Religion and Spirituality: Spiritual Warriors

Renee Cox - The Red Coat (2004), Collection: NGJ

Renee Cox – The Red Coat (2004), Collection: NGJ

The current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition is organized around six broad, overlapping themes, with a gallery dedicated to each theme. Here is the text panel for the fourth gallery, titled “Spiritual Warriors”:

The work in this gallery reflects on the role of religion and spirituality in local resistance and liberation movements, especially during the colonial period.

Religion and spirituality played a critical role in the fight against slavery throughout the Americas. In Jamaica, Nanny of the Maroons, had charismatic spiritual powers which she used to empower her followers in guerrilla warfare against the colonial authorities. Similarly, Tacky, the leader of the 1760 rebellion, was an Obeah Man and it is worth noting that Boukman Dutty, who presided over the Vodou ceremony at Bois Cayman that marked the start of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, was from Jamaica. These rebel leaders are symbolically represented in this exhibition by Renee Cox’s The Red Coat, which provides a contemporary interpretation of the figure of Nanny, in which the artist herself adopts Nanny’s persona and in a poignant act of defiance, wears the red coat of the colonial militia.

Kapo - Bogle - small

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds – Paul Bogle (1952), Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

In the late 18th century, the Baptist, Methodist and Moravian Church established missions in Jamaica and became actively involved in the Abolitionist movement. These new religious movements gained significant popular support and interacted with African-derived religious traditions. Out of this came several resistance leaders, such as Sam Sharpe, the leader of the 1831 Christmas Rebellion in western Jamaica, and in the post-slavery area, Paul Bogle, the leader of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. Both were Deacons in the Baptist Church. Bogle is represented in this exhibition by a 1952 carving by Kapo, who opted to represent him as one “who threw a stone at the establishment,” the final maquette of Edna Manley’s controversial Bogle monument (1965) and a 2010 poster by Michael Thompson, who represents Bogle as a modern revolutionary.

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Last Sundays: January 27, 2013 – featuring Better Mus’ Come

NGJ_Sunday_Opening_27_January_2013_for_web(1)

The NGJ is continuing its Last Sundays programme, whereby it is open every last Sunday of the month, in addition to its regular opening hours, and will thus be open to the public on January 24, 2013, from 11 am to 4 pm.

As a special feature, the NGJ will be screening of the Jamaican feature film Better Mus’ Come (2010), which will start at 1:30 pm. Better Mus’ Come is a dramatic love story framed by a fictionalized account of the political violence of the 1970s in Jamaica. Directed by Storm Saulter and written by Joshua Bratter, Paul Bucknor, and Storm Saulter, the film has received significant acclaim and received the Best Feature Awards at Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival and Bahamas International Film Festival, the Best Director Award at the Pan-African Film Festival, and the Best Actor Award at American Black Film Festival. The film has also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the British Film Institute. The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) recently announced the launch of its new label, ARRAY, dedicated to multi-platform distribution of black independent film and the label’s first acquisition is Better Mus’ Come, for all US distribution rights.

Visitors will also be able to view the 2012 National Biennial, a special performance piece by Ebony G. Patterson and the NGJ’s permanent exhibitions. Storm Saulter is in one of 86 artists represented in the Biennial.

As has become customary on Last Sundays, general admission and tours are free on that day. The film screening attracts a contribution of $ 200 per person and seating is limited to 80 persons in all, to be admitted on a “first come and first served’ basis. Tickets for the film can be purchased in advance from the NGJ – please call 922-1561 for more information.

Jamaica’s Art Pioneers: Allan “Zion” Johnson (Isaac Johnson, 1930-2001)

Allan “Zion” Johnson – Peacock (2001), Collection: NGJ, Gift of Herman van Asbroeck.

Biography

Allan ‘Zion” Johnson (birth name: Isaac Johnson) was born May 28th, 1930, St Andrew, Jamaica. At the age of 11 years, he went to Kingston Senior School, where he took some lessons in making furniture, which he started painting. Zion recounted what happened next:

I made a pushcart and decorated and painted it and wrote passages on it from the Bible. Soon other people asked me to make carts for them and that way I started to make a little money. I also made “Ludo” boards and painted and sold those too.

He decided to try painting and drawing in about 1965. He took a few lessons in painting at the University, helped by a friend, but soon gave that up. He started exhibiting regularly in 1980 and quickly gained recognition as a self-taught, Intuitive artist. He was featured in several major NGJ exhibitions, such as Fifteen Intuitives (1987) and Intuitives III (2006).

Zion lived and worked in August Town, near Kingston, where he had a small studio. He died in 2001 and is survived by his mother, Estella Gordon, who celebrated her 103rd birthday in 2012.

Allan “Zion” Johnson – Untitled (1992), Aaron & Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

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