A recipe for planters punch
A Recipe for Planters Punch
A Recipe for Planters Punch was a specially commissioned performance for The Rum Retort, an exhibition organised by the curatorial duo, Mother Tongue. The exhibition seeks to re-trace and activate the connections between Greenock, Scotland and The Caribbean, sited in the town's former Tobacco Warehouse. At the height of trade to the port, Greenock received up to 400 ships from the Caribbean annually, arriving with sugar and tobacco, and now, like the Caribbean, is a stopping point for cruise ships.
A Recipe for Planters Punch was inspired by a memory of a print of a planter, demanding more rum punch or "sangaree" from his slaves. The planter reclines in a “planters chair”, surveying his plantation and demanding his slaves move the birds closer to him, so he wouldn’t have to get up to get a better shot. This satirical representation of plantation life for slaves and slave-owners has always struck me as exceptionally offensive in the depiction of consumer culture, encountered through rum punch and leisure activities as entirely removed from the casual brutality of slavery.
The performance is a meditation on slavery and memory, specifically the ability to forget and deny unpalatable histories, a condition I have termed The Luxury of Amnesia, because it describes the ability to forget colonial histories shared between Scotland and the Caribbean, as a position of privilege, a luxury. Responding to a local Barbadian recipe for rum punch, I locate the cane field and the accompanying plantations as sites for miscegenation. I choose to manipulate the lyrics of Rihanna’s anthem, Bitch Better Have My Money (BBHMM) into a call for reparations, I punctuate my performance with her lyrics, the recipe for rum punch and its corresponding rhyme:
One of sour
Two of Sweet
Three of Strong
Four of Weak
Since its release, Rihanna's BBHMM, has been celebrated within black popular culture as a critique on white fragility, an insistence of collective public acknowledgement and remembering of racism, slavery, cemented in demands for reparations. This performance becomes a provocative entry points for audiences to discuss the question of reparations in the Caribbean. Debates surrounding reparations for Caribbean nations have been ongoing for decades, and has become an anchor point within my practice-led research on collective amnesia and decolonization.
During my performance, I dissected the original lyrics from BBHMM and sang them to the audience, “I call out all the shots”, “Don’t act like you forgot” and finally “Bitch Better Have My Money”. Shifting the tone of my voice to engage with the audience, I sang the lyrics as part lament, part demand. Throughout my singing, I move between the audience placing key ingredients for the rum punch in their hands and instructing them to pour them into a punch bowl.
After each ingredient was added to the rum punch, I would sing “Don’t act like you forgot” before placing my head into the punch bowl and attempting to sing these lyrics, whilst my face was submerged under the liquid, holding my breath and singing as long as I could underwater. The shift between labour of preparing the ingredients for the punch – cutting and squeezing limes, grating nutmeg, pouring sugar syrup, bitters, rum and sea water – and the act of drowning myself, created a tension between myself and the audience where their presence and role in communally preparing the rum punch, witnessing my submergence in the punch, implicated them in this process and the shared history of making and consuming this drink, associated with conviviality and revelry, not slavery.
 Sostaita, Barbara, (2015), “Is ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ a Song About Reparations?”,
 Caricom Reparations Commission, http://caricomreparations.org/the-global-reparations-movement/