The Lady of ‘The Lake’
French Harbour Woman Beautifies Area with what She Finds

May 28th, 2013
by Robert Armstrong

Raydene Abbott-Nixon created a mosaic of seashells, coral stone, bottle caps, bamboo, concrete and local plants to welcome visitors to the Lake district of French Harbour.

Raydene Abbott-Nixon created a mosaic of seashells, coral stone, bottle caps, bamboo, concrete and local plants to welcome visitors to the Lake district of French Harbour.

For the past year, since the road leading into the low-lying area around French Harbour known locally as the Lake was paved, Raydene Abbott-Nixon, who has lived in the neighborhood all her life, has been volunteering her unique landscaping and stonework talents to make the area “a little different” and “bring it up some.”

“All the time they used to say down in here was so dirty and down in here was so dark,” Raydene explained. “So then I decided to put a little ‘different’ in it. That would entice people to come down.”

What she has created – “Me, myself, with no help” – is a collection of flower beds, decorated embankments, planters and wall art incorporating mosaics of concrete and locally obtained items such as conch shells, dead coral, bamboo and colored soft drink bottle caps that words cannot adequately describe. It must be seen.

Raydene began developing her art  about a dozen years ago. The initial inspiration came from one of her grandsons, then two.

“One Good Friday me and my grandson, we was on the beach, and he said to me, ‘Grammy carry some shell,’ and I said to him, ‘What am I gonna do with shells?’ He said, ‘Carry ’em.’  So, I went to sleep at night, and something said to me, ‘You could build out of them.’ And that what make me start then.”

The first three baskets of shells went into the fence around her yard, inlaid in concrete. She gradually incorporated more and more elements into her designs. Neighbors began to take notice.

“After she started her rock work then I get her to do all the rock in here for me,” said Claudia Allen, Raydene’s next-door neighbor. “Sometimes she do it for free,” she said, but she adds, “I wouldn’t let her do that.”

Claudia said her family was the first to move into the Lake, in 1941. Raydene’s parents moved in a few years later, she said. It is now one of the most densely built-up areas on the island, with somewhat turbid water and no small amount of floating garbage.

“When my mom moved this way, all of this here was pure mangrove. Pure water, deep water,” said Claudia.

Raydene adds, “You see the water like this now? Before time, in my coming up time, that water there was so clear … clear, clear clear. That’s where we used to be swim from over there to over here, when we was kids.”

When the entrance road to the Lake was paved, Raydene knew more people would be driving into the area, including parents dropping off their children at school and picking them up. So she began landscaping some of the open areas and street corners, including the lot where her mother’s house once stood and the curb in front of her sister’s house.

Raydene Abbott-Nixon points to one of her completed flower beds, in front of a house near the entrance to the Lake neighborhood.

Raydene Abbott-Nixon points to one of her completed flower beds, in front of a house near the entrance to the Lake neighborhood.

“When I start buildin’ out here, different people, they say that they like it, and, well I just keep going, you know. So that is how it started.”

The centerpiece of Raydene’s project at this point is a sort of  “welcome” sign at the intersection leading into the Lake, featuring murals (painted by someone else), a concrete staircase with bamboo railings, painted conch shells and Raydene’s signature inlaid mosaics. There are also some painted gords (called “nuts” locally) and a small tower of brain corals.

Raydene assures that all the shell and coral elements incorporated into her art have been collected washed up on the beach, as taking them from the reef is prohibited.

Raydene is now thinking of building a small memorial in the neighborhood for residents who have died. But she’s not sure where she will build her next garden when she runs out of street corners to decorate in the Lake.

“A lady down in Sandy Bay want me to come do hers,” she said. So will she be branching out? She won’t say.

Comments Off on The Lady of ‘The Lake’

French Harbour Woman Beautifies Area with what She Finds

Comments are closed.