- Islanders in the Streams: A History of the Bahamian People. Volume 2: From the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty-First Century by Michael Craton, Gail Saunders (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 69, Number 1, Winter 1999/2000
- pp. 212-214
- View Citation
- Additional Information
212 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 to the argument throughout the book, Brown also places the objects in the dynamic social contexts in which the artists worked. In considering the tradition-affirming but still exploratory and often innovative work of late twentieth-century artists, Brown makes the pOint that experimentation and innovation have always been qualities of Northwest Coast design, and that through the generations 'a small number of innovators initiated new ideas that inspired their peers, who followed along in the new directions inspired by the expressions of the most creative individuals.' The connoisseurs' collections that form the substance of the exhibit and the visual backbone of the book both illuminate Brown's argument and confine its exposition. For the predictive power of the analysis to be secure, each component must be grounded in the linkage of the reference objects to a specific period. For the very early works and those produced by late nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists whose biographies are known, the external documentation is clear. The challenge of recognizing the periods of origin of much of the rest of Northwest Coast art, collected largely between 1880 and 1930 but possibly reflecting the work of many generations , is itself a raison d'etre for the book. Brown has employed two methods for mitigating this problem, which might productively have been more consistently applied. Inproposing a much earlier date ofmanufacture for two objects collected in the late eighteenth and late nineteenth centuries, respectively, he refers to the time required to develop surface patination. He also provides a temporal anchor for some early to rnid-nineteenthcentury works through reference to documented objects preserved in public collections and cited in the literature. However, other objects from this period, significant to his argwnent, appear to be dated largely according to their internal stylistic qualities, with this qualities, in turn, supporting the stylistic progression being defined. This is not to say that they are wrongly placed or wrongly interpreted. Nonetheless, to avoid the appearance of circularity it would have been helpful to have more consistently adduced temporal evidence external to the objects, or at least external to the design. Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Artfrom the Eighteenth through the Twentieth Centunj is a virtuoso performance, to which Brown has brought the insights of both carver and observer. With this book, he has provided a ternporal dimension to the.analysis of Northwest Coast art, and opened rich new fields for exploration and debate. (ANDREA LAFORET) Michael Craton and Gail Saunders. Islanders in the Streams: A History ofthe Bahamian People. Volume 2: From the Ending ofSlavery to the Twenty-First Century University of Georgia Press. xvi, 562. us $75.00 The authors of this book have already established a strong scholarly reputation as historians of these small and scattered, but complex islands HUMANITIES 213 that have refused to accept the reputation as part of the outback of the English Caribbean colonial empire. This second volume serves to consolidate this reputation and points to the significance of Bahamian history to a new meaningful understanding of post-emancipation Caribbean trends. The Bahamas, we are told with an abundance of empirical data and less conceptual flair, charted a unique path with the disintegration of the slavery system. It was never really a participant in the sugar plantation enterprise, which was the core business of the region, and therefore could only seek to continue outside of the principles of the agricultural paradigm that stood supreme. There are many important issues here, though sometimes too subtly stated, about the making of Caribbean civilization. The discourse of white supremacy and black inferiority was every bit as virulent in the fishing villages and small towns of the Bahamas as it was in the Jamaica sugar plantations. The cultural life of Nassau in the nineteenth century, and the demographics of all the island communities, mark them as products of Caribbean slave societies. Economic systems played an important role in shaping cultural life, but the ideological superstructure of colonialism dug deep into these little places and set whatever agendas they came up with. The trends inherent in the post-emancipation society are skilfully discerned and narrated. The patterns of land tenure, systems of...