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October 29: The power of theatre has long influenced the artistic dialogue between original observations of contemporary life and its storytelling on painted canvas. Bois Causeur (Wood Talker) is a small exhibition presenting part of my ongoing body of work on the Grenada ShortKnee. Seventeen paintings are currently on view at the Grenada National Museum, Monckton Street, Saint George’s from October 29 through December 22, 2012. They are part of 50 plus works created on plywood construction waste, donated by Grenadian design and construction company, Quinn Company Limited

detail of SK Roadblock
The Grenada ShortKnee masquerade (mas) is a symbol of a cohesive cultural identity evolved on this small island in the eastern Caribbean. Troupes of  thirty or more players are each disguised in a West African-influenced restyled French Pierrot costume constructed of several heavily patterned fabrics. Blouses are worn with double length sleeves fastened at the wrists, and double length pants worn gathered at the knees, give the costume its name. Completely concealed from head to toe (hood, mask, tunic, blouse, pants, socks, shoes), each player, during choreographed performances embodies the power of an ancestral spiritual being. 

detail SK Non-Currency
Immediately following Emancipation, West African Yoruba peoples were brought here as indentured servants in their hundreds, settling exclusively the villages of Rose Hill, Concord and Munich until the early years of the 20th century. The ShortKnee is indigenous to this island, created to celebrate carnival by Grenada’s newly creolised population. Wood Talker is part of Suelin’s ongoing project to move traditional mas elements past the ‘carnival-only’ mentality and into the visual art mainstream. 

Suelin with Jean Pitt and Angus Martin of the GNM

John Angus Martin, author of A to Z of Grenada Heritage, and curator of the Grenada National Museum, said that the Wood Talker exhibit fits in nicely with the surrounding exhibits on Grenada and the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Indentured Africans to Grenada, as it highlights the enduring legacy of African cultural survivals in Grenada. The Grenada National Museum ends 2012, the ‘Year of the ShortKnee’ with this art exhibit, sales of which will help benefit the Museum’s programmes.