February 25, 2021

Cayman: 27th Annual National Arts & Culture Awards recipients announced

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Twelve of Cayman’s cultural practitioners and preservationists will be honoured for their contribution to the country’s arts and cultural legacy at the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s 27th annual National Arts and Culture Awards which takes place on Thursday, 18 February at the Harquail Theatre. Marcieann Hydes, Hilridge Anglin, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Erna Jane Ebanks, Darwin Ebanks, Edlyn Myles, Shameka Clarke, Edmund Ebanks, Wendee Miller, Ailaine Barnes, Marguerita Bodden and Marcia Ann Rankin will be recognised for their talent and expertise in the areas of culinary arts, fine arts, performing arts, jewellery making, woodwork, sculpting, thatch making and historic preservation.

National Arts and Culture Awards are given to those who have made a significant contribution to arts and culture or achieved a high-quality body of creative work. The honourees will be presented with their awards at a formal ceremony surrounded by family and friends. The public is also invited to attend the celebration. In addition, presentations will be made to the sponsor of the year and the recipient of the Chairman’s Award for long-term support of CNCF’s work.

Cultural and heritage organisations, as well as the general public, were asked to submit nominations for the CNCF Heritage Cross and Star for Creativity in the Arts. A CNCF-appointed committee ultimately chose the recipients. Nominations are open between January and September each year.

CNCF Heritage Cross

The CNCF Heritage Cross award is reserved for individuals and groups who have a consistent and active, quality engagement in the preservation and/or celebration of Caymanian cultural heritage. The award has three levels: GOLD for a lifetime of high-quality engagement; SILVER (minimum of 10 years) and BRONZE (minimum of 5 years).

CNCF Star for Creativity in the Arts

Henry Mutoo

The CNCF Star for Creativity in the Arts is awarded for artistic endeavour, achievement and excellence in the arts. Like the Heritage Cross, the Star for Creativity also has three levels reflecting the span of the artist’s work and/or its overall impact.

“We recognise now, as we do annually through our National Arts and Culture Awards, the many heroic Caymanians – old and young, sung and unsung, past and present – who built the traditions of community, patriotism, love, loyalty, industry, sharing and caring. We are as certain as anyone can be that if Cayman is to retain any semblance of the country that gives substance and meaning to these values of humanity, we must retain and hold them steadfastly as the pillars upon which our future is built.” said Henry Muttoo, CNCF Artistic Director.


Marcieann Hydes

From an early age, Marcieann Hydes watched her grandmother skilfully plait, sew, twist and fashion dried silver thatch palm leaves into a number of different designs. Her grandmother used to say to her “Now you can have a few strings, but you have to make something. Don’t waste them.” From here, her interest grew.

Ms. Marcie, as she is affectionately known in the community, learned how to plait and make baskets, hats, brooms and other straw works. She went on to refine these skills at Ms Edna Harrison’s Traditional Silver Thatch School.

After her husband died, Ms. Marcie used her thatch work, in addition to the two other jobs she held, to help provide for her young sons. She continued her thatch when she retired after 42 years of working at Treasure Cove in George Town and The Department of Education.

Ms Marcie has passed on her love of thatching by demonstrating her skills at different schools, museum celebrations and heritage days. She has frequently set up shop at the Turtle Centre, educating visitors about the history and importance of thatching. In addition, her sons and grandchildren have all been taught the basics of thatching to ensure that the tradition always continues.

Marlena Anglin

Hilridge Marlena Anglin learned to plait strings of the Silver Thatch Palm at nine years of age. She studied her craft at home with her mother Beula Jane Rivers where she also twisted strands and manipulated a ‘cob’.

In her adult years, Marlena’s work incorporated raffia, a colourful synthetic material for which her work is characterised. In 2012, 2014, and again in 2020, her dedication to the preservation and revitalisation of Caymanian traditions was awarded when she received a Long Service Award for her devotion to her craft. Today she continues to make rope and baskets of all sorts to share the islands’ culture and heritage with residents and visitors alike. She is even more dedicated to teaching children the artistry of the Silver Thatch Palm.

Examples of Marlena’s work can be found in the Collection of the National Museum and in the Museum’s Gift Shop.

A former tourism industry worker, Marlene proudly boasts, “I bought my first pair of shoes off of thatch.”


