The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands exhibition, Founded Upon the Seas, ends its four-month run this week.
The art exhibition, Founded Upon the Seas, brought together a wide cross section of community organisations for a serious of events celebrating Cayman’s maritime heritage. Entities involved include the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, the Cayman Islands Seafarers Association, the Cayman Islands National Archive, The National Museum, The Cayman Catboat Club, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, Butterfield Bank – which funded the project – and Radio Cayman.
The summer-long schedule kicked off in June with a series of family art events inspired by a visit to the exhibition. On 19 July, a packed audience was on hand to share “In Conversation …” with some of our esteemed seafarers: John Douglas, Captain Paul Hurlston, Wenzil Burlington and Neils Godfrey. These gentlemen reminisced about their experiences at sea, of the triumphs, humour, hardships, and near misses. It was a poignant evening of reminiscing, with laughter and loss, that brought history to life.
In early August, Charisse Morrison of the National Archive and Rita Estevanovich of the Cultural Foundation hosted “Stories from our Maritime Heritage”, reading extracts from the National Archive’s oral histories and the book The Southwell Years, respectively. The lively performance was repeated in part on Radio Cayman’s Talk Today with Sterling Dwayne Ebanks, and the National Gallery joined Loxley Banks and guests on ‘CI Retro’ to discuss the importance of bringing our maritime heritage to the forefront in a way that is both attractive and accessible to the younger generation.
Later in the month, Kem Jackson, Jerris Miller, Loxley Banks and Captain Crosby of the Cayman Catboat Club gave an animated lecture on the history of the catboat. They also discussed their current museum project at Whitehall Bay which, upon completion, will tell the story of these unique vessels.
Programming continued through September with a variety of maritime-inspired art projects and school tours at the National Gallery, which were accompanied by interactive learning guides. Finally, a second “In Conversation …” evening was held with the wives and daughters who remained behind and kept the “home fires burning”. Janilee Clifford, Arden Smith and Consuelo Ebanks shared their remarkable stories with a packed audience, joined once again by Rita Estevanovich and Charisse Morrison.
The ultimate aim of this collaborative project was to reach a wide cross section of the community and to reignite public interest in this crucial part of Cayman’s history so that it is preserved for future generations. As such, programmes were free of charge and information was made available for those wishing to learn more. In total, hundreds of persons visited exhibition or attended a programme.
All of those involved hope that the energy generated by the project continues to grow.
“The spirit and direction of a country is founded upon and reflected in its heritage and in Cayman our maritime years lie at the very heart of this,” said Seafarers Association President John Douglas. “It is critical that we as a community continue to honour this legacy so that it remains an intrinsic part of our identity.”
Those wishing to explore this fascinating part of Caymanian history in greater depth are encouraged to visit the following organisations:
Cayman Islands National Archive, the “keeper of the nation’s memory”, to view first-hand accounts of life at sea via its oral history programme transcripts, along with other materials. Appointments are recommended to guarantee that space is available. The reading room is open Monday to Friday from 9am until 4.30pm.
The Seafarer’s Association headquarters to view extensive photographic displays and objects relating to our maritime heritage. Open daily at 11 Victory Avenue, Prospect, from 9am until 1pm.
The National Museum’s cultural heritage gallery to learn more about Cayman’s maritime history and its economic and social effects on the community. The gallery features numerous objects and correspondence, as well as a talking mannequin sharing his stories from life at sea. Additionally, the collection comprises recovered archaeological items, both terrestrial and nautical.
The Cayman Islands Maritime Heritage Trail is a land-based driving tour around the three Cayman Islands, with 36 stops marked by signs at historically significant maritime sites aimed at promoting the Islands’ maritime legacy through a combined heritage, education and recreational tourism initiative. The Trail is a partnership of the Museum, Department of the Environment, the National Archive and the National Trust.
The Gallery or the Cultural Foundation’s extensive arts and culture libraries for books and articles relating to the theme.