Perfect Paradise: Culture: Visual Arts

The visual arts have always thrived in the Bahamas, with certain types &nash; particularly those that heavily utilize the islands' natural resources – being the most popular. Below are descriptions and examples of some of the most loved.


Plaiting, or straw-weaving, is an ancient art that involves plaiting natural fibers to create baskets, trays, display pieces, hats, and more. In the Bahamas, where plaiting has been a major industry since the 1720s, master plaiters are among the most revered artists, and thousands upon thousands of their works are sold each year to fellow Bahamians as well as visitors. "Plait ladies," as they are known locally, use "pond top" and "silver top" palmetto fronds (not real straw) that they harvest during the new moon. The "tops," or young, opened fronds from the trees, are dried, cured, and then cut into strips to then be plaited through a laborious process that can require a full eight-hour work day just to plait one 10-foot roll. The more complex plaiting, which involves at least 25 different weaves, can take weeks to finish.

Visit: Handicraft Shopping in the Bahamas


Painting is a relatively new visual art form in the Bahamas, first achieving major popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Most Bahamian paintings include the common images of daily life in the islands, with the sea and the people being the most common themes. Bahamian painters also commonly include moral messages in their art, such as those celebrating family and spiritual life. Bahamian paintings also tend to be highly realistic, though some modern painters are beginning to include some more abstract elements in their works. Galleries have begun to appear in the Bahamas over the past two decades, so it is expected that painting will continue to gain popularity.

Visit: Prominent Bahamian painter Antonius Roberts


Quilting in the Bahamas has largely remained popular among the descendants of white resettlers, but the art is gaining popularity among all demographics nationwide. Centered in Spanish Wells, a district of the island of Eleuthera, the Bahamian quilting tradition involves using smaller patches than in other countries, and puts less emphasis on pastels and softened colors and more on bright shades, as well as black and other colors common to African art. Bahamian quilters have begun to receive much recognition outside of the country and now frequently have their works showcased in folk art shows around North America and beyond.

Visit: Quilting in the Bahamas

Shell Jewelry

Perhaps the oldest art form in the Bahamas is the creation of jewelry made from shells. Originally as simple as one shell strung on a piece of fiber, shell jewelry now involves intricate designs replete with pearls, sea glass, coral, and other natural items culled from the islands and the sea. The most common materials include conch (pronounced KONK) shells and sea glass, though other forms of shells (including the shark eye pictured at right) and even small starfish are now commonly used. Shell jewelry can be found throughout the islands and remains one of the most popular souvenirs for visitors from other lands.

Visit: Ting-n-Ting Bahamian Jewelry