“There’s depth to our culture; there’s excellence in our culture that I feel must be celebrated”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamian Art Historian Tiera Ndlovu is popping back the hands of time and ushering a new generation into the annals of Bahamian history along with her groundbreaking virtual archive Baha Archives.
The digital photo archive, which touts itself as a web based history museum, includes a gallery of over 400 timeless photos depicting atypical Bahamian life from way back to the early 1900s to snapshots of the monumental moments which were etched into the Bahamian historical memory.
It had a timely launch, in January 2020, on the cusp of the COVID-19 outbreak that prompted organizations all over the world to interact a quarantined audience with virtual content.
The project is hosted on each the photo-sharing social media site Instagram and the favored video-sharing app TikTok, amassing a combined 9,000-plus followers between each of the platforms.
The 23-year-old history buff curated the archive with the core purpose of bridging the gap in historical knowledge inside a younger generation of Bahamians and the diaspora, asserting that the best way our history is commonly taught throughout the school system misrepresents our true cultural identity.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, she said: “I definitely recognized that there have been gaps in what we covered in history class, from primary school through senior high. I also realized that the curriculum was undeniably British-influenced, though we’re an independent nation.
“I discovered myself wondering: ‘Will we still need to talk about our history as if we only ever existed when in relation to Columbus or the British Empire?
“There may be so far more to our history than that. There’s depth to our culture; there’s excellence in our culture that I feel must be celebrated.”
The Lyford Cay School alumna said she conceived the thought to create an archival project at a research conference she attended during her time studying art history at Emory University.
“Once I was at a research conference during my undergrad, the presenter was speaking on different ways in which western and non-western communities record history,” Ndlovu said.
She mentioned that the western way, or the American or European way, is to put in writing it down after which it’s compiled right into a book and that’s what’s cemented as fact.
“Beyond the western community, it’s really not that clear-cut; the stories which might be only recorded are oral history and even like pictorial history and people are only as beneficial,” Ndlovu said.
“This light bulb went off and I used to be like: ‘That is how I do that at home.’
She admitted that on the time, she had already immersed herself in Bahamian historical research, hoping to present her findings to the general public, nonetheless, she incurred obstacles throughout the initial process.
She recalled: “I’ve been wanting to know more about history across the nation but I kept finding myself hitting a stumbling block, and I used to be like: ‘That is what we’re taught. Where’s the remainder? Where’s the remainder of the story?’
“When [the presenter] began speaking about that, the heavens opened up, and I used to be like: ‘That’s it. It’s going to the images and it’s going to the oral history.’
“So, I just form of shifted my focus.”
Ndlovu said the general public has enjoyed the content, adding: “There’s a robust community that continues to come back back and interact and share more stories, even sometimes sharing photos with me after which I post those.
“It solidifies what’s so great about sharing history that folks haven’t seen before or that folks haven’t seen in a protracted time.”
Ndlovu shared with Eyewitness News that she herself has been astounded by the wealthy historical material uncovered during her research, citing her discovery of the primary underwater film footage ever recorded having been filmed in Nassau Harbour in 1913.
The art historian who currently serves as a curatorial assistant on the Norton Museum of Art based in West Palm Beach, Florida, said she hopes to proceed her work as a historical storyteller.
She said: “What I would like to proceed to do really comes back to a facet of storytelling, whether that’s history, whether that’s helping someone run their very own business or revisiting parts of history where I’m like: ‘How can we tell that story just a little bit in another way? ‘How can we shift our focus?’”