Greek illustrator takes reggae poster competition win
Culture ministry affirms commitment to reggae hall of fame, performance arts centre
Theatre practitioners and lovers of theatre generally got a double dose of delight at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sunday. The first was visual – 100 beautiful posters from all over the world which were entered in the 2022 International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC).
The second was a promise that the Government – through the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport (MCGES) – was committed to providing Jamaica with “a world-class reggae hall of fame and performance arts centre”. Giving the assurance was the ministry’s permanent secretary, Denzil Thorpe, who was speaking on behalf of Minister Olivia Grange, who was absent because of an engagement in Negril.
Based on the theme for the 2022 IRPC, ‘Women in Reggae Music’, the posters, which were displayed on several walls of the gallery, were selected from the total of 1,180 graphic designs submitted. They illustrated both the many roles of women in the Jamaican music industry – including songwriting, singing, deejaying, producing, artiste management and entertainment journalism — and also honoured female freedom fighters, cultural activists and nurturers whose roles have been referenced in Jamaican music.
The 2022 winner of the 10-year-old IRPC is Vasilis Grivas, a Greek illustrator of children’s and adults’ books who has worked with many publishers and illustrated more than 100 books and covers in and outside his country. His poster shows National Hero Nanny of the Maroons as a nurturer. Mahmut Soyer of Turkey came second while Mina Nasliyani of Iran took third place.
An enthusiastic, standing-room-only audience heard from several speakers. Senior National Gallery Director Roxanne Bucknor gave the welcome, Professor Carolyn Cooper, a board member of the IRPC, gave an overview of the contest. Organiser and co-founder of the contest, Maria Papaefstathiou, spoke about the current contest, and the executive director of the Institute of Jamaica, Leslie Harrow, introduced Thorpe.
Among the interesting information on numbers that patrons heard was that most of the entrants were from China, the second largest group was from Mexico, while only three contestants were Jamaican. In the 10 years of the contest, there have been 9,280 entries from 800 artists from 90 countries.
According to the organisers, those figures far exceeded expectations. The printed programme continues: “This creative outburst demonstrates, without a doubt, that reggae music has touched the hearts and minds of music lovers the world over.” The term “reggae” encompasses “all the popular genres of Jamaican music: ska, rocksteady, roots reggae, dub, dancehall, and the unique Jamaican sound system”.
Thorpe said that since 2011 when the IRPC was founded by Jamaican artist Michael ‘Freestyle’ Thompson and Papaefstathiou, the contest “has become a powerful visual medium for spreading Jamaican popular music”, and there have been poster exhibitions in numerous countries. They include Greece, Spain, the USA, Mexico, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Cuba.
It was his hope, Thorpe said, that the current exhibition at the NG, which hosted the 25th international exhibition in 2018, would spur more Jamaican artists to enter. Pointing out that, for its founders, the contest was “a first step towards the establishment of a state-of-the-art Reggae Hall of Fame pavilion and performing arts centre in downtown Kingston”, Thorpe said that he had heard the calls for the centre and the MCGES was “committed to fulfilling the vision”.
He also mentioned that one of the aims of the exhibition was to raise funds, through auctions of the posters, for the Alpha School of Music, a renowned training ground for Jamaican musicians.
The Art of Reggae Exhibition is a contribution to the 2023 Reggae Month activities and the Jamaica 60 celebrations and it will continue at the National Gallery until June 3.