Green Turtle Cay’s Island Roots Heritage Festival Wins Cacique Award

Congratulations to Green Turtle Cay’s Island Roots Heritage Festival organizing committee, who were recognized with a Cacique Award in Nassau April 8.

Congratulations to the organizing committee of Green Turtle Cay's Island Roots Heritage Festival on winning a Cacique Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations who contribute towards the Bahamian tourist industry. (Photo by Ruth Saunders.)

Annabelle Roberts Cross (left) and Trina Cooper of the Island Roots Heritage Festival with their Cacique Award. (Photo: Ruth Saunders)

The Cacique Awards recognize individuals and organizations who positively impact the Bahamian tourism industry. The award was accepted by current festival committee chairperson, Annabelle Roberts Cross. Continue reading

Last Call for Tickets to “An Evening To Remember” January 7 on GTC

Last Call for Tickets to "An Evening To Remember" January 7 on Green Turtle CayIf you haven’t yet bought tickets for An Evening to Remember, taking place at Bluff House Beach Resort & Marina on January 7, you’ve got less than two weeks! We need to provide a final headcount a week before the event, meaning tickets will only be sold until December 31. No tickets will be available for purchase at the door.

An Evening to Remember, a 40th anniversary celebration and fundraiser for Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum, will include: Continue reading

Happy 40th Anniversary to GTC’s Albert Lowe Museum

Join us on January 7 as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Green Turtle Cay's Albert Lowe Museum!

Artist, historian and founder of the Albert Lowe Museum, Alton Lowe.

It’s hard to believe, but before the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, few Bahamians knew very much about their own history.

“We were taught English history in school,” my cousin Alton Lowe told me. “It wasn’t until I went to the U.S. to study art that I learned about the history of my own country.”

The more Alton learned, the more dedicated he became to preserving the information for future generations, and ensuring that all Bahamians had the chance to learn about their unique roots.

What Alton discovered about his home country shaped his artistic career — most of his oil paintings feature colourful and traditional Bahamian scenes and people.

It also inspired him to purchase a historic Green Turtle Cay home and establish the Albert Lowe Museum. Continue reading

Prints of Select Alton Lowe Paintings Are Available at Albert Lowe Museum

Since a few readers have asked, I did a little digging and discovered that yes, prints of selected works by Bahamian artist and Green Turtle Cay native, Alton Lowe, are available for sale on the cay.

Alton Lowe art prints are available at the Albert Lowe Museum on Green Turtle Cay

Continue reading

GTC 101: Playing Here (Arts & Culture)

This is the eighth post in the series Green Turtle Cay 101: Guide to Getting Here, Staying Here, Dining Here and Playing Here.

When most folks think of Green Turtle Cay, they envision pristine beaches, clear waters and warm, tropical breezes. And certainly, the island has these in abundance. But it also boasts a surprisingly rich cultural life.

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GTC Bids Farewell to a Long-Time Friend

Abaco residents lost a dear friend on Tuesday, September 8 when American entertainer, Joy Martone, passed away unexpectedly.

James Mastin, Joy Martone, Bahamas, Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, Alton Lowe, Lowe Gallery

James Mastin and Joy Martone perform for a sold-out audience in Green Turtle Cay.

For 28 consecutive years, Joy participated in concerts and shows throughout Abaco. Together with performers James Mastin, Mel Arnold, Steve Thomas, T.L. Brown, and various Bahamian singers, musicians and school children, she entertained the communities of Green Turtle Cay, Marsh Harbour and Hope Town. Continue reading

Lowe Art Gallery Opens for the Season

The signs are up, the gate is open. It can mean only one thing. Green Turtle Cay’s Lowe Art Gallery is receiving visitors.

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Follow the grey stairway to Green Turtle Cay’s only fine art gallery.

Nestled within one of the cay’s most beautiful gardens, on the crest of the hill between Gillam Bay and Black Sound, the gallery features gorgeous oil paintings by Bahamian artist, Green Turtle Cay native, and my cousin, Alton Lowe.

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Alton Lowe (seated) chats with visitors to the Lowe Art Gallery.

Alton’s paintings are treasured by art collectors worldwide for their realistic depictions of Bahamian people, island scenes, tropical flowers and wildlife. His works hang in homes, businesses and galleries around the globe – even a palace or two!

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, lowe art gallery, alton lowe, james mastin, junkanoo drums

Painting by Alton Lowe, Sculpture by James Mastin

Members of the British royal family own several of Alton’s paintings, including one presented by the Bahamian government to Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer as a wedding gift.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, james mastin, alton lowe, lowe art gallery

Sculptures by James Mastin.

His work is featured on countless Bahamian postage stamps and on the cover of each issue of Abaco Life.

The Lowe Art Gallery also displays a selection of fascinating sculptures by artist James Mastin, whose work is showcased at the Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden in town.

All artwork on exhibit at the gallery is available for purchase.

Located just a minute or two north of the New Plymouth settlement (look for the signs identifying the driveway), the Lowe Art Gallery is open weekdays 9:30 am – 1:00 pm, or by appointment at (242) 365-4264. The gallery will remain open until mid-July.

Limited edition prints of some of Alton’s paintings are also available at the Albert Lowe Museum.

UPDATE: June 20, 2015 – I’ve had a few requests for pricing on the paintings and sculptures in the gallery. If you’re interested in any of the pieces and would like more information, please contact Alton Lowe at (242) 365-4264 or contact me and I can give you his email address. Thanks!

