Legendary Dangriga artist Pen Cayetano unveiled his latest exhibition dubbed Garifuna Roots Life, at his Dangriga gallery on Friday. The month-long exhibition, featuring 42 oil-on-canvas pieces, was launched on the eve of annual Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations to pay homage to Cayetano’s culture through skillful renderings that reach beyond the mundane to capture not just the past but also the present; the ethereal and the politically controversial.

Garifuna Journey/Rough Seas Corruption
garifuna-journey corruption

Each of Cayetano’s pieces carries a story, and whereas his most historically compelling piece, “Rough Seas”, was carved out on a mahogany bowl, telling the story of the Garifuna journey over treacherous seas; the one that proved to be the most captivating to the youth visiting the exhibit was captioned “Corruption”. It is also Cayetano’s newest piece, carved after his recent return from Germany to visit his granddaughter.

It was reminiscent of his experience back in 2005, when he returned home to find a state of unrest over governance issues. This time, he found that teachers had gone on strike while making demands for the Government to act against corruption.

In the forefront of the strike panorama is the plight too many young couples find themselves in today – man headed to jail and woman with a young baby left behind with the worry of how she will take care of the family. The chains—reminiscent of the shackles of slavery—are prominent in Cayetano’s piece.

“Corruption”, a 104 cm by 90 cm (or 40-inch by 35-inch) painting, is the piece that has generated the most conversation, he told us.

Other elements of the Garifuna culture—the food and music—were integrated into the opening, as Cayetano featured the making of ereba (cassava bread) and Hudut, and led the performance of punta and paranda music.

Miss Belize Universe, Rebecca “Bex” Rath, was among those attending the event. Bex played the drum alongside famous Garifuna drummer Joshua Arana, coordinator of the Stann Creek House of Culture, and Pen Cayetano, at the launch of the exhibit. She also cut the ribbon as the exhibition was unveiled.

The art showcase also features Cayetano’s portrait collection of outstanding cultural icons, leaders and activists: TV Ramos, Isabel Flores, Lady Lard, “Gabaga” Williams, Sarah Gonguez, Evan X Hyde and Mr. Wilfred Peters.

The exhibition, being held in collaboration with the National Institute of Culture (NICH), runs until December 16.