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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
HomeNewsLocal news“Portal” Creates Literary and Visual Dialogue about Revolution, Emancipation, and the Land

“Portal” Creates Literary and Visual Dialogue about Revolution, Emancipation, and the Land

Only 175 copies of “Portal” are being sold exclusively at 81C on St. Thomas. (Photo by Ananta Pancham)

A new book of poetry and photography is meant to inspire readers to think more deeply about the territory’s legacy of revolution, but also the reality of its environmental beauty and how those two seemingly separate concepts are connected.

“Portal” by V.I. author Tiphanie Yanique and visual artist Stephanie Hanlon, is now available for purchase at 81C on St. Thomas, and functions, in its most basic form, as a piece honoring the U.S. Virgin Islands’ 175th year of emancipation from slavery. The two collaborators were working on projects separately before Yanique was asked to participate in an ongoing exhibit on Emancipation displayed at St. Croix’s Fort Frederik, but being a writer, she thought creating a book that also incorporated artwork would be more fitting.

The idea was a win for Monica Marin, Territorial Chief Curator for Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, and Yanique reached out to Hanlon.

The collective lens that the two offered – one as an ancestral native Virgin Islander and the other as a person who has committed themselves to the Virgin Islands – piqued Yanique’s interest.

“I wanted to work with a different kind of Virgin Islander than I am,” Yanique shared. “I’m committed to my ancestral heritage but also to the big idea of what it means to be a Virgin Islander and how the territory continues to be reimagined through new iterations of Virgin Islanders.”

For her part, Yanique’s poetry offers that historical voice, with poems sourced from the territory’s archives, while Hanlon’s photography highlights modern-day local scenery through a range of techniques, including slow and fast exposure, to show the passing of time. It reminds us, Yanique said, that the beauty of the territory isn’t meant to simply be showcased on a postcard but rather savored and enjoyed by its residents.

“Together, it is this idea that Virgin Islanders and people who have committed themselves to the Virgin Islands can find belonging in the land itself, and that the land itself is also kind of an ancestor that we can look to for wisdom just as we look to each other for wisdom,” Yanique said.

After thinking about the concept of the book, the two also looked at its design and how it could be most easily accessed by Virgin Islanders. Different iterations – one a pamphlet and the other a bound book – were created, with the bound version sold in limited form, only 175 editions, at 81C and on Amazon. Once the books are sold, the pamphlet would be released, creating a price point for all readers, she said. Further, in its printing, “Portal” would ultimately have its own space in the written and visual history of the territory because, as Yanique says, anything that we write, record or even post on social media inevitably becomes part of that legacy.

Meanwhile, Zack Zook and the team at 81C have also committed to programming that engages students in learning Yanique’s poetry and Hanlon’s photography form and technique. Starting in December, Yanique will host workshops in collaboration with art teachers at All Saints Cathedral School and Ivanna Eudora Kean that will span over months, enabling its participants to combine both worlds, just like “Portal” does.

“This is an amazing initiative and more than that, it’s part of an overall goal to support artists, poets, writers, who want to be published and help to develop V.I. literature that is alive and available to Virgin Islanders in the diaspora,” Yanique said. “It’s important for others to see the level of intellectual and creative output that the Virgin Islands has.”

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