Born in London to Jamaican parents, Charmaine Watkiss’s work is concerned with remembered stories narrated through strong imaginaries that centre nature and plant-related wisdom from African and Afro-Caribbean traditions. She explores the healing power of her Jamaican matrilineal line which her aunt introduced her to at a young age. In her drawings, she depicts warrior queen figures, whose bodies are adorned with plants believed to hold healing powers that are capable of bringing about peace and social transformation. The use of natural materials like coffee and charcoal is a reminder of 500 years of exploitation and enslavement of African people, who were sent on a journey of no return to produce goods that would form the basis of European wealth. Watkiss has dedicated her practice to tracing African traditions that survived the transatlantic voyage and became the foundation of Caribbean culture. She often uses her own likeness as a reference, depicting herself in an upright and proud posture as if she were a vehicle of communitarian knowledge and experience. The figure of the warrior plant queen stands firm, rooted in traditional beliefs and holding the promise of healing centred in her body, mind, and spirit.
Works in the exhibition: The Seed Sower’s Almanack (2022), painting, coffee, graphite, pencil, carbon pencil, watercolour, 22 ct gold leaf, ink on paper, framed, 162 × 66 cm; The Warrior’s Way: Recalling the lost legacies (2022), painting, coffee, graphite, pencil, carbon pencil, watercolour, 22 ct shell gold, ink on paper, framed, 86 × 66 cm; To stand Independent and proud I (2022), painting, coffee, graphite, pencil, watercolour, 22 ct shell gold, ink on paper, framed, 86 × 66 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary, London and Lagos