Anina Major: I Land Therefore I Am

June 24 – October 9, 2023

They say you can take the girl off the island, but you can never take the island out of the girl. 

This statement perfectly describes Anina Major. In I Land Therefore I Am, the multidisciplinary artist navigates themes of belonging and identity. Major’s pursuit commenced on the shores of The Bahamas in the late 1980s and manifested decades later in her creative practice in the United States. By honoring the life and memory of her grandmother, Saphora Alvina Timothy Newbold (aka Mar), Major developed her unique artistic language.

Mar was a straw vendor who lost her parents at the age of three and only attended school until the age of 14, when she started her own straw business in a single room of her home. She later moved to a larger building, known as the Straw Factory, and employed many Bahamian mothers who were unable to find other work. 

During summer vacations, Major spent days with Mar learning the nimble techniques that she employs in her artistic practice today, such as plaiting. In her M.F.A. thesis, titled The Marketplace, Major recalls the day she realized the significance of her childhood experiences with the discovery of a discarded souvenir:

“It happened the day after a snowstorm. I was carefully walking to the train from my studio and saw a straw doll in the window of a thrift store for two dollars. ‘How could this be?’ I thought. It was a doll I remembered from my childhood that was created by straw vendors and sold to tourists. Now here the same doll sat in the window of an old furniture store in Brooklyn, NY. The straw doll of my childhood was a product that my grandmother made out of straw, locally known as plait. As an adult, I realized the cultural significance of this souvenir. It embodies my country’s natural resources and artistry.”

Major felt a need to save the doll—to recreate it—in a medium that captured the symbolic value of this object. She subsequently produced a series of ceramic dolls and sculptures that resemble straw objects and aqueous forms. These works of art represent evolving spaces and amorphous geographical boundaries. The layered process of making—the signature braiding of clay that is embedded in Major’s practice—mimics the complex process of creating home and identity post-migration. Major’s works of art are not only cultural signifiers but also catalysts for conversations about cultural commodification, inheritance, and feelings of displacement.

 — Sadaf Padder, curator

The decision to voluntarily establish a home outside the location in which I was born and raised (The Bahamas) motivates me to investigate the relationship between self and place. Driven by a desire to fabricate my own terms of cultural integrity and its defining influence, I create clay sculptures that act as present-day manifestations of the traditional weaving technique known as plait, taught to me by my grandmother.

Every year, I witness the deterioration of the few straw objects left by my grandmotherintimate pieces made with love and care from a variety of local plants such as palm trees. I cannot help but notice the parallels between the biodegrading objects and the dying craft of plait. There is very little documentation of Bahamian straw weaving, and the plaiting technique is practiced less today than in the past.

The clay material that I use in my artistic practice simultaneously expresses fragility and permanency in a way that traditional plaiting does not. Historically, clay, which is a durable material, has been used to record the cultures and trace the movements of people. Braiding clay, I capture Bahamian artisanal culture in enduring sculptural forms.

By utilizing the language of craft to retain a sense of belonging, my work exists at the intersection of nostalgia and identity. It is a continued celebration and reclamation of the creativity of “women’s work.” Layering references to postcolonial realities, cultural commodification, feminism, and migration, the abstract nature of the work straddles the traditional and the contemporary realms.

— Anina Major

This exhibit is supported in part by BMAC’s Wolf Kahn & Emily Mason Exhibition Fund.




Anina Major’s work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions at numerous institutions, including deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum and Mass MoCA. It is also held by many museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. Major holds an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design.


Sadaf Padder is a Brooklyn-based curator, community organizer, and creative advisor. She is also founder of the Alpha Arts Alliance, an arts agency focused on historically underrepresented artists with a focus on women of color.


June 24, Saturday, 5 p.m. — Opening of Eight New Exhibits
July 27, Thursday 7 p.m. — Artist & Curator Conversation: Anina Major and Sadaf Padder
October 6, Friday, 5 p.m. — Closing Party during Gallery Walk


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