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Dialogue - Issue #6

Stories of Fluorescence

Words and illustration by Christina Peake

How fluorescence links nature and culture across the globe.

My mother is from Barbados and the sea reflected the lyricism of her Bajan patois. My father was English and his tongue employed eccentricity and bluebell woodlands. The beach and the forest were the birthplace of my natural mythologies, creating allegorical landscapes of water-saturated flora. Although we lived in inner city London, 50 miles from the nearest coastline, those mythologies were omnipresent in our home. Where most people would have china or trophies on the mantelpiece, we would have corals, sea fans, sea eggs and shells: a testament to my mother’s obsessive collecting of marine treasures since her childhood. On emigrating to the UK, she brought her spirituality with her.

The beaches of Barbados were salons of the undercommons, places of congress and fluorescence. The Hot Pot was a spot where hot water run-off from the rum distilleries would flow into the waves, and this bath-hot water was where the elders from 5am would languish and discuss the political and social issues of the day. This was a place of open sky and sea, where you learned to listen, yet it was strangely incongruous to watch the grownups in scarlet shower caps and sunglasses present fervent homily.

Mum (bottom left) and the Gang.

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