Nasaria Suckoo Chollette

Storyteller, poet, artist, and cultural activist, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette’s work is intuitive, passionate and bold. A teller of stories, Nasaria has published two books, Storytelling Rundown and All the Joy in the World, and has had her poetry published locally and internationally.

Beyond the vivid colours and texture, past the Caymanian and Diasporic themes, we find the core of Nasaria’s art practice; the imaginative expressions of an artist whose juxtaposition of woman-centred concepts and social commentary, allows her work to be accessible to all sectors of her community.

Nasaria’s work focuses on “women’s work” and elevates the mundane to the realm of the sacred.

A founding member of the Caymanian Artists collective, Native Sons, since 1996, Nasaria has exhibited her works at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, the National Museum, and numerous private exhibition spaces. Several pieces of her works are part of the National Collection, including her Whomper installation, “2000 Years in These Shoes”, “Maiden Plumb” (McCoy prize winner 2006), and acclaimed work, “The Women Have become the Truth; for Madiba”.

In June 2019, Nasaria won the Bendal Hydes Award in the first Cayman Islands Biennial, Cross Currents, with an art installation entitled, “Becoming Again”.

Erna Jane Avillin Ebanks

Erna Jane Avillin Ebanks grew up among relatives who were builders and artisans. At an early age her mother taught her the art of silver thatch plaiting and rope laying. She makes high quality hats, mats, baskets, brooms, rope, wreaths and ornaments from silver thatch using peeled string. Using a heavy-duty sewing machine and Dacron polyester thread so that the items will last long, she also makes other kinds of baskets and hats.

Erna Jane also learned how to crochet and has won many prizes for this craft. On two occasions she travelled to the United States with the Cayman Islands Government Tourism Promotions Team to demonstrate the art of silver thatch making and was a participant in the 60th anniversary celebration of the Cayman Islands Coat of Arms in London in 2018. She also produced a wreath which was presented to Princess Alexandra on her visit to Cayman in 1988.

Erna Jane took a course offered by the National Gallery in the art of print making and participated in an “Artist Away” programme at the Taller de Grafica in Havana, Cuba. She intertwines straw work within her prints and when possible includes some aspect of Caymanian heritage. Collaborating with Edmund Ebanks, who crafts local hardwood lamp bases, she designs lamp shades depicting many national symbols which she carves into special paper. Currently, she is honing other skills in leather, stained glass and photography.

A retired Registered Nurse, Midwife and Clinical Instructor, Erna Jane is a founding member of the National Museum and a fundraiser for the National Trust.  

Darwin Dennis Ebanks

Darwin Dennis Ebanks of West Bay began his creative work in his teenage years making model boats, kites, gigs, calavans and sling shots and participating in model boat regattas. He continued making boats throughout his life, eventually building his own skiffs and assisting his father with making catboats, an activity Darwin would like to see developed as a cultural tourist attraction.

It was this skill that led to his employment at Bernard K. Passman Black Coral and his collaboration with Passman in the creation of gifts for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the royal wedding of His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Princess Diana. These gifts were commissioned by the Cayman Islands Government and photos of them were subsequently published in the Nor’wester magazine.

Darwin worked with Black Coral for 37 years, supporting the local store in Cayman which was also the main manufacturing store for all seven Bernard Passman locations in various parts of the world. During that time, he sculpted a bust of King Tut which he painstakingly researched for accuracy. Passman also requested Darwin’s assistance in making a crucifix for Pope John Paul. 

Darwin’s participation in cultural activities includes working with children which led him to produce a pantomime featuring many aspects of Caymanian life in by-gone days. He has also assisted with functions for senior citizens at his church and in the community. He enjoys local and other Caribbean music, and this features heavily in the functions he plans.

Edlyn McArthur Myles

Edlyn McArthur Myles has always been inspired by music and learnt how to play guitar from watching his older brother, Alan “Bunny” Myles, who made guitars from cheese boxes. At 13, he began singing for the store workers and customers at the Merren’s store. At 14, he used a regular guitar and put the strings for a bass guitar on it. He started to play his bass guitar and “rumba box” for tourists along with S. E. Nembhard and Elon Pars.

At 16, Edlyn formed “Soulful Flames” band, which included his cousin Lammie Seymour and the late Charles Gregory, Ray Myles, Alan ‘Tabby’ Myles, and Carl Howell. After four years, the band members moved on to join different groups.

