Amitabh Sharma, Contributor
What would you call a space that houses more than 170 pieces of art? A gallery? A museum? Or an art aficionado's sprawling villa? The answer: none of the above. What if one said that these artefacts sit in a library?
Visitors would rarely notice - as they lug their journals, laptops and reading material to study or sift through catalogues and books to research - that a library is more than a book bank.
The Mona Library at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, is the abode of pieces of art that are both steeped in history and a convergence of cultures from across the world.
"We have a wide collection of art in the library," informed Frances Salmon, head, West Indies and Special Collection. "This not only adds to the aesthetic appeal, but is, in a way, showcasing the works of art from different countries."From the replicas of Taino ceramic pieces from Cuba - which hold significance not only of their era, but for the mere fact that they were gifted by President Fidel Castro when he visited the Mona campus in 1977 - to sculptures carved by Edna Manley, and the Ras Dizzy collection, the premises of the Mona Library holds gems that are subtly scattered.
A library might not strike one's mind as a place where art is housed, but in between the rows of hardcover and paperback-lined bookshelves, a glass showcase - a frame, if you will - encases canvases with bold brush strokes or sculptures in various media.
Salmon said the art collection dates back to the inception of the institution. "The collection has been built through purchase and donations. By far, the largest collection is housed in the main library," she said.
The sculpture of a woman in a corridor - with her arm wrapped around her bosom and eyes closed, as if in a trance - catches the eye of the visitor. A focal point in the section, this wood sculpture, 'The Land,' is a work by Edna Manley.
"'The Land' is one of our earliest acquisitions," Salmon informed. "This was an anonymous donation to the library in 1948."
Among other works, the A.D. Scott and Ras Dizzy collections form the meridian of the compilation, in addition to other pieces by Caribbean artists. "[The] Ras Dizzy Collection serves as a memorial to the Mona Campus' unofficial 'artist in residence'," she informed, adding that the collection comprises 26 paintings.
Mona Library's compilation of artwork is made up of original paintings, carvings, sculpture, ceramics and realia.
The works in the Mona Library are historical gems which complement the rich history and culture of Jamaica, and are dotted across the UWI, Mona campus. Sitting on 653 acres, the campus charts its history dating back to the early days of black enslavement when the Hope, Papine and Mona sugar plantations stretched the expanse of the northern Liguanea Plain.
Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen." The art collection at the Mona Library is a tribute to creativity and the spirit of oneness with the elements and the human mind, body and soul that resonates as one pursues academic endeavours.
Photos by Amitabh Sharma