Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
"As part of the celebration we have chosen to highlight some of our cultural icons who have contributed towards our culture and cultural development," said Stephen Davidson, JCDC director of marketing and public relations.
Dubbed, The Cultural Dialogue Series, the third and final was held on Saturday at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, located on Hope Road.
Fittingly, Randolph Samuel Williams, or Maas Ran, was the featured icon, with Norman Manley and Louis Bennett-Coverley making up the list. The series was held on the birthday of each. Maas Ran would have been 101 on Saturday.
Placed upstage, some distance from the audience of predominantly primary-school children, Brian Heap, Krystal Tomlinson and Alma Mock-Yen engaged in a dialogue on 'Ranny Williams: The Man, His Life His Legacy'.
Maas Ran, the father of seven children was born in Colon, Panama. As a young man, his father wanted him to pursue a career in theology. He worked at many jobs, including journalism and sales. He loved the Big Boy stories and often used his knack for humour in his sales job. He was a self-taught actor who was the first dark-skinned Jamaican to perform in a Pantomime cast. And he is being credited as the creator of the Anancy character, with lisp and all. A diabetic, Maas Ran died in Toronto, Canada, and is buried at the National Heroe's Park.
In describing his legacy, Mock-Yen said Maas Ran was "genuinely interested in the well-being of Jamaicans. He has trained many Jamaicans in stage craft in an effort to build their self-esteem through creative expression. He did, for them, what he had to do alone."
According to Mock-Yen, Maas Ran's legacy was also in his self-reliance, his calm approach to life, his courage, and his creative skills. The active part he played in reviving the Jonkanoo cultural form, based on his research of the characters, must also not be forgotten.
Maas Ran, Mock-Yen continued, must also be remembered for his contribution to comedy.
"He was bright, compassionate, ambitious and willing to learn. He belonged to a tradition of service that seems to be ever more elusive, or already lost," said Mock-Yen.
Tomlinson, who was representing the younger generation of Jamaicans, regretted not being able to speak of the cultural icon as fondly as Mock-Yen. She was quick to point out, though, that no one could deny what he has done for culture in Jamaica, though the young people "do not appreciate our culture".
As such, she challenged everyone to address culture, as culture depends on each individual.
"Fight the urge to be lazy about protecting our culture," Tomlinson implored.
Professor Heap, whose first acquaintance with Maas Ran came when he saw him performing in the Pantomime, 'Queenie's Daughter', said he was happy for the celebration. He described Mass Ran as the "master storyteller".
The audience was subsequently given the opportunity to participate in the discussion. Barbara Gloudon, who worked with Williams and has credited him for honing her skills, said Maas Ran's technique should be studied, "his timing and spacing;" as well as his ability to bring a Jamaican touch to English genre. His disciplined approach to his craft, she said, should also be emulated.
The celebration of the life, work and legacy of Maas Ran also included a concert and an exhibition.