Edlyn is a founding member of the Cayman Islands Music and Entertainment Association (CIMEA) and was President for 14 years. Through the Association and under the management of Geoff Cresswell, a considerable sum was donated to help build the Inn Theatre, later the Harquail Studio Theatre. Edlyn continues to support the Association today as a Lifetime Honourable Member.

Unofficially the people’s choice for Entertainer of the Year for 14 consecutive years, Edlyn’s Long Service and Leadership Awards from CIMEA and numerous other awards line the walls of his home. Performances over the years have led him to Jamaica, Belize, New Orleans, Honduras and various establishments on Cayman Brac. Locally he has entertained at events and competitions all over the island. Currently, he plays and sings in the “Regeneration Band”.


Shameka Clarke

Singer-songwriter Shameka Clarke is one of Cayman’s most sought-after entertainers. Her music ranges from Pop and R&B, to Reggae, Soca and Dancehall – uniquely combined to make a catalogue of island-flavoured hits. This diverse songstress is known for her signature riffs and adlibs that bring to mind to the vocal styles of Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Monica and Stevie Wonder.

Shameka Clarke has shared stages with internationally acclaimed artists such as Ky Mani Marley, Alicia Keys, Beres Hammond, John Legend, Becky G, Alison Hinds, Anita Baker, Robin Thicke, Popcaan, Christopher Martin, Romain Virgo, Ding Dong, Shenseea and Shaggy to name a few. She has performed for some of Cayman’s most notable and charitable events and graced stages in Florida and Jamaica. During the span of her career, she has worked with both local and international Grammy-nominated producers.

Shameka has an extensive repertoire of original music pieces beginning from the year 2000. Her latest body of work, ‘Press Play’ was released in January 2018 – an extended play (EP) of six Pop, Dancehall and Soca fusion tracks. ‘Try My Love’ and ‘Tiny Whiney’ (paying homage to the 1950s Calypso and Soca band Byron Lee and the Dragonaires’ 1999 hit ‘Tiny Winey’), two of her most popular songs off the EP have garnered attention of both young and mature audiences and received numerous rotations through DJ mixes, internet and community radio in Cayman, the United States, Canada, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Bahamas, the Turks & Caicos Islands and Grenada.

Edmund McArthur Ebanks

Edmund McArthur Ebanks began his career in the construction industry at the early age of 15 years, and he has worked all over Grand Cayman for over 50 years. Over the years he has also become a highly skilled artisan in the disciplines of designing, woodcarving and sculpting with a concentration on crafting local woods such as Cayman mahogany, fustic, popnut, logwood and neem. He crafts these materials into useful household items such as lamps and bowls by combining them in various patterns and colours, and then signs his name on the bottom of each product item using a fine tipped wood-burning tool.

Edmund does not cut any live trees in the process but diligently gathers trees that have fallen naturally or have been cleared from land for planned development. He is a true Caymanian conservationist using only “found’ woods in his workshop in Batabano, West Bay, demonstrating his respect for the fragility of the Caymanian natural environment.

Wendee Miller

Wendee Miller is an actress known for her 20+ years of artistic work and contributions. The performing arts have always been her greatest love and passion. From acting in local productions to representing the Cayman Islands in singing, acting and dance competitions overseas, Wendee believes that the arts is where her gifts lie and she wants to showcase her talent to the world. Her foundation is in theatre, but she has now transitioned into movie and television.

Wendee is actively working on local and overseas productions when opportunities arise. Recently she was in a film called “Room 9” with horror actors Kane Hodder, most widely known for his portrayal of Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” movie franchise, and Steven Nappe known for his character Bijhead in “Death House”. She was a producer on the film “Hands Up” which was directed by Ms. Angela White. In addition, she recently wrote, produced, directed and edited her first short film called “Secrets” which has been submitted and selected for film festivals around the world.

Wendee intends to continue to pursue her dreams as an actress, as well as to write, produce and direct more films. She wants to influence others, especially her children, to believe that no matter where you are in the world, whatever you put your mind toward can come to pass once you put your trust in God, and that you should never let your circumstances bind or cripple your dreams and aspirations.


