Romae Gordon | Peter Tosh, kids have lots in common
The Peter Tosh Museum opened on October 19, 2016 to an invited audience. On November 1, at the public opening, I was moved by the first group to visit - schoolchildren from the Horace Clarke High School in St Mary, Jamaica. What a beautiful thing this was.
Art is an excellent subject to be encouraged among students at a very young age. In fact, this is what is most encouraging about the Peter Tosh Museum, which I was fortunate to have assisted in setting up.
I was particularly excited about the experience my son Cole had throughout the process of creating a museum. He does not yet realise it, but it is a distinct privilege that he will carry throughout his life.
Cole had the incredible opportunity to hear his dad, Kingsley Cooper, who spearheaded the museum project, manage the programme at the official dedication of the museum by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tosh's birthday last year.
Forgive me if I am about to sound giddy-headed about this experience through the eyes of my boy (I have now discovered that parents often live their joys and childlike awe at even the simple things, through their children), but it was truly a remarkable one.
Consider this: Museum openings are not routine occurrences in the art world, let alone in Jamaica. They take years to be commissioned and built. Yet, Cole witnessed this rare project from the basic construction phase, where block-laying and block-breaking gave way to a new space in which one of his favourite items went on display as a museum artefact.
You may be thinking that a three-year-old does not get excited by a museum, especially if it is not kid-centric. But Cole was. He is moved by the things in which he finds specific interest and is already scarily self-directed in this regard. And, like any child his age would, he locked in on one of the key artefacts that fascinated him.
For the months leading up to the museum's opening, while all the items were under restoration mode, he found an objet d'art that he was obsessed with: the unicycle. There were days when a simple mention of Peter Tosh would elicit steady interrogation. "Where is the unicycle? I need to ride the unicycle!"
Cole even made up his own Peter Tosh song, not caring much that his composition only had the legend's name in line and verse! Such was his fascination. Tosh would have found this method of questioning quite appropriate since this was a project to honour his music and legacy.
With his parents consumed with all things Tosh, it was easy to see how he caught the 'Peter Tosh Museum fever'. While there is some truth to this, he could have also completely ignored our immersion in the project. And, perhaps the boy did have a primer that subconsciously heightened his awareness and joy at his Peter Tosh Museum experience.
Museums were, in fact, trending in our family for about a year prior to Tosh's opening. His dad gifted him books from one of Paris' renowned places of art, La Mussee Picasso. His aunt Dionne brought him an exquisite deconstructed boat from the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, which holds one of the largest collections of contemporary and modern art in Latin America. Aunt Carolyn brought him chocolate in the shape of the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture Museum where she was a guest of her sister's at the dedication of that museum by then President Barack Obama.
Books, boats, chocolate-crafted buildings, unicycles and interactive experiences, exposure to the world of art can come in many forms that can cleverly stimulate and unlock creativity in children. Introducing our children to the poets, writers and crafters of our cultural history in a formal intentional manner is critical to its sustainability.
Through the Tosh Museum, Cole or any child who visits can dream, be inspired by and even learn to play with and make significant construct of words like Tosh was able to. They can be moved to teach themselves the guitar, like Tosh did after simply watching someone play. They can develop an appreciation for art and what it can do to the soul and spirit.
Luckily for Cole, he is already on track, even if they are small steps to realising the impact of cultural legacy. His initial introduction to Bob Marley came via daughter Cedella, who had gifted him books she adapted from her father's work. "Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing is going to be all right," I heard him singing one morning while working on one of his grand construction projects with his Lego blocks.
Enhancing children's experience when they visit is an important part of the Peter Tosh Museum Project growth strategy. Important, too, is helping them grasp one of the key messages this museum offers - standing up for their rights and recognising that justice is for everyone. My hope is that Cole and all the children that will come through this museum will see value in these vital social justice lessons from Tosh.