Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Outrageous customs duty

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:12 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I bring to your attention the matter of the outrageous customs duty that Jamaica diaspora artists have to pay to send works on temporary loan for exhibition in the Jamaica National Gallery (JNG).

I was honoured to be invited to show my painting Blue Mountain Dawn at the Jamaica National Gallery’s 2019 summer exhibition.

Imagine my horror at being charged customs duty of J$122,654.11 for a painting that is not for sale, but on temporary loan to the JNG, and which will be returned to Canada at my expense after the show. That is a 67 per cent duty. That is outrageous!

I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in Golden Spring. My passion for Jamaica’s Blue Mountains has been with me all my life into my septuagenarian days. I have been coming home for the past several years, primarily to return to the mountains to take photographs from which to paint. With this purpose, I even rode a donkey from Whitfield Hall to Blue Mountain Peak when I was 74. I was awed by the early-morning light which inspired my painting Blue Mountain Dawn, which is to be included in this summer’s JNG show.

This honour felt to me like the completion of a circle, a gestalt, a sharing of my artistic roots with my country, a ‘thank you’ to the source of my inspiration, a symbolic homecoming of the heart.

Sadly, I will not be able to afford to visit and share this joy with my relatives and friends because of the outrageous customs duty I have been charged.

In the interest of culture, and fairness to artists, the Jamaican Government needs to set up an arrangement between the Jamaica National Gallery and Customs to allow free entry into Jamaica for artworks intended for temporary display at the gallery, with paperwork to track the entry and exit of such artworks.

Angela Baker, PhD

Jamaica Scholar 1960