Sat | Mar 25, 2023

‘Four Women’ remains current

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Una Marson
Opera singer Mercedes Kirkwood

Speaking about Una Marson, one of a quartet of women whose lives and work will be analysed over two weekends at the Institute of Jamaica starting on Sunday, Herbie Miller uses the present tense and then pauses.

"To my mind, these people are in the present. Their work places them in the present," said the director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, which is a part of the Institute of Jamaica.


Levels of influence


The four women's influences all live on in existing programmes or institutions. The website of the Jamaican Writers Society (JAWS) says the Una Marson Award for Adult Literature is, "Named in honour of poet, playwright and broadcaster Una Marson ('Tropic Reveries, At What a Price, Pocomania). The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, named after the late sculptor whose Negro Aroused is at the Kingston Waterfront, celebrated its founders including Edna Manley, of course, last week.

And the Hon Louise Bennett-Coverley and opera singer Mercedes Kirkwood performed in the National Pantomime. The current production, Dapper Dan the Anansi Man is now running at the Little Theatre.

'Four Women' is being executed by the Jamaica Music Museum and the National Library of Jamaica. Miller emphasised the central roles of Shari Williams of the former, and the library's Abigail Henry.

And although the quartet will be celebrated, Miller noted that "you have many other women we could have focused on", identifying National Heroine Nanny, musician Marjorie Whylie, Jamaican Folk Singers founder Dr Olive Lewin and Lady Bustamante, among them. There will be other opportunities to include them, as Miller says, "we do not expect this to be a one-off thing."

This Sunday, March 11, writer Rachel Manley, will speak about Edna Manley and Shari Williams will discuss Kirkwood. Next Sunday, Jamaica's Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison will analyse Bennett-Coverley and Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn will examine Marson's life work. The talks, which are free and open to the public, will be held at the lecture hall of the Institute of Jamaica on East Street, Kingston (using Tower Street entrance), starting at 2 p.m. In addition to the presentations, there will be an artistic component Miller said that so far, it is an all-female cast of performers.

There is a fifth woman, in a sense, and the title is taken from a Nina Simone song of that name.