I came across Turgo Bastien work when I audited a Caribbean art history class in Jamaica at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. It was my first opportunity to explore the work of Caribbean artists. We were given an exercise to find Caribbean artists whose work inspired us. I found Bastien through the titles of two pieces, ‘A call from Africa’ and ‘Another call from Africa’.
In Bastien’s work, I see the survival of the spirit of Africa, a wonderfully complex laying of references of a spiritual ancestral past that connects Haitian Bastien to the African motherland. I see African masks as they were intended to be seen, as part of a ceremonial costume used in religious and social events to represent the spirits of ancestors.
I see how the masks adapted in the Caribbean masquerade to survive attempts to destroy the African cultural identity. I see Lwalwa masks from tribes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, I see Ekpo Masquerade masks from the Nigerian Ibibio, I see Dan masks from Ivory Coast and Liberia and I see the patterns of Yoruba adire indigo-dyed cloth. I am also reminded of the masks I saw on the Yoruba performers, preparing for the Egungun festival in the Itoko area of Abeokuta, Nigeria, where I was researching adire cloths.
Bastien’s work inspires me because of my research and textile practice, exploring the lost Caribbean African identity. Bastien’s call from Africa does not come directly from Africa, but through ancestral memories, intuition, spiritual connection, and the rhythm and beat of the drum which transcends time and place. His work reveals the “… lines of continuities that still inform a memory in motion even as we seek new solutions to historical problems…”(Bastien, 2017).
The more I look at Bastien’s work the more I see. The more I see, the more I feel, the more I feel, the more I am connected.
Bastien, T. (2017). Turgobastien. [online] Turgobastien.com. Available at: http://www.turgobastien.com/ [Accessed 28 Nov. 2017].
Africa.uima.uiowa.edu. (2017). Art and Death in A Yoruba Community – Art & Life in Africa – The University of Iowa Museum of Art. [online] Available at: https://africa.uima.uiowa.edu/topic-essays/show/24 [Accessed 28 Nov. 2017].
Bastien, T. (2009). Another call from Africa. [image] Available at: https://artavita.com/artists/6668-turgo-bastien [Accessed 6 Jan. 2018].