Faye Parker

Biographical Note

Faye Parker is a rising junior majoring in Environmental Science. She grew up in a seaside town and the ocean is definitely her greatest muse as a result.

Artist’s Note

During my senior year of high school, I attended a research trip focused on coral reef restoration in the Bahamas on the Island of San Salvador. Whilst there, I was extremely captivated by San Salvador’s beauty and took hundreds of videos to capture it. Two years later, working on this project, I decided to make a home-video-esque film with this footage to share the beauty of the people and the place. Focused on the surface level aesthetics of the Island, I began my project with questions such as “How can I use film to draw a connection between the people and the marine life of the island? How can I use the Bahamian celebration of and love for this marine life to further communicate their relationship?” 

However, as my research took me deeper into the history of the Island, the questions I wanted to center my project on changed quite dramatically. The history of the Bahamas involves two distinct peoples. First off, there are the original inhabitants, the Lucayans, an indigenous group wiped out entirely by the Spanish and Portuguese through slavery and genocide in the 1500s. They actually called San Salvador “Guanahani,” while the name San Salvador came from their colonizer, Christopher Colombus, as it is where he first made landfall in the New World. Secondly, there are the Bahamains who are almost entirely of African descent, 85% of the population today. Their ancestors were African slaves brought to San Salvador by European settlers almost 130 years after the last of the Lucayans were taken away by the previous Europeans. With these two parallel histories of settler colonialism in mind and my videos being from the perspective of an outsider ignorant to these histories, I began to ask and attempt to answer very different questions than before: is there a connection between two groups of people that share the same home but never overlapped in time? How can I use film taken from the perspective of a visitor to make a commentary on settler colonialism? Using my perspective as an outsider, how can I make a narrative about San Salvador and it’s people’s history without forcing my own opinions and perceptions onto the reality of the Island?

Keywords: Film; poetry; autobiographical; travel; colonialism; global

Sweet and Gentle

We came to the Bahamas
to do what we Westerners do best
Occupy, observe, leave a little change and head on out
We came for a week
To rebuild coral reefs
through coral trees
Only to leave for a year
Hoping all of the coral tree roots
Stayed in the sand

In my mind,
The Island of San Salvador
Could well have been Calypso’s island
If you overlook the slight detour
From Greece to the Bahamas
The island, like the goddess,
Charming, beautiful, sensual
The first inhabitors, the Lucayans,
Calling it Guanahani
Meaning “sweet and gentle”

I wonder if the Lucayans were still here
They’d recognize their Island
So, so many years later
Now a different type of 
“sweet and gentle”

Guanahani is where Christopher Columbus first made landfall
Where the New World was first found 
On top of an ancient seamount
inhabited by an ancient people
The New World was found

“The beauty of these islands,” Columbus wrote,
“surpasses that of any other and as much as the day surpasses the night in splendour.”
He named Guanahani San Salvador,
“Holy Savior”

As if “sweet and gentle” no longer did it justice

In the past year
We learned about invasive species in bio
Things that shouldn’t be here
That overstayed their welcome
The lionfish, for instance,
and intriguing
Should not be in these waters
Not in these reefs
It should have never been here
It should have never stayed

I wonder if that's how the Lucayans looked at them
The settlers
White skinned
and intriguing
But maybe just for a visit
They shouldn’t have stayed
They were never meant to stay
Their white skin not meant
for the equator sun
An invasive species of white bodies
And black gun powder
Overrunning their waters

And here I am,
A white body
On these white sands
Looking at a beach
Marked by a white cross
To memorialize the colonization
Done by a white man

We came to recolonize the reefs
That climate change brought
Ruin to today
That surround the Island
The white man brought
Ruin to yesterday

Maybe if Columbus had
Taken a different course
The New World would still be 
The “sweet and gentle”
The Lucayans recalled

Not a sacrifice,
Sacrificed to be the “Holy Savior,”
The San Salvador,
For foreign ships
As I am pretty sure the Lucayans were not the ones that needed saving
Nor did they volunteer to be the martyrs
Yet Columbus wrote
Their harbor was “large enough for the ships of Christendom. ”

But maybe the harbor wasn’t
Maybe he just made room

Guanahani was empty for 130 years
After the last of the Lucayans
were taken
Empty is the wrong word
Just without humans,
native and foreign,
Humanless for 130 years

And when the Europeans returned, 
They brought African bodies with them

And when they left
They left alone
Leaving displaced people
to replace displaced peoples

I wonder if the Lucayans would recognize them,
If they’d see today’s Bahamians
As grown from similar soils
Similar sands
Washed ashore or washed away
By similar hands

I wonder if they’d recognize their reefs,
The now fossilized reefs,
The ones I transversed,
Showing the past,
A past of coral branches the size of cars
And a grand diversity of organisms
in their waters

Today we search the reefs
For coral branches the size of my hand
To rebuild a home lost
To too many category fives
To temperatures too high

I wonder if the Lucayans looked at the corals through my eyes
It’d be like seeing houseplants
Where there should be redwood forests
And ghost towns
Where there should be cities

If they’d see the history of invasive species 
And invasive peoples,
And see San Salvador,
The “Holy Savior”

I wonder then 
If they’d hear the beat of the goombay drums
And the taste of the goombay punch
As the Bahamians celebrate their island
Differently than the Lucayans ever did….
And recognize Guanahani

If they’d feel the rhythm of the waves
And witness the celebration of Junkanoo
And feel the love for their Island 
Held in different hearts and by different hands 
Roughened by similar hardships to their own…..
And recognize their Guanahani
Just as sweet and just as gentle