Still Standing: Notes from the Ti Kai Project, Dominica | presentation at CLACS

A presentation at the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London

May 2022

Chair: Oscar Webber (CLACS, IMLR)

Speakers: Adom Philogene Heron (Goldsmiths, University of London) | Marica Honychurch (Photographer and President of Dominican Society for Heritage, Architectural, Preservation and Enhancement) | Jeanne Royer (Dominican architecture student) | Polly Patullo (Author, publisher, and co-founder of Papillote Press)

‘The ti kai works with the hurricane, it allows the hurricane to be’ – Olive Bell, Dominican Architect. 26

Bringing together ethnography, architecture, photography and heritage activism, the Ti Kai Project is a collaborative study of locally crafted wooden houses in Dominica, Eastern Caribbean. This talk will show the value of foregrounding the arts and humanities in discussions around building disaster resilience. In this respect, it also represents a showcase for the potential of collaborations between academics and non-academics.

In this talk, the team will explore how their different skill sets allowed them to set and complete a radically different research agenda, studying hurricanes and generational responses in a new and innovative way.

Waitikubuli, ‘tall is her body’ (the name given to Dominica by its indigenous Kalinago inhabitants) is the most mountainous of the Antilles. Home to nine active volcanoes, positioned in the path of Atlantic hurricanes, prone to landslides and riverine flooding, the island’s people face an array of environmental hazards. Yet the ti kai, with its careful orientation, steep pitched roof, mortise and tenon fused hardwood frame, protective shingles and high stone foundation, works with the hurricane; some standing for over 100 years, they have endured many storms.

In September 2017, when category-5 Hurricane Maria made landfall – the latest in a long history of storms to hit Dominica – homes were destroyed by 165mph winds and raging flood waters. Yet, after Maria, a remarkable number of wooden ti kais remained standing, structurally intact, whilst larger, newer and seemingly stronger concrete structures sat nearby, windowless and roofless. However, in the five years since Maria many have been intentionally destroyed, replaced by concrete structures and visions of ‘resilience’. This seminar introduces the genius and craft that exemplify these environmentally adapted homes, it tells the stories of those that inhabit them and presents a case for ensuring their 21st-century survival.

Explore The Map

// experience the stories // meet the communities
Mapping hurricane hazards, survivals and repair in Dominica