Chaney: Stories from Migrant Fragments

Chaney: Stories from Migrant FragmentsDuring the 250 years of Danish colonization, of what is today known as the US Virgin Islands, people, products, memories, stories, cultures, and languages were transferred and transformed to the islands. There are countless reminders of this process and that history here. From the naming of the towns after Danish royalty, the sugar mills in various stages of ruin that populate the hillsides, to the ceramics shipped from Europe identified as “Chaney” today.
Chaney, a morphed version of both “China” and “money,” from when children used to smooth the fragments into game pieces, continue to be found around the island or washed up from the sea on beaches.
Fine china and ceramics came in various forms based on availability, purpose, and preferences for style and color. The types and patterns of china tell us about the global connection of St. Croix to places around the world. In that sense, these fragments or shards become a visualization of power and projection on how cultures saw each other and themselves in this vast trans-Atlantic narrative.
Chaney fragments serve as scientific evidence of the colonial past of St Croix as well as inspiration to tell the story of the fragmented present of Caribbean societies. Through artifacts and artwork, the different uses of this material is explored in a collaborative exhibition between the Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle and the Danish graduate student of Sustainable Heritage Management, Gitte Westergaard.
The exhibition, from March 31 through July 31, will be on display, in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Transfer Centennial of the sale of the islands from Denmark to the United States in 1917, at Fort Christiansvaern, Christiansted. It invites the community to participate in a discussion of the preservation of the islands’ heritage.
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LaVaughn Belle

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