Four segments in 2017 Nettleford conference
Jamaica's arts and culture can provide the means for the island's national, social and economic independence. That's the premise of the fourth biennial Rex Nettleford Arts Conference at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) from October 11-13.
It's four major segments are Culture, History, Retention and Practice, Education, Advocacy and Governance and Economics. International participation, which is increasing, is coming from Canada, Cayman, the UK, the USA, The Bahamas, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Amsterdam, and Ghana, Carol 'Annie' Hamilton, EMCVPA vice-principal and conference chair (along with Dr Keino Senior, told me.
She said in examining arts and culture in the 21st Century, the conference will focus on the Caribbean region's young people who are interested in the art forms taught at the college dance, drama, music and the visual arts. The EMCVPA caters to students from the region.
"We want to provide a space for them to give voice to what is of interest to them, to feel that they can contribute and to hear what they're doing and what they're interested in doing," she added.
Hamilton spoke first of three "significant" plenary sessions on Governance and Economics, Culture and Nettleford's Legacy to the Arts.
"They happen at different times, so people won't have to make a choice as to which to attend," she said.
This conference will have a greater-than-usual number of participatory events (as opposed to oral presentations), Hamilton said. They include various exhibitions on the campus, as well as a major exhibition and lecture at the National Gallery on Researching Music in the 21st Century.
Among the theatrical productions will be the Canadian play Danger to the Public, about immigration in that country. Another, mounted by the School of Drama, The Listeners, is described by director Elizabeth Montaya-Stemann as "a vocal/oral performance that emerges from group work inspired by some of the literary works of Derek Walcott".
Following the conference's first event on Wednesday afternoon a two-hour bus tour of Trench Town for the delegates there will be a traditional Tea Meeting in the EMC's amphitheatre led by culture specialist Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks.
Chuckling, Hamilton said, "It's a folk practice that many people seem to mix up with a tea party. It's important that we remount these traditional events for retention, so that young people can know about our ancestors' practices."
Among the conference's dance performances are a cross-disciplinary one by the School of Dance, one by a group from the University of Georgia, and one by dancers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
There will also be a number of dance and theatre workshops, Hamilton said, one looking at carnival in Trinidad, specifically J'ouvert as an arts practice.
Hamilton said because the conference is the final event of the year-long celebration of the EMCVPA's 40th anniversary, it will have a particularly impressive closing ritualistic ceremony on Friday. Delegates will be asked to contribute to the painting of a mural on two wooden panels and, following the last plenary in the Vera Moody Concert Hall, the boards will be cut into pieces and each delegate will be given one.
"Additionally, the famous Trinidadian inter-disciplinary artist Christopher Cozier, our keynote speaker, will also be creating a site - specific work which he will cut into pieces to distribute to the delegates at the end of the conference," Hamilton said.
Final day's activities end with the first staging of The Listeners in the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre. Performance dates are October 13-15 and October 27-29.