CHARLESTON, USA -- The close historic ties between Barbados and Charleston and the similarities in architecture, food, dialect and social structure are well known to both Barbadian and American historians and are now being explored even further through the efforts of many, including Barbadians Professor Henry Fraser, Dr Karl Watson and Rhoda Green, a Barbadian living in Charleston, now Honorary Consul for Barbados there.
The idea of taking a photographic exhibition of the black and white platinum palladium prints from the recent book Barbados Chattel Houses, an exhibition conceived by Green, Penny Hynam, former director of the National Trust, and photographer Bob Kiss during the recent Barbados Diaspora conference, seemed a natural fit.
Months of work, fundraising and arrangements in Charleston and Barbados culminated in the team of author Fraser, photographer Kiss, and organizer Hynam taking up a selection of large format chattel house prints and spending an event-packed five days in the beautiful southern port city.
The stunning two-storey City Gallery of Charleston with curator Anne Quattlebaum, situated in a prime location on the Charleston waterfront, was the host of the exhibition entitled "The Spirit of Place: Traditions of the Agrarian Home in Barbados and the Low Country."
It featured twenty Barbados chattel house prints by Kiss, along with photographs of local indigenous houses by South Carolina photographers Julia Cart, Robert Yellin and Terry James. The opening on September 7 brought together resident Barbadians, Charleston society and cultural patrons. The artists were introduced by Scott Watson, the director of the City Office of Cultural Affairs and Green. The centerpiece on the main floor was a model of a chattel house built by Robert Green and the students at the American College of the Building Arts.
The next day Fraser and Hynam toured the early 18th century Jail of Charleston, now the home of the College of the Building Arts, with Kerri Forrest, director of institutional advancement. Later they were guests on a panel discussion on slave and indigenous architecture of both countries at the historic Gage Hall, hosted by Kerri Forrest and the college, along with Joe McGill of the National Trust and David Payne, a tutor at the college.
The team took every opportunity to tour the magnificent historic sites, especially the ones connected to the history of Barbados, such as Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Middleton Plantation, Drayton Hall and the fabled single houses so beautifully preserved in the historic District. One unexpected pleasure was the meeting with the affable Mayor of the City of Goose Creek, Mayor Michael Heitzler, who regaled the team with his vast knowledge of the area and took them on a personal tour of the historic sites.
The culmination of the visit was a well received lecture by Fraser on the architecture of Barbados, held for about 80 attendees at the Founders Hall at Charles Towne Landing, the original site of the settlement of Charleston by the Goose Creek Men from Barbados.
The long-term efforts by Green in fostering the links between the Carolinas and Barbados will now be continued by the new Legacy Foundation based in Charleston, with Green as executive director and board members of distinguished Barbadians and South Carolinians from the area (including Ian Sanchez, the grandson of T.T. Lewis) as well as Fraser and Hynam from Barbados.
The Gallery exhibition continues during the MOJA Festival of the Arts in Charleston, until October 6.