The National Gallery’s mission of reviving Cayman’s cultural traditions doesn’t end with the exhibitions. On 20 November 2017, NGCI took to the airwaves with NGCI Director and Curator Natalie Urquhart joined by artist Deal Ebanks from the Cayman Islands Traditional Arts Council (CITAC) to discuss the art of craft. CITAC is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to “identify, encourage, cultivate, promote and foster all traditional arts of our Islands”. CITAC and NGCI have crossed paths on many occasions before, at art fairs, special lectures, and educational programming, this was the first time the two organisations joined forces to discuss the art of craft live on Radio Cayman.
The interview tackled important questions surrounding craft traditions. It began with a discussion of the significance of craft today, with Ebanks emphasizing its importance for tourism and Cayman’s image abroad. This led to the question of how to make craft relevant to the next generation. Urquhart explained that part of her interest as a curator was to explore the relationship between traditional and contemporary craft. She commented on the new potential for craft as it overlaps with art. She remarked, “We have really evolved from being purely functional with our crafts and our basketry to these incredibly decorative artistic works.” She also noted that while young people might not be interested in thatching a basket, they could make “a clutch that they might take out, or a belt, or a laptop holder”.
The interview concluded by looking forward to new possibilities. Ebanks raised the idea of setting aside land for the Silver Thatch palm, and suggested a new type of cultural festival or event. Urquhart said that by taking the steps we are, we can reignite a more widespread interest in craft. “We’re trying to recharge those traditions and those conversations,” she said. “We’re not at the beginning; we’re not at the end, by any means.”
Ebanks, himself an artisan who works primarily with traditional Caymanian materials, a sample of his work is featured in the National Gallery’s REVIVE! exhibition, in the form of two spinning tops known as gigs. His proficiency with crafting these objects has earned him the title of “the gig man”. Ebanks is a recipient of the McCoy Prize People’s Choice award and the Heritage Cross Silver in the National Arts and Culture Awards.
Listen to the full interview here:
The exhibition REVIVE! Celebrating contemporary and traditional craft from the Cayman Islands is now on display until 11 January 2018, open Monday to Saturday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission is free. All ages welcome.