Emancipendence a time for nostalgia
'Emancipendence', as this week is popularly called in Jamaica, is a time for us to look back into our history and heritage. This was facilitated on Sunday afternoon and the Monday morning by the National Gallery (NG) and Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), respectively.
As part of its 'Last Sundays' activities, the NG launched Kingston (Part 1): The City and Art Exhibition and staged a musical performance by Jason Worton and Andre France. Various events were organised by the JCDC around the island, including the one I attended, Augus' Mawnin' Market and Independence Village at the Ranny Williams complex, Hope Road, St Andrew.
Inspired by Kingston's recent UNESCO designation as a creative city of music, the NG exhibition explores the role of Kingston in the development of Jamaican art and vice versa. With works of art from the late 17th century to the present and documentary photographs, it examines how the Corporate Area's natural resources, economic activities and institutions have propelled the development of Jamaican art. It also explores how artists have been inspired by the city's events, personalities and stories.
NG assistant curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson, told visitors that she organised the exhibition in five sections - Nature's Bounty, Crossroads, Art on the Streets, Institutions and Collections, and Stories to Tell. They focus on (in the same order) Jamaica's natural resources, the city's cultural and commercial development, the art seen on the streets, art in collections and institutions and "narratives that are particularly relevant to Kingston events and experiences".
MIX OF OLD AND NEW
The exhibition's subjects stretch back to the 1692 Port Royal earthquake, but singer-songwriter-guitarist Worton and France (saxophone and flute) stayed with more recent history. They performed (along with one of Worton's own songs), Bob Marley's Natty Dread and Waiting in Vain, as well as Blackbird.
Locally and on international tours, Worton has backed many reggae stars. With his own band, he has performed at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as smaller venues such as Jamnesia and Redbones Blues CafÈ.
One section of the Ranny Williams complex was taken over by the Augus' Mawnin' market, its refreshment stands and booths overflowing with agricultural produce. The emphasis was on freshness, not tradition.
One of the more popular attractions in the complex's other section, Independence Village, was the heritage-oriented Jamaica National Heritage Trust's (JNHT) booth. In it was a table with 15 or so artefacts, items used in the first half of the last century and perhaps earlier.
Among the items on display were a cassava sieve, washboard, two-quart enamel mug, coal stove containing two flat (or sad) irons, spirit lamp, kitchen bitch, coconut brushes and an enamel tub. Senior archaeologist at the JNHT, Audene Brooks, was a helpful guide to their uses.
At about 1:00 p.m., in the heat of the day, on a stage across the lawn from the booth a group of dancers were rehearsing. The two singer/drummers providing the music turned out to be brothers Charles and Elisha Powell, members of the Islington Cultural Group. All were preparing for a dinki mini performance later in the day.
Group leader Nicolette Jackson told me that the group had won the JCDC Dance Competition for about 15 of the past 16 years. The one occasion they did not win was, she reasoned, was because they didn't enter. That was because of "financial problems".
The current group consists of 23 third-generation members of a company founded by Kurby Doyle in the district of Roadside, a part of the ensemble's original name.
The JCDC events continue and the NG exhibition continues until October 30.