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Cultural ambassador, author promotes 'ole time' Jamaica

Published:Saturday | April 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Melda Graham in her traditional bandana outfit displays her book and items from her artefact collection.- PHOTOS BY NACKEISHA TOMLINSON

Nackeshia Tomlinson, Gleaner Writer

MOUNTAINSIDE, St Elizabeth:MELDA GRAHAM is a cultural ambassador who is passionate about 'ole time' Jamaica. A retired teacher who resides in Mountainside, St Elizabeth, she is intent on educating people about Jamaican culture. Whenever she interacts with others, she uses the opportunity to inform them about Jamaica's history.

This is done mainly through her collection of artefacts, which includes: an enamel potty or chimmy, an old tailor iron, a clay pot, a dulcimina grip and a Telefunken radio.

Graham told The Gleaner that her desire to promote cultural retention practices originated from memories of her childhood.

"I was grown with my grandmother and all of the things like grating the corn and making bammies was our way of life. I just grow to love mi culture," she told The Gleaner.

Graham added: "We have come a far way, but we need to treasure our culture,".

She said culture can be used to measure personal and national achievements. A firm believer of this philosophy, Graham has fully embraced this love of past Jamaica, which she incorporates into her daily life.

To promote her love of culture, she makes appearances at trade shows and schools whenever they host culturally related events.

collection of Artefacts

"I have a collection of artefacts, so I keep them and when schools are having Jamaica day or night they would invite me and I would go to the schools and give the information to the students," Graham said.

In comparing the level of cultural awareness of current students to when she was a classroom teacher, Graham said students are more aware of cultural practices than in the past. She lauded the special effort that schools have been making to get students to be more appreciative of their history.

In her spare time, Graham volunteers at the Early Start Early Childhood Institution located in Lacovia, St Elizabeth. She is very involved with the students of the school and even prepares a group for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competition. A very proud Graham said the students entered the competition with a song that she penned in commemoration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence and have advanced to the second round of the competition.

Her love for culture is evident in another area - her writing. Jamaican cultural practices are common motifs in her books - Dem Ole Time Days, a book for general reading and research purposes, Leonard and the Mermaid, a compilation of short stories for primary-school students, and Sweet and Sour Love, a book, which examines common challenges that teens experience.

Sluggish sales

Despite having achieved status as a published author, Graham is currently experiencing sluggish sales for her books. While she is grateful for the support the Jamaica Teachers' Association has given her with her first publication, and several schools which have purchased some of her books, she has not received a similar support from the public.

Ironically, she identified a cultural practice why book sales are slow. "The problem I have is to get the books off the market, because Jamaicans don't read so it is hard." Undefeated by this setback, she is in the process of negotiating with an international distributor and the Ministry of Education to include her books in the schools' curriculum.

Ultimately, she wants to acquire a physical space where her collection of artefacts can be displayed permanently for both visitors and locals. Graham continues to write and is currently working on her autobiography. When she is not occupied on her cultural mission, she farms at her home and spends time with her granddaughter.