Dorian and Beyond is a digital storytelling + story-keeping project that records and preserves the story of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas.
As the people of an island nation, Bahamians know all too well that as climate change drives extreme weather patterns, hurricanes are hitting this part of the world with greater intensity and frequency. The people of The Bahamas, and those of the Northern Bahamas in particular, are especially aware of the effects of these realities.
Grand Bahama, the northernmost of the islands of The Bahamas, has faced more devastating hurricanes within the last two decades, than it had in the preceding 200 years. In 1999, Floyd’s storm surge flooded them. In 2004, Frances hovered over them for more than a day. Just weeks later, Jeanne was on her way. They were so happy when she passed over—but then sat powerless, as she doubled back. In 2005, Katrina was a breeze, but then came Wilma, which destroyed 200 homes and left 1,500 people homeless. Yet, they built again. In 2016, came Matthew, with its interior tornadoes that leveled entire communities, leaving few homes without the shelter of those signature blue tarps.
Then Came Dorian.
Category 5 Hurricane Dorian inflicted unimaginable losses on the people of the Northern Bahamas. As one of the strongest hurricanes on modern record, the storm’s unbelievably slow trek across the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island battered its residents for two days. The toll of its devastation on the built environment is amplified by the fact that Grand Bahama suffered the wrath of nearly a dozen other hurricanes in the 20 years since 1999. Hurricane Dorian’s damage amounted to at least $3.4 billion. In addition to leaving 70,000 people homeless, an estimated 13,000 homes—constituting 45% of the homes on the Abacos and Grand Bahama—suffered severe damage or were completely destroyed. Sadder, still, was the loss of life. There were at least 70 deaths reported to date in the country. Many also remain missing. They too are believed to have perished in Hurricane Dorian.
Dorian and Beyond is a digital storytelling + story-keeping project that records and preserves interviews with survivors of Hurricane Dorian. Its oral history archive is accessible to interested members of the public via the project’s website. This curation responds to the urgent need to ensure that these stories are not lost. They will be recorded and remembered. These individual testimonies constitute a collective memory, affirming a shared sense of trauma and loss as well as resilience. The personal, in this way, becomes public; and the individual is affirmed. This collection of stories is intended to be a cross-section of Bahamians who experienced Hurricane Dorian; it pays particular attention to survivors who were on The Abacos and Grand Bahama when the storm hit. The Project’s focus on local participants and vendors will have an immediate impact which is coupled with an international reach as well an enduring, ever-increasing value.
Guided by an experienced Bahamian professional historian with international programmatic and publishing repute, Dorian and Beyond is designed to utilize public and private resources to bring to bear the time, talents, and treasures of Bahamian professionals and creatives to preserve, protect, and popularize the stories of resilience in the face and wake of one of the deadliest hurricanes in recorded history.
The iconography of Dorian and Beyond—a digital storytelling of Hurricane Dorian—is an amalgamation of two historic symbols. The first, is the water symbol of the Taino people who were the indigenious people of these isles. The second, is the Dwennimmen or “rams horns” Adinkra strength and humility symbol of the Ghanian people of West Africa who represent the African heritage of the overwhelmingly Black Bahamian population. The connecting of the stacked circles connects the island’s two principal heritages, as well as the literal force of the hurricane’s water and the spiritual force of the Bahamian people’s resilience in response to the destruction left in the Category 5 storm’s wake.
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Photo by Lyndah Wells © 2019