Ailaine Barne

Growing up off Eastern Avenue in George Town, Ailaine Barnes’ mother taught her from an early age all the skills needed for survival in those days. There were very few jobs available for women at that time, so Ailaine learned how to cook the old-fashioned way – on an outside caboose – where she mastered the art of making Cayman style beef, turtle stew, heavy cakes, bread and coconut drops. She also learned how to twist silver thatch rope and make brooms and other items which developed into a lifelong love of craft work.

Over the years, Ailaine has sold her products to such establishments as Almond Tree, Ports of Call, Seven Eleven, Holiday Inn and Villas of the Galleon. She also obtained a Food Vendor’s Licence and Food Handlers Permit and spent two years selling food and crafts on Seven Mile Public Beach just prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic on Cayman’s shores in 2020.

Ailaine has participated twice at CNCF’s Red Sky at Night, demonstrating the art of cooking on a caboose in the Caymanian Village in 2019 and 2020. She also provided refreshments at Christmas of Yesteryears at Mind’s Eye in December 2020.

Under her tutelage, Alaine’s daughter and two sons have become skilled cooks and her grandchildren are the new generation now equipped with a vast amount of knowledge about their Caymanian heritage.

Marguerita Bodden

Marguerita Bodden was born in Cayman Brac but moved to Grand Cayman as a teenager, where she made a life for 45 years before returning to the Brac to retire in 2012. While living in Grand Cayman she was an active volunteer in the Gun Bay Presbyterian Church. She also produced handmade items such as hair barrettes, aprons and clothes pin bags. She would go around the community with Ms. Carmen Connolly selling these and her husband Churchill’s silver thatch products.

In 1995, Marguerita was part of a quilting group – which included the then Governor’s wife – that created “To The Nation”, a symbolic, hand-stitched wall hanging of unifying symbols which was donated to the National Museum of the Cayman Islands. She was chosen to complete the symbols of the bluff and iguana which represented the Sister Islands. In 2020 an artistic reproduction of the piece was gifted to Ms. Elisabeth Roper, wife of the current Governor, by the Museum and now hangs in Government House.

Once she retired and moved back to the Brac, Marguerita became more active in heritage activities. She assists at Heritage Day events put on by the Cayman Brac Heritage Committee and Heritage House, participates in Culture Camps and volunteers at various senior citizen activities. Her bush teas displays are enjoyed by young and old alike, who watch Marguerita boiling the teas, learn about the different types of bush teas and their benefits and uses and sample them. Marguerita also cooks, creates handmade gifts as part of the Sew-n-So Club and helps with fundraising.

Marcia Ann Rankin

Marcia Ann Rankin has lived and worked in Cayman Brac her entire life and is a sterling example of what community service is truly about.

Over the years, she has assumed many roles within the community, and has been at the centre of just about every major government, cultural, family-friendly and community-minded celebration. There are very few events in the Brac in which she has not been involved or assisted with in some capacity. She is often the friendly face that can been seen greeting guests or working diligently behind the scenes.

Key events in which Marcia Ann has played a role include Cayman Brac Agriculture Shows, Remembrance Day services, Cayman Brac Heritage Days, Brac Heritage Autumn Festivals, Cayman Brac Heritage House programmes, the Quincentennial and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, International Museum Days, Department of Children and Family Services events and numerous community fundraising initiatives.

She has also been known to don unique costumes and attire for Heritage Days and fashion shows as well as play the role of “Mrs. Claus” for several community Christmas functions. These events all contribute to the shaping of the cultural identity of the Sister Islands in particular, and Marcia Ann has been a vital part of making it all possible.


Capt. William Kemuel ‘Kem’ Jackson is the recipient of the CNCF National Arts and Culture Award for Heritage, GOLD (2015). Capt. Kem is always very generous with his time and expertise whenever approached by CNCF for assistance, whether it is imparting his wealth of maritime knowledge or loaning catboats for CNCF’s annual programmes, including Rundown and Cayfest.

A founding member of the Cayman Catboat Club, Capt. Kem has been instrumental in the revival of the catboat in the islands. He spends most of his retirement days repairing and maintaining these vessels. He also does presentations to schools and civic organisations on the importance of the catboat to the Caymanian way of life.

Join Us!

The 27th National Arts & Culture Awards takes place on Thursday, 18 February at the Harquail Theatre starting at 7pm with the red carpet and cocktails followed by the ceremony at 8pm. The event is free to the public but interested persons are asked to make reservations by email on [email protected] or by calling 949-5477.

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