The sleepy islands of the Exumas are just that, sleepy. The towns and settlements are often very small and simple, with very few amenities. There might be a spartan general store, a clinic, a post office, a restaurant...if you are really lucky a laundromat and maybe even gas/diesel facilities. If you stay in a town for a week or more, it is likely that you will know the faces, and possibly names, of many of the town folk. "Tourism" as we have come to know it stateside has not really hit the Exumas. Shoreside 'attractions' are of the natural variety; snorkel spots, blowholes, wonderful people and remote beaches are the gems these islands offer.
One forward thinking Bahamian here in Black Point, however, decided that he wanted to give the visitors a little something else to see, a man made shore-side attraction to delight the visitors passing through. His name is Willie Rolle and he is the man behind the Black Point "Garden of Eden". This is no giant rubberband ball, oh no! The Garden of Eden is actually Willie's front yard which has been transformed into a winding maze of about one-hundred strategically placed pieces of beach wood perched carefully on and between rocks and stones. Each piece has a story and each has been chosen because, if you look at them right, they take the shape of something else entirely: an iguana, a woman with child, a ballerina, a lion, a spider...None of these are apparent to the naked eye, of course. But for a small donation of "whatever you can spare", you can get a tour of this garden where Willie will unlock your imagination and show you what he sees.
"I wanted to give people something to come and see. Something beautiful for them to look at when they came to Black Point" he told us in his slow and steady voice. "It has taken many years - about thirty to be exact - and is a lot of work...it's always changing, always evolving. Sometimes pieces change, I move them around and I see something else" he told us.
Then we started the tour.
"Look there" he says pointing at some wood, "You see that. What do you see there?" (silence) "Do you see a lion, sleeping?" (more silence). "Look closely. There is the head, there's the paw, the tail is swinging behind him..."
"A ha!" we'd say, nodding tentatively, straining our imaginations, "yes, I think I see it...".
Admittedly, we probably only "saw" half the things we were supposed to. Some of his pieces were very difficult to decipher, but others were dead ringers after Willie gently and patiently guided us through the various features. It was incredible. One minute, you're looking at a gnarly piece of wood propped up on a rock, the next minute you're seeing a Native American Indian chief.
"You are a true artist!" I told him "You have really created something of beauty here."
He smiled, "I see things all the time. I look at trees, clouds...everything, and in them I see something else. Now that I see you, I can go into the brush and find a piece of wood that looks like you. It is my gift." And it is a gift, to use your imagination to be able to see something that isn't apparent at first.
The Garden of Eden is very much the same. How you see it depends entirely on you. Some might pass this up as a joke, a mess of rocks and sticks that some old man put together to make a buck...or you can choose to see it as something else entirely. A magical place created by a true island artist. A beautiful garden where you can let your imagination run free. If you choose to, you might just see that it is a carefully thought out, meticulously executed work of art by a man who is ahead of his time. But that depends on you, and your imagination of course. As they say...
"Free your mind, and the rest will follow".
|A woman washing her hair, bending over the stone|
|Isla played with his sweet grandson Gentry while we took the tour.|
|Isla pointing out an airplane to Gentry (she LOVES airplanes) surrounded by Willie's art.|
|The Garden of Eden|