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Creating from memory

Published: 
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Kelley Ann Lindo...which memories of Trinidad will feed her next output of art? PHOTO: M COZIER

Since being given a class assignment to explore a memory, Jamaican emerging artist Kelley-Ann Lindo has been excavating and scrutinizing her bank of experiences.

What she remembers is a literal flood of personal history. Her childhood home always succumbed to a rush of water from heavy rainfall.

“I expected it to happen—being underwater or with water up to my waist in the house,” she said. According to her, “the questions came” while pursuing a BFA in painting at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts (EMC). She asked: “Why did this happen?”

Lindo would visualise her answers in the form of an installation created for her graduation exhibition, a piece that incorporated damaged furniture from her house. “I was picking things up, trying to piece together, trying to mend things,” she said.

The 2015 graduate of the EMC is the latest artist in residence at Alice Yard, Woodbrook. Her creative work during her stay in Trinidad is still defined by an engagement with her past, and the question of why, but the memory now set in her sights is that of her parents’ migration to North America.

Lindo had never travelled beyond Jamaica’s shores before this, and it is her first time participating in an artist residency. She came to Trinidad with unresolved feelings about the physical absence of her parents and planned to create work using a suitcase as a motif but she toyed with the use of new memories in the making.

“I arrived and thought I would explore my travel experiences,” she said. However, she could not ignore the pull of a restless past.

The trigger for her new work is a number of images her mother recently supplied via email. “She sent images of me as a child, ones I had never seen before. A lot of my baby pictures were damaged by flooding,” she said. Lindo was immediately captivated by her silhouette in the photographs: a contour of her head with her hair in two plaits.

“I looked at the images and found them strange. They were not me but I pulled the silhouette and started to draw,” she said.

Other sources of information would intersect with her art making. Lindo came across the film Auntie by Barbadian filmmaker Lisa Harewood. The film addresses the issue of migration and the phenomenon of barrel children. (The term “barrel children” refers to children left behind by parents seeking a better life overseas. These children often receive barrels of clothes and other items from these family members now living abroad).

Pamela Marshall’s novel Barrel Child also had an impact on her. “I found similarities between these stories and my own,” Lindo said.

Through processes of drawing and printing with ink and graphite, Lindo has produced several different visuals of a child, each one simultaneously her and not her. Her silhouette now serves as a container or barrel for multiple narratives of loss, longing, anxiety and hope.

Her image is an emblem of a collective of children across the Caribbean who must grapple with a separation from their family members.

“Before I knew it, I had 50 drawings. Then 50 turned to 100. Now I have about 135 drawings. I was thinking about doing 200 or 300 to reference a sense of the large number of people this has happened to,” she said.

Lindo is also exploring the possibility of creating video work—stop motion animation—using the drawings. In this way she is pushing and pulling her memories across different media, testing the pliability of her experiences.

The Alice Yard residency experience comes with its own durability for this 25 year old, whose time in T&T has taken vivid shape in her mind.

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