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Jamaican Artistes touring Europe

Published:Sunday | July 26, 2015 | 1:37 PMJanelle Oswald
Joan Webley shows fashion bound for Europe.
Artist Dan Thou with his painting poses with Joan Webley, head of Nanook.
Kalaan Atman leads a group in yoga at Nanook.

Artists, musicians and dancers are now in Europe to showcase Jamaican art, tradition and style by taking part in a cultural exchange known as the 'UP! United Purpose Tour' project.

Some 11 creative people, along with social enterprise founder and managing director of Nanook, Joan Webley, are presently touring Europe to stage a true representation of Jamaica, aimed at potential vacationers and ensuring they see the "real deal".

Speaking exclusively to Webley prior to their departure, they are still seeking donations from the public, especially from corporate Jamaica, to assist with the cultural exchange group till the end of September, she told The Gleaner: "We are travelling to Germany, France and Spain to showcase Jamaican art, culture and tradition.

"Our purpose is twofold: for individuals to advance their career showcasing their Jamaican uniqueness, but also as a collective, showing the power of Brand Jamaica, authentically representing Jamaica, and speak for ourselves and say to the world we are really nice, come and visit Jamaica. There are daily direct flights to our beautiful rock. Come bask in the heat and have a great educational experience, which is more than sun, sea and sand."

A grass-roots community initiative ignited by the social enterprise Nanook, based in Kingston, the 'UP! United Purpose Power Tour' idea developed from the positive feedback received for the live band sessions and other community activities held at the art space, which allows people freedom of expression through the power of art, spoken word, dance, music and fashion.

Ambassador for island

"Visitors have always applauded Nanook for its variety showcasing authentic Jamaican talent, so, we thought, let's share this with the world and create a 'travelling marketing campaign' for Jamaica," Webley said.

Planning to connect with other Jamaican representatives when they arrive in Europe, Webley is seen as an ambassador for her island: "I love my island and it's a tragedy we have not benefited from our culture. I don't mean economically but, socially we have never truly appreciated our own unique culture and have allowed so many others to misinterpret who we are."

Continuing, she added: "It's important we keep our identity and stay connected to our core values as creative Jamaicans, which I think many people take for granted. They believe singing or dancing are things you do if you don't become a doctor or lawyer, but they are all equally important and vital to the fabric of our nation," Webley said.

Stressing the importance of "staying connected to core values of Jamaicanness", Webley is appealing to corporate Jamaica to back the cultural exchange group, adding, "it takes two hands to clap".

"We are doing many initiatives to get the attention of corporate movers and shakers and crowd funding is a way of saying help us to help ourselves, so we welcome all donations. Please donate at:

So far, the group has received help in covering all their technical support from Greek/German social economics graduate, Alexander Cowell, along with funds from German art community gallery KunSt Pauli and accommodation aid from Gaengeviertel creative community enterprise. Rototom Sun Splash in Spain has also agreed to feature the art work of more than 20 Jamaicans, including a special solo exhibition from street artist Matthew McCarthy. Local assistance has come from Industry and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton and Gillian McDaniel.