Heshimu Akin-Yemi is on a mission to revolutionise the way art is viewed in Barbados. For him, art is more than a creative expression. It is a thought evoking piece of work with a visual prowess to bring people closer together in a positive way.
That is why he plans to visit each block on the island and inspire men and women to be the best versions of themselves.
Heshimu told EASY magazine that over the years the block transformed into a lesser form of what it used to be in the past. He said it used to be the central community place where men gathered and communicated with each other, unwind from stress and thought of ways to help develop their village.
“The idea is to go around to different blocks and paint them up nicely to bring positive energy,” he said. “I want to bring new life to them and help bring back men in the community closer together.
“My aim is to shed light on the positivity that is generated from those community centres.”
Heshimu said he has been pondering with the idea for over ten years, but obstacles came up along the way that prohibited him from launching the project. He said he reached out to corporate Barbados for funding and he said those who did not want to take over his plans wanted to alter the concept.
In 2017 he decided to tackle the project independently but just before he finalised his plans, his mother’s house was destroyed by fire.
However, to his surprise, one of the walls Heshimu drew on as a child remained. That wall served as an inspiration to the artist and gave him a new lease on life.
Last Sunday, he decided to host an art exhibition in what was left of the structure.
Heshimu said the gallery was a depiction of his journey as an artist, and each painting told the story of his life from a different aspect of his childhood as well as the influences he had around him.
He also displayed pieces of art on non-traditional materials, introducing new media to the industry, this done with the help of Jerry Leach of JVM Signage. He also documented the tour EXHIBITION with the help of the founder of Pon Di Scene TV, Ryan Ramsey, after approaching him about doing a production on life after tragedy.
“When you walk in the gallery you are introduced to a powerful feminine energy. The strength of a woman is highlighted in varying ways and some of the pieces show appreciation to the female body that sets her apart from her male counterpart.
“As you go further you see images I drew of my family when I was a child. Some are in black and white and others are done in a comic strip style.
“When you get to where the fire took place you see an impression of the ghetto. You see people doing what they have to in order to eat. But you also see hope in terms of talented youngsters who are trying to beat the system and rise above poverty.”
During the event, the artist also repainted the wall that survived the fire; he said it told the story of how his family was getting over the ordeal.
“It shows a house burning in a plant pot surrounded by a scrunchy needle plant. Out of the house you see a family tree growing out of the smoke, which represents new life and new beginnings. It is a mango tree and it bears fruit that look like a breast, which signifies nourishment and sustainability.
“The centrepiece depicts a family guardian, called Sweetie Ann, who is a baccoo. In her right hand she holds a centipede, and a centipede in Caribbean folklore is a sign that the enemy is watching you. So she holding it by its head, signifying she is controlling the enemy.
“She transfers the evil energy of the creature into positivity and it now becomes the guardian of the family tree. On Sweetie Ann’s head there is a chicken, which is the closest bird we have locally symbolising a phoenix,” he said.
Heshimu said over 50 people turned up at the event, and most of them told him the imagery of the wall and what it signified was so riveting that they encouraged him to put the wall on sale.
They described the exhibition as organic and commended him for leaving the structure in its natural state.
A number of people in the cultural industries such as Andrea King, Ishi Butcher, Oneka Small, Sheena Rose, Ichia Tiyi, art critic Icil Philips, Corrie Scott and many more attended the exhibition. He was also graced by the presence of his father Ras Akyem-I and his grandmother, affectionately called Granny Joyce. (SB)