Art project shines in a unique setting

Spot Bay Primary’s contribution to the Transformation Wall. - Photos: Simone Scott

Sister Islands MLA and Deputy Governor Moses Kirkconnell recently paid a visit to a very special art project created by the Brac’s Year 6 primary school children at Walton’s Mango Manor in Stake Bay.

Mr. Kirkconnell was on site on Saturday, Aug. 20, to view the joint project between Year 6 students taking part in the Cayman Traditional Arts’ Heritage Arts Program and Walton’s Mango Manor Bed & Breakfast owners George and Lynne Walton.

Artwork on the Transformation Wall reflects the cycle of life, depicting subjects like animals, plants and humans changing from infancy to adulthood.

The art piece was inspired by the potential offered up by a blank ‘canvas’ at Walton’s Mango Manor, where the hosts, a retired registered nurse and retired Air Force Major, have welcomed guests from around the world for the past 20 years.

“A 100’ wide by 6’ tall concrete wall behind Mango Manor was built to create and protect a special space: a cultural garden, designed and constructed as a tribute to my parents and to the people of Cayman Brac, those who are present and those who have gone before me,” said Mr. Walton.

“The garden is dedicated to protect and preserve a few remaining authentic and unique artifacts that speak to our traditions, customs and way of life, that are rapidly slipping away. It’s a reminder to us Brackers of who we are, where we came from and hopefully where we would like to go as a unique people.”

Work by West End Primary students on one part of the wall
Work by West End Primary students on one part of the wall

Mr. Walton said within the garden, a covered area shelters a traditional Cayman Brac caboose featuring ironwood, candlewood and pompara, which were used in the past for kindling and cooking.

“There are also swings and hammocks in which to relax, and a portion of the old railroad tracks that were used to transport manure from the interior of the island to the seashore for sale in Jamaica,” added Mr. Walton.

“Also located in this part of our property is a brick bread oven and the original lighthouse, first erected on Cayman Brac in 1937 on the top of the Bluff at the East End. The lighthouse now stands tall as a sentinel to our historic past.”

Mr. Walton said that the couple have hosted a number of events at the garden for the community including a day of remembrance for the elderly, with a traditional rundown dinner cooked on the caboose, and visits from schoolchildren for cultural education.

“Familiarizing [the children] with the profusion of plants, flowers and fruit trees in the gardens is a part of this visit, as well as learning how to cook a lunch of fried fish and fritters on the caboose,” said Mr. Walton.

“It is incumbent upon us as elders to remind them of their past and give them hope for their future. If they do not know where they came from, they will never know or understand where they are going or how to get there,” he continued.

Naomi Carter and Eugenio Myles had lots of fun taking part in the project.
Naomi Carter and Eugenio Myles had lots of fun taking part in the project.

Using the wall for an art project dovetailed with his philosophy about the importance of forging connections between generations.

“I firmly believe that our children are our future. It seemed fitting that something creative should be done with this massive blank wall,” said Mr. Walton.

The Waltons approached Simone Scott, an art instructor for the Heritage Arts Program, about the possibility of schoolchildren painting a mural. “On my frequent visits to the garden, I reflect on my days growing up in Booby Point, the east most end of Cayman Brac, and having to do all of my artistic creations on a 12” x 12” slateboard with a piece of chalk, and realizing how things have ‘transformed,’” said Mr. Walton.

“The changes that I saw in our community brought to mind the idea of transformation,” he said, explaining that during one of the school visits some students were asked to share what they knew about transformation, and the theme was subsequently deemed an appropriate one for the mural.

“The Year 6 students gladly accepted our invitation to participate in its creation,” said Mr. Walton.

Paints and brushes were provided, and under Ms. Scott’s supervision and guidance the ‘Transformation Wall’ was created.

“Expanding on an image of a pond drawn on each side of the wall, children drew inspiration from butterflies, frogs and birds. Some drew people, others trees developing from seed to full grown,” explained Ms. Scott, who noted participating students were from West End Primary School and the Creek and Spot Bay Primary junior school.

West End Primary completed their section in February 2016, while Spot Bay Primary took from March to May 2016, continued Ms. Scott.

Sheila Bonilla Watler works on her section.
Sheila Bonilla Watler works on her section.

“There were almost twice as many students at the Creek and Spot Bay Primary Junior school than the West End Primary, so they got a larger space. Both areas turned out well and the children are extremely proud of their collective effort – so much so, that some children took their parents there during the summer holidays to see their creation.”

Mr. Walton said since the mural’s completion, they have enjoyed much positive feedback from many local and foreign guests.

“It now stands as symbolic evidence to our children’s creativity, diligence and their capacity to cooperate in bringing a complex project to completion,” he said.