Searching for Olaus Johansen: An Update

A couple of months back, I wrote about the search for the grave of Olaus Johansen, a WWII sailor who died and was buried on Abaco after his vessel was sunk by a U-boat.

In mid-March, writer and historian Eric Wiberg, a film crew from a Norwegian TV program, and two of Olaus Johansens’s granddaughters travelled to Abaco to try to locate his final resting place.

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Norwegian TV film crew interviews Marcus Davis of Crossing Rocks

Though a non-disclosure agreement prevents Eric from sharing details about the outcome of their search until the Norwegian TV program airs later this fall, he recently sent the following report about their experiences while on Abaco.

“On Sunday the 14th of March, in order to fulfill a 6-year search for a Norwegian sailor buried in southern Abaco during WWII, I met with a film crew from Norway at Marsh Harbour Airport.

Over the next five days, we — the producer, a soundman, a cameraman, and two granddaughters of the deceased sailor whose ship had been sunk by a German U-Boat off Abaco in March 1942 — travelled extensively in the area.

The first day we went to interview an old-timer (Mr. Winer Malone) in Hope Town and got some great footage of the WWII monument and beach there.

We located to Sandy Point, near where we thought the men landed, and stayed at Oeisha’s Resort, where we were very well looked after. Again, we obtained amazing footage of fishermen at Crossing Rocks, the old railway and lumber camp at Cornwall 6, Hole in the Wall Light and environs (the cracked bridge), and scenic Sandy Point itself. We even chartered a boat to see Cross Harbour Creek, which was teeming with sea life, including sharks and turtles.

Everywhere we went we were hospitably looked after — within 2 days it seemed that everyone knew what we were doing. Word gets around quickly in these communities. Amazingly we met a Norwegian woman married to a Bahamian, the son of a Norwegian man and Bahamian mother, and several excellent tour guides and naturalists.

Amanda Diedrick and her contacts Jack Lowe and Alton Lowe provided several phone interviews. Patrick Bethel, Donald Pinder, and Oeisha and her sisters were all extremely helpful, as were Siren and Marcus Davis and Mr. McKinney of Crossing Rocks.

Overall I found it a new and very exciting experience to work with a film crew. Fortunately because the camera crew carried their own equipment and generally minded their own business, we did not “stand out” as much as I thought we would, and people were comfortable to let us just do our job.

The Norwegians were great company – good humored and hard working – and we decamped to “Eric’s Pub” in Sandy Point to go over the day each evening, and often swam in the lovely beach opposite Oeisha’s.”

Once the Norwegian program airs, Eric promises to send a link to it (hopefully with sub-titles) and to share with us what, if anything, the search party found.

Honouring the Shared Loyalist Heritage of New Plymouth and Key West

As we count down the days to the upcoming Island Roots Heritage Festival, I thought I’d take a look back at the very first Island Roots events, held nearly 40 years ago.

Planning the First Island Roots Festivals -- James Mastin, Betty Bruce and Alton Lowe

Planning the first Island Roots events — sculptor, James Mastin, historian, Betty Bruce and artist, Alton Lowe

The original Island Roots concept was conceived shortly after Bahamian artist and Green Turtle Cay resident Alton Lowe opened the Albert Lowe Museum in 1976.

The morning after the museum’s opening ceremonies, Florida historian Betty Bruce (whose own ancestors came from Green Turtle Cay) asked Alton what he had planned as a follow-up. As their conversation evolved, so did the idea of a festival that would honour the common Loyalist roots of the residents of Green Turtle Cay and Key West, Florida.

Program Schedule copyIn the late 18th century, having suffered  persecution in the aftermath of the American Revolution, many British Loyalists fled to the Bahamas, hoping to establish plantations. Sadly, many of these settlers were unprepared for the hardships of 18th century island living. When it became clear that the local soil was in fact unsuitable for large-scale farming, many packed up their belongings, their families and in some cases, even their houses, and returned to the U.S., where they helped establish Key West.

In the months following Betty and Alton’s original conversation, their idea gained popularity and plans began to take shape, both in Key West and on Green Turtle Cay.

A year later, in November 1977, Island Roots festivals were held in both communities.

More than thirty thousand people attended the Key West event, where they enjoyed art exhibits, a fashion show, a musical performance by the Royal Bahamian Police Band, a Junkanoo parade — and a slice of the world’s largest key lime pie.

Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy with the New Plymouth flag

At the Key West festival, Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present local mayor, Charles McCoy, with the New Plymouth flag

In commemoration of their common heritage, and with the support of both governments, New Plymouth and Key West proclaimed themselves sister cities.

Bahamian MP, George Smith, presenting the sister city proclamation to Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy.

Bahamian MP, George Smith, presenting the sister city proclamation to Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy.

The celebrations continued the following day, as hundreds of visitors descended upon the New Plymouth settlement. The two-day inaugural Green Turtle Cay Island Roots Festival featured Bahamian music, dance and dramatic performances, a traditional Maypole plaiting and, of course, a Junkanoo rush.

Subsequent Island Roots festivities have been staged over the years and more recently, the Island Roots Heritage Festival has become an annual Green Turtle Cay event, celebrating New Plymouth’s Loyalist heritage and relationship with Key West, and reuniting Abaconians with family members from the U.S., Canada and beyond.

To learn more about the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festivals, check out the current exhibit in the Wrecker’s Gallery at the Albert Lowe Museum.

All photos courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Related: Island Roots: Celebrating All Things Abaco, Island Roots Festival: Bridging Past and Future, Celebrating Our Bahamian Culture: Island Roots Heritage Festival 2014