Kathleen McDonald

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Kathleen is a West Indian artist who grew up in Barbados in the Caribbean. She studied different textiles techniques at secondary school including batik, dying and stencilling, and silk painting.

Kathleen moved to California in 2007 to continue her education in art and received two BFA degrees in Pictorial Art and Photography. She began working for nonprofit organizations, such as MACLA and EdventureMore, educating and inspiring creativity in youth of varying ages in after school programmes and summer camps. Kathleen received her MFA at San Jose State University. While pursuing her degree, she taught beginning darkroom and digital photography, and 19th century alternative processes in photography. For her thesis work, Kathleen created MOWI (The Museum of the West Indies). MOWI is a museum that promotes the visibility of West Indian immigrant artists and their work abroad, and bridges western art with West Indian artists at home.

Artist Statement

As a West Indian, I am deeply inspired by the indigenous culture of the Caribbean. I find that though my work uses these traditions as a foundation, it diverges from them through my want of more visibility and representation of West Indian art within museums. What also fuels this divergence is the void between the ancestors and me.

In my work, I am interested in using the indigenous culture of the West Indies as basis for the recreation and reclamation of my culture through art. Because much of the history was lost during colonization, many West Indians cannot directly link themselves to their ancestors, their legacy. I use the goddess Atabeyra and her story as the basis to allow for a new story of deities and culture to arise.

Atabeyra protected women during childbirth while Komoruni, a deity of my creation, was the guardian for those travelling between the islands. Presented together, the work asks the viewer to question history that is presented as fact, and where the line exists between art and artifact. Much of West Indian culture was influenced by African culture because of the influx of enslaved Africans during the slave trade. In my work, I show how African culture and the Arawak indigenous culture merged with Indian, European and other cultures introduced through colonization. I use Kweyol to tell the story of the deities and how these figures connect West Indians of today to their history and legacy.

Exhibited Work

MOWI Komoruni


MOWI Atebeyra & Diosa Luna


MOWI Antique Map of the West Indies


MOWI Atebeyra, Komoruni, and Diosa Luna

6x8” each

About this Article

This article was originally created as part of SOMArts Cultural Center's Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Bay Area Spaces. To learn how to add or edit content please visit the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism's online History Collection Lab.