Mon | Sep 26, 2022

A historical journey of Jamaican ceramics

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2022 | 12:10 AM

Jamaican Ceramics
Jamaican Ceramics

Jamaican Ceramics: A Historical and Contemporary Survey is a refreshingly comprehensive examination of the development of ceramics from pre-history to today. This visually rich, exciting, and authoritative book is an unprecedented survey that sheds welcome light on fascinating historical and modern contemporary Jamaican ceramics.

Norma Rodney Harrack, herself a practising ceramic artist, offers exciting insights and provides a valuable resource to ceramists, students, collectors, enthusiasts, and consumers of ceramics.

Rooted in the history of mankind, this lavishly illustrated and exhaustive chronicle begins with the earliest population of Jamaica and follows the production of ceramics chronologically throughout the island from the Tainos – Arawakan–speaking Amerindians (formerly known as Island Arawaks) – which began around AD 650. The illustrations, drawn from national and international museums, collectors, and practicing potters in Jamaica, provide representative examples of major styles, materials, and forms of different periods, allowing the reader to make comparisons or recognise relationships between the ceramic works despite the works being widely separated in space and time.


Each chapter focuses on key thematic areas – from early ceramic history to the influence of European ceramic practices to the syncretism and continuity of African Jamaican traditions – with full discussions on how the canon of Jamaican ceramics developed over the centuries. Harrack’s many years of teaching, investigation, and discovery have guided much of the primary research for this project.

Jamaican Ceramics: A Historical and Contemporary Survey is the first publication to document the extraordinary account of past periods in Jamaican ceramics, creating a grand tour of the wonderful examples of clay forms associated with the different historical periods. Clay is one of the very first materials “invented” by man. It represents an essential staple of human life, and this book documents how it has been moulded, thrown, glazed, and decorated over millennia to preserve and transport food and water.

While this book looks at the progression of ceramic-making in Jamaica, starting from its earliest manifestation, it also chronicles how exhaustive the ceramic vessel has been for ancient and modern peoples; how vessels made of clay have been made to celebrate rituals of all kinds, including death, and to be part of the rhythm of the solitary and social acts of eating and drinking.

Readers will be treated to the author’s vast knowledge of, and passion for, ceramics of all kinds, from all places and periods, as well as her unique ability to set ceramics in context and seemingly bring them to life. The book spotlights twentieth-century Jamaica at a time when pottery was buoyed up by new technological and artistic achievements and discoveries as well as being a recognised art form. It documents the power of fire to transform soft, malleable clay into a robust and desirable material; a revolution that would embolden a new era in which clay takes many forms, from fired bricks and votive figures thrown into flames as part of fertility rituals to the most sophisticated and technically accomplished vessels and sculptures produced within Jamaica’s ceramic industry.

Title: Jamaican Ceramics: A Historical and Contemporary Survey

Author: Norma Rodney Harrack

ISBN: 9789766408848

Publisher: The University of the West Indies Press

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