A Piece of Bahamian History
I wandered into Nettie's Artistic Historical and Cultural Retreat on a lazy Wednesday afternoon and was astonished by the vast number of colorful paintings that covered the walls and ceilings.
Nettica Symonette, also known as Nettie, told me she painted and crafted all of the artistic work at the retreat. There were more than 500 pieces throughout her place. From the outside, you would never guess what lay within. Nettie's Retreat, a hotel, restaurant, farm, and cultural center, also provides a space for visitors to take a look back at The Bahamas of old and offers artists a quiet sanctuary to create.
At 82, Nettie has lived a long, colorful life and she didn't hesitate to share her life experiences with the tour group. The tour began in a dining room, where I was served bush tea. In The Bahamas, bush tea is medicinal and is believed to cure or soothe certain illnesses. Nettie gave the group lemongrass iced tea. After we left the dining hall we strolled into an adjacent building. Again, the walls were covered in paintings. There are more than 300 paintings in the art gallery, dating back as far as 2001, when Nettie first began to paint. From there, Nettie took us into the kitchen where guests can actually cook their own meals using Bahamian-grown vegetables and local spices.
The kitchen is next to the cultural and artifact center. If you were born after the 1970s, you may have a hard recognizing many of the items in there. It was like I had stepped into a time capsule. I saw a corn mill for the first time, a dutch oven, a cordless iron, and a number of other artifacts that were once the hallmark of Bahamian households. We also got a chance to see an outhouse (an outdoor restroom).
Nettie said she is working to preserve Bahamian culture and history. Of course, the cultural room also featured paintings and other artwork, including a collection of dolls, made by Nettie's daughter. When we were done taking a look back, Nettie took us outdoors to the Peace Place, a green sanctuary that is right outside of Nettie's chapel. From there, I was introduced to two goats, a parrot, a host of chicks, ducks, hens, and crabs in their natural habitat.
We also stopped in the packing house. There Nettie packs tomatoes in glass bottles, which eventually end up in the kitchen. Perhaps my favorite part of the tour was the last stop, the storytelling center.
Nettie transformed a double decker bus into a sitting area. There she'll tell you more about Bahamian history. During storytelling, Nettie revealed that she stays healthy by drinking one Guinness per day. But I choose to believe that her health has more to do with the bush tea that she also drinks daily. After sharing all of this Bahamian culture with me, Nettie gave me a coconut tart, a sweet Bahamian dessert, and sent me on my way.