V. Celeste Fahie
Marketing and Graphic Arts
As a child, St. Croix-based artist V. Celeste Fahie remembers being introduced to jumbie stories from her elders and during summers spent with children from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. But it wasn’t until her life as an adult and attempts to reach out to older family members that the stories blossomed into their own. Now, the New York native with Virgin Islands roots uses the stories to inspire her own multimedia work in a series titled, “Bush Jumbies Unmasked.”
Jumbie stories are part of the folklore of the Caribbean stemming from traditional African beliefs centered around spirits of the dead. Often used as tales to help discipline children, in them, jumbies or ghosts emerge as colorful larger-than-life characters such as the ones Fahie bring to life with her own creative flair.
She has gathered research and conversations with older relatives, then personalized the stories by creating masks to visualize the characters. Adding her own performance poetry, storytelling, art, and presentation on the history of jumbies, Fahie offers a complete package delivered in a light, humorous style.
“A jumbie story is no ordinary ghost story,” she said. “It is spoken, its felt and often mischievous and most importantly it is told in a West Indian dialect.”
Fahie has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and graphic arts from CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. As a student, she worked as art director and graphic designer with her Baruch College faculty mentors Professors Virginia Smith and Roslyn Bernstein on outstanding publications Artograph Magazine and Dollars & Sense. Fahie’s work on Artograph allowed her to interview prestigious graphic designers, illustrators and photographers such as Paul Davis, Deborah Turbeville, Massimo Vignelli and Lella Vignelli while she developed her own artistic skills. She has also studied art at the School of Visual Arts in New York and has a background in corporate advertising. As a child, her parents’ interest in history, music, public speaking and writing influenced her, as well as instruction in art, dance, and enrichment classes through scholarships at Pratt Institute and other art schools.
In the ’90s, as a founder of the Caribbean Origami Society, Fahie shared her knowledge of mask-making with youth at the Boys & Girls Club. She would hang the masks made from paper and recycled objects on the walls of Fort Frederik Museum, as the urge to do more blossomed within her.
Being at the fort, where enslaved Africans were kept when brought to St. Croix, and traveling through the natural environments of the island as a poet and artist, Fahie said she felt a calling to create Bush Jumbies Unmasked.
“I realized I wanted to do these masks. I understood the history and information behind what our ancestors had passed through, so diversified and multicultural.” she said.