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Stabroek News

Going 'rootsy' at exhibition openings
published: Thursday | September 20, 2007

Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer

Mystic Revelation of Rastafari performs at the 'Materialisng Slavery' art exhibit at the National Gallery on Sunday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Two exhibitions on the same theme opened not far apart on Sunday in downtown Kingston.

The Institute of Jamaica on East Street came first, with kumina dancers and the Akwaaba Drummers involved in a ceremony which overlapped in theme, time and those in attendance with the opening of 'Materialising Slavery: Art, Artefact and Identity' at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Amina Blackwood-Meeks hosted the ceremony inside the gallery at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Orange Street, telling the tale of old man Joe, who "never stopped flying until he reached a place called freedom" before she handed over to the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.


With Sam Clayton narrating and sharing lead vocals, numerous drums, horns, guitar and bass underpinned an opening chant which Clayton said was in Yoruba and translated to 'how are you all on this day, we wish you all a good day'.

There was no need to translate the following chant, an uptempo delivery of By The Rivers of Babylon, the saxophonist getting an extended run and the voices of those who attended the opening ceremony joining those of the band's members. Clayton's narration ushered in a transition to Press Along and many clapped along to Never Get Weary Yet.

"So now we going to come down," Clayton said, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari going slow as the chanters urged "come down off your pomps and pride". There was a fiery chant, then O What a Fire was done dub style, complete with a delay effect from the trombonist.

Dance presentations

There were no words for the Ethiopian Serenade and on the closing Peace and Love the band got smaller as the drummers walked off, waving goodbye, leaving the other musicians to finish up.

Keita Marie Chamberlin of the National Dance Theatre Company danced an excerpt from Incantation and there was more dance from more and smaller folk, with the Jesse Ripoll Dancers doing Freedom to excerpts from Sarafina.

The crossing of openings came not only through the presence of the Kumina dancers at the National Gallery, but also when a member of Akwaaba supported Blackwood Meeks' rhythmic remembrance of some of the departed, including Joe Rugglas, Count Ossie Kapo, Cudjoe and Tacky.

The public is invited to view the exhibitions at both the Institute of Jamaica and the National Gallery of Jamaica.

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