Stuart Hall (1932-2014)

Photo courtesy of Annie Paul

Stuart Hall in Jamaica, 1998 (Photo courtesy of Annie Paul)

We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Stuart Hall. Our Chief Curator, Charles Campbell, has penned the following tribute:

“Jamaican born sociologist and cultural theorist Stuart Hall died today at the age of 82. A leading intellectual and one of the founders of Cultural Studies in Britain, Hall was part of the so called Windrush generation that moved from Jamaica to England after the Second World War.

Hall is one of the most influential thinkers of his generation. The impact of his work has been felt across academic disciplines and filtered into popular discourse through both his writing and regular appearances on British television and radio. Known for his work on race, gender, identity and sexuality he also made significant contributions to the examination of the visual arts with specific regard for the work of Black British and Caribbean artists.

Hall presented a nuanced understanding of culture as something constantly in formation, always changing and never static. While pushing against essentializing black subjectivity he never shied away from acknowledging how race and ethnicity often set the context in which an artwork was viewed and determined its readings. He was also an advocated of a strong critical discourse, one that looked both at the context of the work being produced and the works own merits.

In his writings on art he sought to undo the binary structure of centre and periphery, showing ‘Modernity and its “Others”‘ to be closely intertwined. He was fascinated by the complexity of the visual image and the many ways in which they could be read and supported the notion of images that interrogated their viewer, asking questions and giving information but perhaps not answers.

Hall’s legacy lives on through the work of the many thinkers, writers, artists and academics he influenced. As per the name of John Akomfrahs biographic video installation about Stuart Hall, his life was an unfinished conversation.”

We have also received the following statement from the Centre for Caribbean Thought:

“Stuart Hall, Caribbean Thought and the World We Live In.

There have been many tributes to the Jamaican born thinker Stuart Hall. We at the Centre  for Caribbean Thought  remember the 2004 conference , ‘Culture , Politics , Race and Diaspora: The Thought of Stuart Hall,’ where  with  mesmerizing eloquence Hall addressed  ideas about  thinking, activism, the Caribbean  Diaspora , politics and  the  complex relationships between culture , race, class and power. When we invited Hall in 2003  and informed him that his work would be the subject of a ‘Caribbean Reasonings Conference’ his initial response,  typical of his character  was that he had not written much on the Caribbean ; that  his work was not  of the kind like that of Lamming , or CLR James . Yet in a lecture delivered at the 50th anniversary of the University of West Indies, Hall had noted that the 1998 event occurred at the same time as the 50th anniversary of the docking of the SS Empire Windrush in the UK. That landing began a new history of post war Caribbean migration to the UK.

Hall arrived in the UK as a Rhodes Scholar in 1951. His life was a Caribbean life away, a diasporic life in which the new meanings of home were constructed while retaining  echoes of the former home. How could one forget the 1991 seven part documentary series which he narrated, Redemption Song that deeply explored the past and present of the Caribbean? Hall was a Caribbean intellectual, one who was part and parcel of the post war Afro- Caribbean migration experience.  That he did not  return   ‘home’ like others,  George Lamming,  or Sylvia Wynter (who returned for a while) and others did not mean that he was not Caribbean. What it meant was that the Caribbean was now working through a different geographical and cultural location. He himself noted: ‘The fate of the Caribbean people living in the UK, the USA or Canada is no more “external” to Caribbean history than the Empire was “external” to the so called domestic history of Britain.’

Living at the heart of the British colonial empire in its dying days and on the cusp of regional political independence was both a formidable intellectual and political challenge for Hall.  These challenges remained with him for a long time and as he said in an interview in 2012, ‘I am not quite English.’ Hall’s preoccupation with Diaspora and race emerged out of this conundrum which he navigated. There is profound connection between Hall’s life and his writings and thinking about Diaspora and race for as he once said in a debate with a conservative political figure in London. ‘You cannot have at the back of your head what I have in mine. You once owned me on a plantation.’

When Hall became involved in British left politics it was at a moment when orthodox Marxism was reeling from the exposures and revelations of the brutalities of Stalinism. If in 1956, another Caribbean figure, Aime Cesaire resigned  from the French Communist Party stating that not only the bodies  murdered by Stalin  were an eloquent testimony to the negative practices of  orthodox communism but that the colonial  and race problems  required new and different readings of  how societies were constituted, Hall along with others in 1960 founded the New Left Review  as one attempt to construct a new left politics. This desire to construct a different left politics which was not a distant cousin of orthodox Marxism (what he would call in 1986 in an article on ideology, ‘Marxism without guarantees’) was critical to Hall’s intellectual and political life. Indeed his work as the central founder of the field of Cultural Studies at Birmingham University was not so much about a study of the popular but more about thinking around the relationships between power and culture. It was to understand culture as a complex phenomenon which was always contested but importantly he believed  that one could not think politically without grappling with the yeast of culture. It was this  understanding which  made it possible for him to coin the term ‘Thatcherism’ as a hegemonic cluster of ideas which were not just political but deeply rooted in  the cultural and social history of Britain.

