Traci Catalog Entry

Traci Catalog Entry

Nadia Huggins’ artwork embodies the unsilencing of the “demonic ground” in which black Caribbean women inhabit. The demonic ground, which Sylvia Wynter discusses in her essay “Beyond Miranda’s Meaning: Un/silencing the Demonic Ground of Caliban’s Woman,” is a metaphorical terrain that is characterized by silence as well as the potential for knowledge and revolution. Many of Huggins’ pieces reflect her desire to reject the limitations that European colonizers have imposed onto the identity and self-expression of black Caribbean women on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexuality. For example, the subjects of The Architect, Self Portrait — Infinity, and the diptych from Huggins’ project Fighting the Currents all exercise self-autonomous control over their i-mages despite their status as black queer Caribbean women.

In “Beyond Miranda’s Meaning: Un/silencing the Demonic Ground of Caliban’s Woman,” Sylvia Wynter argues that the term “womanist” underscores the sameness and difference that characterizes the relationship between Caribbean and Afro-American women and their Western-European counterparts. While feminism assumes a universal experience among all women on the basis of gender alone, womanism acknowledges the fact that African women of the diaspora are “placed at a crossroad of three variables” (Wynter 356). According to Wynter, these three variables are sex-gender, class, and race. The variable of race distinguishes the experiences of black women of the diaspora from those of European women.

Ultimately, Wynter argues that black Caribbean women inhabit a space she refers to as the “demonic ground” (356). She defines the demonic ground as a metaphorical place or terrain that exists at a vantage point “‘outside the consolidated field’ of our present mode of being/feeling/knowing” (Wynter 364). Due to the limitations that black Caribbean women face on the basis of race, gender, and often class, the existences of these women are relegated to the demonic ground.

Self-Portrait — Infinity by Nadia Huggins, digital photograph, 2014

Nadia Huggins’ artwork frequently alludes to the existence of the demonic ground for Caribbean women. In The Architect, Self Portrait — Infinity, and the diptych from Huggins’ project Fighting the Currents, the black female subjects demonstrate autonomy in the creation of their own self-images. In fact, in an excerpt about the diptych from Fighting the Currents, Huggins writes, “In the sea, as a woman who identifies as other, my body becomes displaced from my everyday experiences. Gender, race, and class are dissolved because there are no social and political constructs to restrain and dictate my identity.” She then asserts that this idea serves as the foundation of the diptych and other portraits in the project Fighting the Currents – Transformations.

In the context of Wynter’s essay, many of Huggins’ pieces represent the unsilencing of the demonic ground in which queer Caribbean women inhabit. Notably, in the pieces featured in the “Caribbean Queer Visualities,” the unsilencing occurs through the black female subjects’ forceful repossession of control over their i-mages.

For example, as noted in the curatorial statement, the black female subject in The Architect holds a pen in her hand, suggesting that she is the creator of her own i-mage. Wynter writes, “… rather than only voicing the ‘native’ woman’s hitherto silenced voice we shall ask: What is the systemic function of her own silencing, both as women and, more totally, as “native” women?” (365). Rather than stressing the urgency of “giving” a voice to those who are silenced, Wynter emphasizes the importance of thinking critically about the conditions that made the silencing of black Caribbean women possible in the first place. To “give” a voice to black queer Caribbean women implies the imposition of a voice that is not their own. Therefore, the demonic ground can only be truly unsilenced by black Caribbean women on behalf of themselves. In her artwork, Huggins portrays Caribbean women playing an active role in their own unsilencing. 

Fighting the Currents, digital photograph, 2014

The diptych from Fighting the Currents works to unsilence the demonic ground through the rejection of gender norms and social norms regarding sexuality. The appearance of the black female subject of this piece is somewhat androgynous, pushing back against traditional ideas of what it means to be female as well as what it means to be human. As Wynter implies in her essay, Caribbean women, particularly those who identify as queer, are relegated to the demonic ground because, under the Western gaze, humanity is not automatically granted to these women.

Huggins discusses gender nonconformity in an interview with the Vice about Circa no future, which features photographs of young boys swimming in the Caribbean Ocean. According to Huggins, when she approached these boys to take these photographs, they initially assumed that she is also male. The boys became “self-conscious” once they realized that Huggins is female. The boys only stopped “performing” for Huggins when they were swimming underwater. Huggins states, “… there is a freedom and transformation that happens through that moment. I think perhaps that is the closest I can get to reestablishing that relationship and breaking down the boundaries of gender and how we interact with each other.”

Of the Caribbean, Huggins says, “Most people are very conservative on these islands, so I’ve always had to navigate my way through these rigorous ideals of what is expected of a woman and of a man.” Through her artwork, Huggins hopes to spur the creation of a collective Caribbean identity that is encompassing of both conforming and non-conforming identities


Wynter also argues that the silence of the demonic ground can be a source of knowledge. She concludes her essay with, “This terrain, when fully occupied, will be that of a new science of human discourse, of human ‘life’ beyond the ‘master discourse’ of our governing ‘privileged text,’ and its sub/versions” (366).

The idea that silence can be a source of knowledge and revolution is prevalent across Huggins’ portfolio, particularly in the diptych from Fighting the Currents. As noted in the curatorial statement, the self-portrait of Huggins with a sea urchin jutting out of her face represents the formation of a new identity, one that transcends the limitations of various social categories, such as race, gender, and sexuality. The conception of this new identity contributes to knowledge by nuancing what it means to be human. Also, simply the act of rejecting the identity imposed upon oneself by European colonists can be considered revolutionary.

In conclusion, Huggins uses her artwork to unsilence the demonic ground of Caribbean women through the deconstruction of the limitations that European colonizers have foisted upon the bodies of queer Caribbean woman. The unsilencing of the demonic ground goes hand in hand with the queer Caribbean woman’s repossession of control over her own i-mage.


Work Cited

Wynter, Sylvia. “‘Beyond Miranda’s Meaning: Un/Silencing the Demonic Ground of Caliban’s Woman.’” Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature, by Carole Boyce Davies and Elaine Savory Fido, Africa World Press, 1994.

Huggins, Nadia. “Transformations.” Nadia Huggins, 2017,

Emory, Sami. “Stunning Underwater Photos Capture Youth in the Caribbean.” Creators, 20 Aug. 2015,