Shanice Smith

Choosing to not add to the collection of airport horror stories, I’ll move forward. Aruba, for me, has been like a weird twilight zone – questioning whether or not I’m still in the Caribbean due to a combination of its arid atmosphere and sci-fi movie-like settings. Having grown up in Trinidad and Tobago with the mind-set that all Caribbean islands had beaches, rivers, mountains and generally lots of flora and fauna, the first few days in Aruba came as a bit of a culture shock. But let’s not dwell on the geography too much here.


This being my first residency, I’ve been wide eyed most of the time; trying to fully digest it all,  to find similarities between my home and Aruba just to make myself comfortable. But the more I tried, the more difficult of a task it seemed.  At first, I was a bit intimidated – everyone seemed so serious and generally well put together. Like I said, this is my first residency, and I felt as though I’d done nothing and been nowhere compared to the others; but I quickly realised that most of us had that very feeling – intimidated by each other.

Days creeped into weeks and I slowly came to the conclusion that there was no need for that feeling. We all managed to connect, over ‘camp fire’ like discussions about school, politics, music, even local vernacular from each of our islands, to see if they might be familiar to each other. Needless to say, the connection has been so genuine that we have spent a small portion of our time dedicated to finding ways of reconnecting again, somehow in the future!

Aruba graffiti

As for the actual work part, before arriving I was panicking trying to figure out what exactly would I do when I got here. I was told to just go with a clean slate and do whatever comes to me, but that’s not exactly how my mind works. So to my surprise, I was at peace when I finally settled on what should be done, but I can’t take all the credit. Curator Pablo De La Barra’s constant, “Have you seen this?!” regarding the repeated graffiti phrase that had cropped up in Aruba recently, and Nowe’s words, “Make work about here, since we’re here!” stood out to me, and I was able to use my surroundings to identify issues plaguing society which tied into themes I have been exploring in my work. This residency has in fact possessed a lot of ‘Ah-ha!’ moments for me – from realising just how heavy the topics I’ve been working with are, to actually claiming and embracing the title of ‘Artist’.

Thank you you to Travis for helping me to let go, and to everyone here for helping me put together my projects!