Musgrave medal awards pioneers
Though confined to a wheelchair, Dr Jean 'Binta' Breeze rose to her feet to collect her silver Musgrave Medal at the presentation ceremony at the Institute of Jamaica on East Street on Wednesday.
Breeze was among 10 individuals awarded the Musgrave Medal in the areas of literature, science, art, and music. There was also a youth award.
Breeze was beaming as she collected her silver award. Written into history as Jamaica's first female dub poet, Breeze revelled in the spotlight, dramatically flipping her long locks to accommodate the straps of her newly adorned medal.
The award was established in 1889 as a memorial to Sir Anthony Musgrave, governor of Jamaica and founder of the institute. Each year, the institute issues three gold, three silver, three bronze medals, and The Musgrave Youth Award to a mixed group of accomplished Jamaicans.
Gold medals were awarded to musician and composer Peter Ashbourne, scientist Professor Basil Burke, and literary master Professor Emeritus Mervyn Morris.
As the first poet laureate of post-independent Jamaica, there is little wonder that Morris was selected to respond on behalf of all the awardees. "Literature, science, art, and this year, musical composition, some of the awardees have spent significant years abroad, but all of us have felt and have explored our umbilical connection to Jamaica," he said.
He added: "We are deeply grateful to be honoured by the institute. All the awardees, all of us, acknowledge and respect the contribution of our predecessors. All of us pursue and welcome innovation and each of us has been concerned to share with others the bounty of our gifts and our discoveries."
As a composer, Ashbourne's work has been featured in national pantomimes, productions by the National Dance Theatre Company, films, television shows and on over 750 radio and television commercials. In addition to composing, he also teaches and arranges music. As a performer, he plays both the violin and the piano and is currently the musical director and resident conductor of the Kingston Philharmonic Orchestra and Grand Chorus of Jamaica. He is also a co-founder of the Samuel Felsted Chamber Orchestra, founded the Pimento String Quartet and the 11-piece E-Park Jazz Band.
Of the three silver medals awarded, the first went to the Kingston College Chapel Choir. Initially formed to be a fixture in the St Augustine Chapel when it was built, the choir developed a reputation outside of those hallowed halls. The choir currently performs four to five times each year, and in 2012, it performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, in honour of Jamaica's 50th anniversary. To show what they were made of, the choir performed a classical rendition of Peter Tosh's Jah Is My Keeper, top-lined by loud and delicate trebbles. They followed up with a spiritedly choreographed classical rendition of This Long Time Gal.
Other awardees included Dr Henry Lowe, who received a silver medal for outstanding contribution to the field of science. The researcher is the founder of the National Council for Drug Abuse and is a lifetime member of the New York Academy of Sciences and has authored 27 books.
Three bronze Musgrave Medals were awarded to, first, Dr Leo Douglas for outstanding contribution to the field of science. He is renowned for his activism in environmental and bird conservation and is currently a visiting scientist at the American Museum of Natural History.
Professor Oswald Harding was honoured for outstanding contribution to the field of art. A parliamentarian, diplomat, attorney at law, and art collector, Harding is highly influential in Jamaican ceramics and is known to have facilitated the growth of market demand for Jamaican ceramic art.
The final bronze was given to author Roland Waston-Grant. His debut novel, Sketcher, is an extension of a previously penned short story, which caught the attention of a London publisher. Lauded for his skill in capturing a Louisiana dialect with "stunning lyricism", Waston-Grant's debut has since been translated into Turkish and Spanish.
Arthur Williams III was this year's Musgrave Youth Awardee. He is a social elevation mentor who has conducted and presented research on social mobility through elevative entrepreneurship and piloted a workshop series on the subject. He has published a study on the feasibility of micro-financing in Cuba, which came to the attention of the White House, and he was consulted by the White House in economic policy reform before President Obama's historic visit to Cuba.
Awarded gold for his outstanding contribution to the field of science, Professor Burke directed and pioneered new research technologies and chemical discoveries with potential uses in medicine and agriculture. He is noted for synthesising natural products, thereby adding to the understanding of Caribbean plants.