Wed | Jun 16, 2021

Art in transit - Works take off at NMIA

Published:Friday | July 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Selection of paintings at Club Kingston lounge at the Norman Manley Int’l Airport.
A collage done by school students as a part of Airport Authority of Jamaica Schools’ Art Project 2014..
A corridor at Club Kingston lounge with photos of life in Jamaica at the Norman Manley Int'l Airport.
Selection of paintings at Club Kingston lounge at the Norman Manley Int’l Airport.
A mannequin with traditional prints.
'Cauldron Petal', from the London 2012 Paralymic Games at the Norman Manley Int’l Airport.
Two-part mural depicting Jamaican history by Carl Abrahams that was painted specially for the Norman Manley Int’l Airport in 1985.
National Heroes of Jamaica.
Celebrating Jamaica 50 ... a replica of a cart.
Laura Facey's 'Walking Tree' in the departure lounge.
Amitabh Sharma

The public-address system crackles and announces the departure of a flight amid familiar scenes of people moving to the check-in counters, security and airline personnel milling about in the terminal, the whiff of freshly brewed coffee permeating the air ... and a 24-foot tree at the departure gate.

A tree, did we say? Yes, you are reading it right; this is not life or the departure lounge moving alfresco but a towering art installation, the focal point, in the building.

"The Art Subcommittee of AAJ (Airport Authority of Jamaica) was seeking a major work of art for display in the main check-in hall of the NMIA (Norman Manley International Airport) and an outstanding sculpture of the size required to highlight the check-in hall was identified at the exhibition at Devon House," said the director of the committee, Joseph A. Matalon.

Laura Facey's 'Walking Tree' was chosen for its sheer size and the concept behind this creation. According to the artist, this work has been inspired by African combs, a carpenter's plumb bob, and ladders.

"'A comb untangles, a needle stitches together, a plumb bob finds the centre and a ladder takes you upward," Facey says of the creation. "I went through a difficult time, as we all do. I had to untangle my life, stitch it together, find the Divine within me, and go to another level of consciousness.

"'Walking Tree' is one of my combs," she says. "As she walks, she combs, healing the earth as she goes."

This towering installation unfolds the works of art housed at NMIA.


The spaces at the airport are dotted with facets of Jamaican art, which showcase the island's heritage, culture, flora and fauna and the vibrancy and diversity.

At the Immigration Hall is a collection of twelve masters, which is a celebration of Jamaican art pioneers. This display was done in collaboration with the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Showcased in this selection are paintings of Barrington Watson, Eugene Hyde, Karl Parboosingh, David Pottinger, Colin Garland, Osmond Watson, Alvin Marriot, John Dunkley, Albert Huie, Mallica 'Kapo' Reynolds, Carl Abrahams, and Edna Manley.

For any country, the airport is the first impression that travellers get as they arrive, and the very last as they leave. NMIA manages to encapsulate that warmth through sprinkles of artefacts from the island. On the upper deck, the main departure lounge, is the bust by the Harlem Renaissance master sculptor Richmond Barthe, of Norman Manley, in whose honour the airport has been named.

Two towering panels illustrate Jamaican history, painted specifically for the Norman Manley International Airport in 1985; this installation exudes nostalgia of the old airport that has transitioned to the new building.


Tucked away from the high-traffic areas, Club Kingston, the first-class lounge, unfolds the sublime art space. On the walls are paintings, highlights of 'Five Top Things' that are Jamaican, and framed front pages of The Gleaner. A pathway is lined with photographs of Jamaica's landmarks, people, flora and fauna.

"The idea is to showcase as much of Jamaica's culture, heritage and people, which leaves a lasting impression with the travellers," said Grace Morrison, marketing and corporate communications manager of AAJ.

Spreading this warmth is an ongoing process.

"This (showcasing more art) will take place over time," said Matalon. "As we progress, the Art Subcommittee will make recommendations to the main board, who will implement in line with the budget."

As a part of this mandate, an annual school-art competition will be organised in September this year. "The winning works will be put on display in the departure and arrival concourses," Matalon informed. "The first competition was organised last year and several works were selected for display."

"Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow," says acclaimed Indian author Anita Desai, and travellers passing through NMIA are sure to take home a piece of Jamaica in their hearts as they head to their destinations.