The works in this exhibition are a direct response to the news surrounding the mining of bauxite, an essential mineral in aluminium, by a Canadian mining company, in Jamaica’s distinctive Cockpit Country. I perceive this concern to be connected to the broader discourse surrounding the need to shift our values away from destructive colonial ideologies of the past and present, towards constructing systems that support and sustain the limitless wealth within humanity and the environment.
As a settler immigrant in Canada learning about this country’s history of stolen land and Indigenous genocide, I find myself concurrently reflecting on the colonial mindset towards land and its perceived value in my homeland of Jamaica. Cockpit Country, an historically, ecologically, and economically important forested region on the Island, looms large in the collective Jamaican consciousness as a site of safety and inherited abundance. By fleeing to Cockpit Country, people —known as The Maroons— were able to escape Spanish and British slave plantations and evade recapture by hiding in the impenetrable hilly landscape. The Maroons set up communities on this land along with Indigenous survivors and have occupied and lived with the land as early as 1655. Not only is Cockpit Country home to these diverse cultural groups, but it also continues to play an integral part in Jamaican infrastructure with roughly 40% of the Island’s drinking water coming from the natural filtration the region provides through a complex natural network of limestone caves.
The Jamaican government has recently given a Canadian mining company an exploratory lease that infringes on the historic borders first described in the First Maroon Treaty signed on March 1st, 1739. While this particular story is still unfolding, the overarching narrative of the short-sighted extractive destruction of land for profit is nothing new. As I go deeper into the research, I realized that what’s important to me is not only being able to highlight this Jamaican landmark and everything it stands for but to question our inherited colonial value systems that blind us to the richness already present in our land.
The exhibition is open at the Berlin Tower Artspace at Kitchener City Hall from March 1st to March 31st 2023
Photo Credit: Conan Stark