Natural Disaster And Culture: Wishes To The Caribbean…and Florida

Natural Disaster And Culture: Wishes To The Caribbean…and Florida

All My Very Best Wishes To The Caribbean…and Florida: The week’s devastating weather events have got me to thinking about the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma and their cultural heritage. Having had close friends live through Hurricane Katrina, I completely understand the devastation and life-altering change that natural disaster brings about.

With 16 million people in the Hurricane’s path we can only imagine the destruction about to be unleashed. Floridians are already battening down hatches.

Museum and cultural institutions understandably made notices advising of closures in the anticipation of the hurricane. On Wednesday, The Wolfsonian announced on Twitter its closure “until further notice.” Other galleries have deinstalled exhibitions. And artists have taken the event very seriously, packing up their studios.

Florida is neatly protected by the USA. But directly in its path are the islands of Puerto Rico, Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Haiti – the poorest place on earth – and all have arguably less protection and financial backing, and have been already ravaged by natural disasters, including last year’s Hurricane Matthew. Even without a direct hit, Haiti is destroyed once again, says journalist Paula Newton.

Survival will be the only thing on the mind of these people. In these unprecedented times of ‘95% destruction’, as seen on the island of Barbuda flattened in ‘unprecedented scale’ (as quoted from their PM) – with any natural disaster, nothing other than immediate family members would have been the first and last thing the inhabitants thought of saving.

Caribbean people are proud and they delight in their island heritage. with such a rich and colourful art scene and unmistakable style, not only their local music halls, their art museums but their murals, hotel decor and local ‘vibe’ which make so much of what the Caribbean people calls ‘Caribbean’ under jeopardy once again from natural disaster. Only today we have seen the plight of The Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc – an apparent safe haven and a wealthy and exclusive resort. If this isn’t safe then who and where is?

In an interview last week, a lady returned to her flooded home in Texas after Hurricane Harvey to look for her cats, and while at home with the CNN journalist, she pointed to a few original Jasper Johns on the wall – soaked and yellowed by the contaminated floodwater. Her response was entirely understandable – ‘…they’re just objects’ she said.

And to the Caribbean, with fewer places to go than mainland USA, fewer safety places to hide and fewer years of cultural history, once all is said and done, the people will once again need to dig deep and start again as they have before.

But in this situation, survival instinct and human nature wins through – while every time a hurricane savages these island countries and they are broken, they rise again. These people are proud of their culture, born survivors, their island pride and creativity will come through again through their music, their design and their colour.

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