Hall’s political thinking in recent years was to grapple with the ideas inaugurated by Thatcher and others  and what he called a year ago the ‘neo-liberal revolution.’ He reminds us that Thatcher once said, ‘the object is to change the soul.’ In grappling with this new ideological configuration, Hall posited two sets of ideas amongst many which might be in part legacies for us today. The first is the notion of contingency. The idea that social and political life is not fixed, that there is no formal closure and therefore there is fluidity in what seems fixed and frozen. It is an important idea because it always means that in the darkest of times there are always ‘points of light.’  The second is one which he took from the Italian political thinker, Antonio Gramsci — the idea of ‘common sense.’ His challenge to us was that we should understand how common sense gets  formed.  In  an  article written by himself and Alan O‘Shea  in December 2013, he argued that  the ‘assumption that everyone is obviously going to agree with what is being proposed is in fact a means of securing that agreement.’   He also noted that the idea that ‘we all share common sense values … is a powerful legitimation strategy.’

That months before his death  Hall and others worked on the Kilburn Manifesto a document about the possibilities of renewing  the left in Britain is indicative of a force field of determination. But perhaps even more so it was indicative of   his deep desire to confront the world as we know it and challenge its assumptions. In London, Hall’s contribution to visual culture is well known particularly his work with the group of Black Photographers and the establishment of Rivington Place. Hall had that rare gift of discerning the contours of the world in which we live. With unmatched generosity he worked across generations. He was open to the future and to the possibilities of a different world as he practiced a form of engaged listening and dialogue. For those of us at the Centre for Caribbean Thought he is a seminal figure and thinker of the 20thcentury.”

Brian Meeks, Professor of Social and Political Change, Director SALISES, The University of the West Indies, Mona
Anthony Bogues, Lyn Crost Professor of Social Sciences and Critical Theory ,
Professor of Africana Studies, Director, Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice, Brown University
Rupert Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Political Thought, The University of the West Indies, Mona
 
Updated: February 22, 2014

In Memoriam: Peter Johnson (1960-2013)

Peter Johnson - Want Freedom (2012), alabaster - shown in the 2012 National Biennial

Peter Johnson – Want Freedom (2012), alabaster

The NGJ regrets the passing of the sculptor Peter Ralph Johnson. He was born on April 4, 1960 and most recently lived at 17 James Street, in downtown Kingston, where he operated his sculpture workshop.

Johnson was essentially self-taught as an artist, although he attended some leisure classes at the Edna Manley College. He also worked in the studio of artists such as Fitz Harrack and Judith Salmon. He collaborated with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission for many years, mounting exhibitions and doing set, costume design and restoring antiques. He also worked with Mutual Gallery, Gallery Pegasus and Grosvenor, mainly assisting with the mounting of exhibitions. He was a regular participant in the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition and was awarded bronze medals in 1982 1993 and 1996 and he had also exhibited at the NGJ in 2012 National Biennial. Johnson exhibited at various other galleries, including the Grosvenor Gallery and Gallery Pegasus. Most recently he was collaborating with the children’s workshops organized by OAaSIS International in downtown Kingston. Continue reading

Michael Parchment (1957-2013)

Michael Parchment - Death of a Don (2010)

Michael Parchment – Death of a Don (2010)

The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets the passing of the painter, sculptor and poet Michael Parchment on Tuesday, August 20, 2013.

Michael Parchment was born on August 13, 1957 to a Revival family and he lived in Seaview Gardens in Kingston for most of his adult life. Called by visions, he started painting in 1978 and had his first exhibition in 1983. He was a regular participant in the Festival Fine Arts Exhibition (later the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition), where he won many accolades, including Gold medals in 2006 and 2007. He regularly exhibited at Harmony Hall, the Mutual Gallery and the National Gallery of Jamaica in Jamaica, where he won the Tribute to Bob Marley Competition in 2005 with his relief panting No Woman Nuh Cry (2005). He was featured in the National Gallery’s Intuitives III exhibition in 2006. Parchment also exhibited internationally in the USA, Venezuala, England and Switzerland, and Canada and was recently featured in Contemporary Jamaican Art, Circa 1962/Circa 2012, which was staged on the occasion of Jamaica 50 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga near Toronto. He also self-published several volumes of his poetry, which had titles such as I Raged in Chains and The Inna Thoughts and Feelings of the Poet.

