Trees without roots

The isolation of descendants of migrant workers in Central America depicted through Abigail Hadeed's lens

Clean Cut: At Barberia King`s, the king of barbers, Alfred Henry Smith, graduate of the Brooklyn School of Barbers. Photograph by Abigail HadeedDive Canal: Riding the local bus from Portobelo to Colón every morning, Abigail became friendly with many young Panamanians. Photograph by Abigail HadeedDominoes Competition, Black Star Line: In Limón, Africa is celebrated in a big way on Afro Caribbean Day, August 31. Photograph by Abigail HadeedGlass eye: As the observer, the photographer is pure awareness and pure attention. Photograph by Abigail HadeedIris Morgan: Jamaican immigrants to Central America took with them elements of British colonial behaviour and culture. Photograph by Abigail HadeedLaundry Lyrics: I follow the light and shoot on instinct. My fascination with light reveals a movement to self-portraiture. Photograph by Abigail HadeedPickney Pantomime: At The Black Star Line, Limónese meet for social events. Photograph by Abigail HadeedUNIA Document: Established in 1919 by the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. Photograph by Abigail Hadeed

Trinidadian photographer Abigail Hadeed has made a special study of West Indian communities in Colón (Panama) and Limón (Costa Rica). Her images speak of the isolation and uncertainty felt by descendants of Caribbean people who migrated to work in Central America (especially on construction of the Panama Canal). Under the title Trees Without Roots, her images have been exhibited in Trinidad and at the Ninth Havana Biennial in Cuba.

“No one talks about how important a contribution Caribbean people made to Central and South America,” says Hadeed, “or that there was exchange even before recorded time. Now we talk about strengthening ties, so we seem to have come full circle. We need to recognise who these people are and talk about their lives, the sacrifices they made and how they continue to exist. They put their belief into something and they still believe in it.”

Photo captions

Laundry Lyrics: I follow the light and shoot on instinct. My fascination with light reveals a movement to self-portraiture and to self-referral. Abigail Hadeed

UNIA Document: Established in 1919 by the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) encouraged black religious and social organisations to build communal defences against poverty and hunger. Black populations became more aware of their past and contemporary realities

Iris Morgan: Jamaican immigrants to Central America took with them elements of British colonial behaviour and culture. English teacher Iris Morgan vividly recalls the ships of Garvey`s Black Star Line to excited crowds at the wooden dock in Limón

Clean Cut: At Barberia King`s, the king of barbers, Alfred Henry Smith, graduate of the Brooklyn School of Barbers, can be found snipping away at a client`s head or reclining on his throne, the barber`s chair. He is the current president of the last remaining branch of the UNIA

Dominoes Competition, Black Star Line: In Limón, Africa is celebrated in a big way on Afro Caribbean Day, August 31. Black`s hosts a domino competition for West Indian and Hispanic men. Many of their children and grandchildren work on cruise ships to earn a better living.

Pickney Pantomime: At The Black Star Line, a wooden building doubling as a ghostly Black Star Line ship, Limónese meet for social events. Black`s is a place of belonging, a social club and dance hall, a place for reunions and English lessons, weddings, funerals, and political contests

Dive Canal: Riding the local bus from Portobelo to Colón every morning, Abigail became friendly with many young Panamanians. She enjoyed their sense of play, anticipation and drama at the mouth of the Panamá Canal. Young boys would plunge into the Canal from steel remnants of obsolete American bases; yet they also hang suspended in mid-air, as if displaced in time between past and contemporary realities

Glass eye: As the observer, the photographer is pure awareness and pure attention. The lens of the human eye and the lens of the camera are one. Precise timing punctures the thin membrane that separates illusion from reality. A moment is suspended and captured, and grace is revealed