The late eighteenth-century print The Barbadoes Mulatto Girl, by Agostino Brunias, is a significant starting point for a discussion of the complex processes involved in naming and codifying race, gender, and class within larger established systems of attributing value in the newly creolizing societies of the West Indies. Barbados was the first colony in the New World where Africans formed the majority population. By 1660 Barbados had the largest black population in the New World and was also unique as the only colony where women outnumbered men. As the first society built entirely on slave labor, Barbados soon became the hegemonic model—what Hilary Beckles identifies as “the Barbados Experiment”—which was then exported throughout the Western hemisphere and had an indelible impact on contemporary African diaspora societies and, we argue, the way in which the black female body in particular has been represented. Christopher Cozier describes the genre of Caribbean portraiture produced against the background of a long history of colonized representation as “a visual territory not exclusively of our own making.” This article presents a number of representations of the black figure and examines the continuation of, as well as the challenges to, certain tropes that have been used to frame blackness, femaleness, and tropicality.

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