Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
In commemoration of this year's Jamaica 50 celebrations, Andy Ballentine launched an exhibition of his oil paintings and bottle lamps under the theme 'Celebrating our Jamaican heritage' last Saturday at Red Bones The Blues Café in Kingston.
"I was not born in the '60s when the Independence celebrations were going on, so to be around now and have an understanding about our heritage and 50 years of existence as an independent nation, I had to take a role in that. One such piece was a little girl eating a mango seed, yuh nah really see people eating mango seed anymore, them a eat it with knife and fork now," quipped Ballentine.
"This is Jamaica's 50th and I want to show that Jamaican artistes have talent. People are fighting to get (recognition in) art and I even feel uncomfortable at times because of this. The country scene, the red dirt, gravel and the asphalt road, these are all what Jamaica 50 is about," he added.
Ballentine made 20 pieces for Jamaica 50, some of which were showcased at the exhibit along with pieces from two guest artists.
"I also have the bottle lamp that represents the whole Jamaican spirit. I want to get the lamp in every hotel on the north coast because when tourists come to Jamaica, they (complain that) it is like when they are in Hollywood or Canada because all they're seeing is some fancy lamp from (abroad), they're not seeing anything Jamaican. My lamps are real Jamaican," Ballentine said.
Ideas for his pieces came about in several ways. As Ballentine went on his expeditions, he was inspired to do pieces such as 'Coming from school in the country', the idea came to Ballentine upon seeing school children in Manchester, he realised their behaviour was different from the ones in Kingston and decided to capture it in an oil painting.
"I saw how they behaved like real school children as they walked home, not like the ones in Kingston who dress as if they are going to a dance or something."
"One memorable moment was when I was doing the fruit basket piece and got some sweetsop, I put them together and left for a while but when I come back it burst open so I just decided that I was going to (capture) it as it is. To my surprise, people liked that part of the painting," he added.
Ballentine will also be using some of the proceeds from the show to assist a promising student at Spanish Town Primary.
"I'm always going to support people from my exhibitions because I remember people used to give me things when I never had it. So for me to be able to help someone now it is a pleasure. I will help the student to get items such as a computer, schoolbag, pens, rubber and so forth," Ballentine said.
Ballentine also praised Stewart's Hardware for
sponsoring the show as they even created an islandwide raffle to
generate interest from the public. The exhibition will continue at the
Redbones The Blues Café until August