The Caribbean is a destination soaked in impressions of colour, sun, palm trees, and beaches. An impression that is, for the most part, true. Found south of The Gulf of Mexico and surrounded by crystal blue seas, this region describes a cluster of more than 700 islands boasting a tropical sun-splitting climate. However, beyond this exterior lies a history that is often left out of the picture, or doesn't make it to the big screen - despite its residual presence. Indeed, these islands have a history wrought with colonisation - and the impression we are popularly sold is incomplete; surface, commercial and, oftentimes, soulless. Because, like us, each island has its own story to tell - and it is one that does not fit on a postcard.
This month our travels take us into the image, and beyond the image. Specifically, they take us to the world of anti-disciplinary artist Kearra Amaya Gopee (@kearramaya). Few capture the lucidity of that instant when the ocean cascades around a moving body; as enveloping as it is freeing, becoming one with land and sea. Or the intimacy between the shadows of a fragmented sunset; concealing as much as it reveals. These are private moments in the pockets of an embracing Caribbean landscape. Gopee breathes life into the image with their ongoing series Tutorials on Radiance, which began in 2018 and is set within multiple locations in their native Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. At the heart of Gopee's practice lies an inquisitive spirit; one who inspires reflection, conversation, and ultimately, a liberation. They depict a place rich in contrast; from colour and depth of field, to emotion and binary oppositions. There is a feeling of warmth that permeates this collection, despite the layers that beg unravelling. There is a sense of community; a pervading atmosphere of belonging and origin - perhaps even one that transcends physicality. Indeed, this series asks for our introspection, on both a personal and political level. And specifically, in Gopee's words; it "explores a queerness beyond the physical body that extends to the lived environments of queer people in the Caribbean region".
The images in this series are transcendent, viewed separately or collectively. Singularly, they illuminate a personal interaction, and turn the viewing process on its head. Who are we looking at; where are they; who are they looking at; and, what are we looking at? Read together, they form a family, each lending a hand from one image to the next, highlighting the metaphysical relationship we have to places: of comfort, of protest, of learning, of privacy, and, of exhibition. Additionally, Gopee aims to highlight the "thriving underground and public queer communities" present in the Caribbean region. In the juxtaposition of each subject with its environment, they probe our reflection:
"How valuable is visibility in our communities?"
In many ways, the images raise themes of resilience and vitality; of these underground communities, through their boldness, and in some cases, the undeniable joy and freedom escaping from the subject. That is to say, the life; the person, and the landscape. The colour contrasts. The focus. The environment meets the individual, as the individual meets the environment - confident in one another's presence. Bypassing our nonchalant appreciation of place, be it in tourism or travel, Tutorials on Radiance brings us past trivial impressions into splashing waters and the close of day; from crystal blue seas to sea blue skies, from long shadows to dark rooms, trees in bloom and leaves asunder, and, to the brave sunlight that always seems to get in through the cracks.
Kearra Amaya Gopee is an anti-disciplinary visual artist from Carapichaima, Kairi (the larger of the twin island nation known as Trinidad and Tobago), living and working on Tongva land (Los Angeles, CA). Their research based practice focuses on violence as it exists in/is enacted on the Anglophone Caribbean and its diasporas. They render this violence elastic and atemporal--leaving ample room for the consideration and manipulation of its history, immediacy and possible generative afterlives. Using lived experiences as a point of departure, they address violence's impact on themes of (post)coloniality, affect, migration, intergenerational trauma, queerness, difference and healing.