Michael Parchment - No Woman Nuh Cry, 2005

Michael Parchment – No Woman Nuh Cry (2005), Collection: NGJ

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Wilfred “Jabba” Francis (1924-2013)

Wilfred Francis - Ethiopia Stretches Forth Her Hand (1968), Collection: Wayne Chen

Wilfred Francis – Ethiopia Stretches Forth Her Hands (1968), Collection: Wayne Chen

The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets the passing of self-taught artist Wilfred Francis on August 21, 2013.

Wilfred Francis, who was popularly known as “Jabba”, was born in Spanish Town on August 24, 1924 – he died just three days short of his 89th birthday – and started painting sometime in 1966. His first exhibition on record was the 1967 Festival exhibition, where his work was favourably received, but Francis withdrew from the formal art world shortly after although he continued working, reportedly because of negative experiences with art patrons. Nearly forty years later, he started exhibiting again, encouraged by art dealer and collector Wayne Gallimore, and in 2004 had his first and only solo exhibition at the Mutual Gallery. His unique style and eccentric, visionary imagination were a revelation to many in the Jamaican art world and late in life he acquired a small but enthusiastic following of collectors.

Wilfred Francis at his Kingston home and studio in 2006 (photo: Veerle Poupeye)

Wilfred Francis at his Kingston home and studio in 2006 (photo: Veerle Poupeye)

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In Memoriam: Fitzroy “Fitz” Harrack (1945-2013)

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The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets to announce that the master sculptor Fitzroy (Fitz) Harrack has passed away on January 10, 2013.

Born in 1945 in St John’s, Grenada, Harrack received his early artistic training in Grenada and then Trinidad before attending the Jamaica School of Art (later Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts) on a scholarship. Upon his graduation in 1969, Harrack settled in Jamaica and began exhibiting in group and solo shows at well-known venues such as the Bolivar Gallery and the Institute of Jamaica. He was a regular exhibitor at the National Gallery of Jamaica where he participated as an invited artist in the Annual National exhibition and subsequently, the National Biennial. He was one of the artists selected for the prestigious Jamaican Art 1922-1982 exhibition, a major survey of modern Jamaican art which was toured in the USA, Canada and Haiti 1983 to 1985 by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. He most recently exhibited at the National Gallery in the 2008 National Biennial, to which he contributed a metal mask, and in the inaugural exhibition of the Guy McIntosh Donation, which included a major, untitled and undated abstract carving.

Fitz Harrack - The Disadvantaged (1973), Collection: NGJ

Fitz Harrack – The Disadvantaged (1973), Collection: NGJ

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In Memoriam: Gaston Lascelles Tabois (1924-2012)

Gaston Tabois – John Canoe in Guanaboa Vale (1962), Collection: NGJ

I put out my effort. Hopefully I’ll die very old having accomplished a lot of good for mankind.

Gaston Tabois, 1987

The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets to announce that the Jamaican Intuitive artist Gaston Lascelles Tabois passed away earlier this week, on November 20, 2012.

Gaston Lascelles Tabois, circa 2010

Gaston Tabois was born in Trout Hall, Clarendon in 1924 but grew up in the small community of Rock River. He spent quite a bit of time on his parents’ small farm, but it was the solid work ethic that was instilled in him by instruction and example particularly that of his mother who insisted on the importance of him taking his educational opportunities seriously.

Gaston Tabois – Road Menders (1956), Collection: NGJ

His artistic talent was apparent from an early age as his elementary school teachers regularly tasked him with making charts for the classes. His dedication to self improvement saw him teaching himself Latin, Spanish, History and Mathematics but it was art that remained a constant in his life, even with his entry into the civil service.  Tabois eventually became the Acting Chief Draftsman in the Ministry of Construction but it was his artistic production that brought him national attention. As a self taught painter,he held his first solo show at the Hills Gallery in Kingston in 1955, where he was immediately hailed as one of the era’s most significant “primitive” painters. He continued exhibiting with the Hills Gallery for several years and his painting Road Menders (1956), which is now a prized part of the NGJ Collection, was originally shown there. Continue reading