- Left: Stone Bridge, Alfred Maragh, Silver. RIGHT: Pamela Giraudel, Dis Ole House, Merit A3.
Sana Rose, Contributor
DOWNTOWN HOUSTON, Texas, USA is slowly winding down from the buzz of activity there. The Houston International Festival is now in its final weekend and will, when the curtain finally comes down, have spanned four days in total - April 22, 23, 29 30.
Ifest, as it is called for short, is in its 35th year, and after adopting the arts and culture of different countries as the festival theme since 1988, the spotlight is now on Jamaica.
But it was in 1998 that Jamaica first made its debut at the festival with the theme of that year, "Islands of the Caribbean" where it was one of four featured islands.
This year's Ifest stretches across 16 acres of downtown, Houston transforming parks and streets into eight international entertainment-themed zones - Wordstock Café, International, Latin, Target Kids, Louisiana, Incredible India, African-Caribbean and of course, Jamaica. Across these eight zones are 10 performance venues attuning the ears of over 200,000 visitors to literature readings and a variety of music, including reggae and ska; a Houston Sister Cities exhibit; an international outdoor art and craft market, featuring over 500 artists from around the world; international cuisine; free lunchtime concerts; the Mayor's Gala and a Wonders of the World Auction.
The festival's organising body, the Houston Festival Foundation, Inc., was not only keen on providing entertainment to its visitors, but also education. Apart from actually seeing and experiencing the various displays and performances, approximately 900,000 students from over 1000 schools in seven counties in Houston have been learning about Jamaica since November last year, from the Teachers' Curriculum Guide produced by the festival.
In the Jamaica Zone, City Hall is transformed into a beach paradise featuring Jamaican cuisine and a replica of 17th century Port Royal amidst a 20-foot reproduction of a pirate ship. In addition, there is a stage, bar, a reproduction of a Taino hut, a multimedia presentation on Bob Marley and a tourism expo. The sub-themed area, "Kingston Town" features exhibits on the history of Jamaica, fashion shows, a dancehall and a food court.
Amid all of this excitement, entertainment and wonder, is the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Photography Showcase.
Last year, Visual Arts Director of Ifest, Kati Ozanic-Lemberger, visited Jamaica as part of the Houston delegation to research aspects of the country in order to conceptualise themes and displays for the festival.
Through this visit, the JCDC Visual Arts Department was invited to prepare a small photography exhibition. Ms. Ozanic-Lemberger states that, "Almost every year we have a photo exhibit of some sore, but it usually tends to be photographs supplied by the country's tourist Board. I am an artist myself and preferred to have fine art photographs from a variety of artists, plus give them the opportunity to sell their work. After visiting JCDC and seeing several of the past exhibition catalogues, I knew that Jamaica had many talented photographers whose work would be a wonderful addition to the festival."
The exhibition comprises 33 photographs from the 2005 National Visual Arts Exhibition. The prints depict a variety of Jamaican themes - people, land, culture, sports, food, past-times and are the creations of 19 award-winning budding and established photographers. The small show is an outdoor display consisting of poster-sized reproductions of the photographs. Some of the original prints have been offered for sale.
The photographers are UWI Camera Club members - Tanya Webster, Winston A. Young, Deborah Jones, Pamela Giraudel, Arlene Brown, Tricia Williamson and Philip Chung; members of the Photography Club of Jamaica -Alfred Maragh; as well as Garfield Robinson, Miquel Samuels, Bryan Cummings, Stevie Lyn Kee Chow, Zein Nakash, Muna Issa, Jeffery Carlyle, Patricia Desai, Jermaine Barnaby, Devon Shaw and Dr. Nadine Scott.
The UWI Camera Club won the NCB Photography Summit Prize for the top photo club in the last year's competition.
SNIPPETS AND STORIES
The works on view span the full gamut of awards in the 2005 National Visual Arts Competition - gold, silver and bronze medals and merit certificates and sectional prizes and together, they form an impacting showcase of snippets and stories of Jamaican life.
Among the group are 12 outstanding black and white and colour portraits that poignantly capture experience, innocence and mystery, such as Zein Nakash's "Strength of a Woman"; Tricia Williamson's "Diablo's Angelique" and Deborah Jones' "Bright Eyes". Daily life is reflected in "Market Place" by Devon Shaw; Miquel Samuels' sombre commentary, "Thin Line" and Jermaine Barnaby's humourous "Catching up on the News" and "Family Ride" among others.
Jamaica's architecture is pictured in four photos including Philip Chung's gentle balance of form and colour, "Masjid" and Pamela Giraudel sense of history in "Dis Ole House". Muna Issa serves up a bit of Jamaican cuisine in "Fried Dumplings" and "Reggae Peppers" and so too does Miquel Samuels, but with photojournalistic flair in 'Lady Jerk'.
The art of dance is seen in the gold medal-winning print, "Give Thanks" by Garfield Robinson, while Tanya Webster's winner of the Best Black & White Print Prize, "Recital" focuses on a pair of ballet shoes. Sports get the spotlight in three prints, including Bryan Cummings' tour de force, "Maurice Wignall" that copped a gold medal and Best Colour Print Prize while Alfred Maragh and Winston A. Young take a dreamlike view of Jamaica's landscape in "Stone Bridge" and "Water's Edge" respectively, whereas Nadine Scott is the only photographer of the group to highlight religion in the still life, "Revival Table".
The JCDC Visual Arts Department views events like these as wonderful incentives to participants in the National Visual Arts Competition and considers this exhibition as a tremendous opportunity to highlight the talent and creativity of our outstanding, imaginative photographers who continue to capture the essence of the Jamaican spirit through the lens of a camera.
Sana Rose is the Visual Arts Coordinator at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.