she still did not understand the purpose of the artwork.
She agreed with colleagues that the mosaic does not accurately depict Bahamian people, regardless of how many people worked on the project.
“All she said is it’s a community service of so many people doing the work. Okay, they did the work now, why put it here,” she said.
“Now that it is here what do I tell the tourists?” she asked.
Boss, who supervised the project from start to installation at Port Lucaya, said that she is familiar with the “complaints” and attributed these criticisms to a lack of understanding.
“For those who were not a part of the project, they cannot feel the sense of accomplishment of those who were,” Boss said in a statement concerning the mosaic.
“They may not appreciate the hours of volunteered time and labor that went into each stone of the mosaic. They don’t understand how much effort went into presenting their community with this extraordinary gift of public art. They do not know that, in the end, the project was more about the process of actualizing a sense of community than how good, or what the definition of, the final “picture” is.”
She explained that the project, which she envisioned in the summer of 2012, brought together 36 artists and residents to create and contribute a work of art to the wider community.
The purpose, she said, was to forge a bond between local artists and the community while creating a piece reminiscent of “Caribbean Flavor.”
Boss said, the mosaic does well to portray Caribbean flavor as dreadlocks are readily associated with the Caribbean regions.
“As for the woman, she could be Caribbean, or she could be from anywhere,” she said.
“It is two people who have each other’s backs as they stand united; a universal theme of strength and alliance with a Caribbean flavor.”
She added that she was pleased that through working on the mosaic, the artists “mimicked” the mosaic process.
“As participants worked diligently on shaping their motley of fragments to create their patterns, the project itself was shaping these diverse individuals to follow a pattern to create a single artwork,” Boss said.
Residents who contributed to the artwork defended the piece.
Wolansa Fountain said, she enjoyed working with her granddaughter on their portion of the border and is proud of the overall finished product.
“It’s beautiful and can be appreciated and treasured by everyone who sees it,” Fountain said.
Terrelle Tynes-Wilson, another contributor to the mosaic, said it was a pleasure to work with fellow Bahamians on the project.
Tynes-Wilson said, the spirit of giving back to the community was the central focus for many artists who worked on the mosaic.
The artists and volunteers who worked on the project gained the help of local tile merchants who donated material that could not be resold.
The mosaic used tiles as well as scrap materials, including a shattered windshield.
Boss revealed plans to have an official unveiling for the mosaic on Saturday, December 14.