Gender development in the Caribbean and particularly the work of the University of the West Indies (UWI)’s Institute for Gender & Development Studies: That is the focus of an exhibition launched June 3 at the UWI Museum, during annual planning meetings at the UWI Regional HQ.
The exhibition focal point is a wall of paintings from local artists, reflecting aspects of people’s lives and thereby offering various representations of gender – human relationships within society. These relationships may be related to work, to emotional or erotic love, play, support or conflict. Combined with short quotations on aspects of human relationships, the presentation sets out to spark responses from viewers and set them to thinking about a topic – gender – that many feel to be abstract and challenging.
Early key documents and panels on the work of the regional coordinating institute and the various national units are also in focus.
Speaking at the launch, which was chaired by IGDS Director Professor Verene Shepherd, gender expert and artist Professor Patricia Mohammed commented on gender and the images in the exhibition. She noted that the paintings, as a group, “express a Caribbean vernacular – figurative pieces representing archetypes of Caribbean masculinity and femininity and some of the contexts where these identities as expressed”…and that they illustrate ways in which artists “have explored, reinforced, and challenged traditional gender distinctions.”
Mainly oil or acrylic on canvas or paper, Mohammed termed these paintings “an untroubled presentation of gender… (with) no hint of the violence, trauma or uncertainties of gender and sexualities.”
She encouraged increasing attention to the visual representations and symbols that produce and reproduce gender, especially through the shift to digital technologies and the use of the internet. “My hope is that as we move into the next decade, we at the IGDS expand this area of or expertise, and with this the nurturing of a visual intelligence and visual eye that allows the critical voice and agency for making and owning our images. As we do this we will also create the shape of gender in the future as we want to configure it, and combat others who hold on to archetypes and continuities that challenge the forging of a new human consciousness.”
The exhibition, which marks 20 years of work by the IGDS, is another in the museum’s short summer series which recently saw a collaboration with the Mexican Embassy in Jamaica to mount The Mexican Suns. This exhibition of folkart on the theme of the sun celebrated the centenary of Mexican philosopher and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz.
For June/July, the museum will highlight a collection of art given to the university by A.D. Scott, the university’s first Resident Engineer who went on to become a major patron of the arts in Jamaica. Scott died on June 16, 2004.