'Ras Ibrak' ready for his one-man exhibit
Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
PORT MARIA, St Mary:OVER THE last five decades, muralist and painter Howard 'Ras Ibrak' McDonald has honed his skills to become one of Jamaica's most prolific Rastafarian artists.
Ibrak, 62, currently has paintings on display at exhibitions in Ottawa, Canada, Kingston, and Harmony Hall Art Gallery in Tower Isles, St Mary, close to his fabulous studio in Oracabessa.
As he prepares for the launch of his first one-man show next year, Ibrak recalls how his passion and abilities advanced after he began attending art classes as a young child.
He told Rural Xpress: "I discovered my talent when I was about eight years of age after someone told me about practice sessions at the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston.
"They had a junior section where children could learn and practise, and I went there every Saturday for about three or four years. That's when I really started to get into drawing and developing myself further."
At the age of 19, Ibrak travelled to the United States where he cultivated his craftsmanship and began earning recognition for his work. He remembers: "While I was in the United States, I was part of something called the Artists' Collective.
"We had an exhibition in Connecticut and one Sunday morning, a neighbour phoned me saying: 'Hey man, your work is in the Hartford Courant newspaper' because they had published an article on me and one of my paintings, Faces of the African."
While he was honoured to have his work acknowledged by the international media, ironically, Ibrak claims the proudest moment of his career was a positive review he received in this publication.
"In 2002, I entered some of my work into an intuitive art exhibition at Harmony Hall and The Sunday Gleaner published a piece on one of my paintings, Daniel in the Lion's Den.
"That was one of my biggest achievements and really made me feel good. The critic really liked it and the painting was printed in the paper; and in full colour, too," he recalls gleefully.
Looking ahead, Ibrak plans to share his knowledge with the younger generation and expose his work to a wider audience. "People really love art so I'll continue to paint and give them more," he explains.
"In the future, I would like to teach art. I taught at a summer camp in Mount Zion, St Ann, for a couple of weeks, and that was really good. I would also like to sell my art to buyers in as many countries as possible."
While he is optimistic about the advancement of the Jamaican art scene, Ibrak believes a lot more could be done to promote home-grown talent.
He said: "This country has a strong collection when it comes to art, but most of it is unexposed and needs more publicity. I think there should be a gallery in every parish because there is so much untapped talent here, but artists don't get the opportunity to show their work.
"The majority of galleries are in Kingston and there is one in St Mary and another in Montego Bay, but they are too far apart considering the amount of talent out there. We really need more galleries for artists to exhibit their work so that people can see all of the positive things we have to offer."