In Memoriam, Susan Shirley (1950 – 2019)

Mat183-SusanShirley, Building with Fret work

Susan Shirley – Building with Fretwork, 1999

In light of the passing of American-born painter Susan Shirley in October 2019, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) recognizes her for her contribution to the visual arts community. 

Born in 1950, Michigan, USA, she was formally trained at Michigan State University (MSU) where she earned her degree in Design at the College of Human Ecology with a Minor in Fine Art. After completing her studies she worked as a commercial Interior Designer in Detroit, Michigan, specializing in Architectural Renderings and Presentation.

Mrs. Shirley made Jamaica her home in 1976 after migrating to the island with her Jamaican husband, Greg Shirley. Determined to make a positive impact in Jamaica through her passion for art, she continued free-lance design and was encouraged by Grenadian sculptor Fitz Harrack, whom she met as a colleague while teaching art at the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) in Kingston. Mrs. Shirley held and participated in many solo and group exhibitions throughout her career, including her participation in the 2004 Jamaica National Biennial exhibition. Among her repertoire of exhibitions, she has showcased her works in places such as Toronto, Antigua, Miami and New York. Within the art community in Jamaica, she is particularly known for her still-life studies, as well as her detailed watercolour works of old Jamaican houses. One example of the latter is Building with Fret Work, which was included in the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon donation to the NGJ permanent collection in 1999. 

Shirley’s lifetime passions included volunteer projects that appealed to her interest in history, archaeology and art. One perfect example of that was demonstrated when she championed for the restoration of the Rio Nuevo Battle Site in St. Mary, enamoured with that aspect of Jamaican history. Alongside her husband, she enthusiastically presented a case on the significance of the Battle site, the Rio Nuevo Battle Site Association was awarded the management agreement by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in August 2004 and Mrs. Shirley was appointed Curator of the Rio Nuevo Battle Site museum.

The NGJ’s Board of Directors, management and staff remembers Susan Shirley for her commitment to preserving aspects of Jamaican heritage and the value she added to the visual arts community. 

For Further Reading:

Shirley, Susan. “Biography” 

“10 Things You Didn’t Know About Susan Shirley.” The Gleaner, January 13, 2013. 

Silvera, Janet. “Susan Shirley: A Passion For Preserving Jamaica’s History.” The Gleaner, May 26, 2013.    


Between November 2019 and March 2020, the Jamaican artistic community lost some of its most important personalities. At the National Gallery of Jamaica, it was our wish to honour the memory of these notables through our In Memoriam blog series. However, due to the rapid succession of these saddening announcements, we were greatly challenged to prepare and produce our articles in a manner that coincided with the other memorial or funerary activities being undertaken by the bereaved. 

Additionally, the emergence of the COVID-19 health crisis in Jamaica has severely impacted our daily operations, as we join the rest of our island in our adherence to the public health directives being implemented by the Jamaican Government. 

It is with the deepest respect, that we are now able to post our tributes to: 

Susan Shirley (1950 – 2019)

Rafiki Karuiki (1951 – 2020)

Michael Stanley (1944 – 2020)

Alexander Cooper (1934 – 2020)

Wallace Campbell (1940 – 2020)

Beverley Oliver (1956 – 2020) 

As you read these tributes, we encourage you, our audience, to consider that each of these individuals have been integral in the practice and promotion of the visual arts of Jamaica for most of their lives. Whether this has been through the creation of impactful works of art, demonstrations of exemplary technical skill or in the active support for the arts through patronage and voluntary service, they have all added to and enriched the history, ideas and innovations that characterize Jamaican creative culture. 

Please note that none of these individuals passed away due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

NOTICE: Closed to Public


The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has announced the closure of cultural and sport facilities, including museums, galleries, and stadia run by the government.

Minister Grange says the closures — with effect from Saturday, 14 March 2020 — are in keeping with the Government’s strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica and to minimise the potential health impact on the country.

The facilities that will be closed to the public are:

  • African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank;
  • Alexander Bustamante boyhood home at Blenheim, Hanover 
  • Bustamante Museum at Tucker Avenue, St Andrew;
  • Paul Bogle Memorial Park at Stony Gut, St Thomas;
  • Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey;
  • IOJ Junior Centres; 
  • Simón Bolívar Cultural Centre;
  • Fort Charles;
  • National Gallery of Jamaica;
  • Seville Heritage Park;
  • National Gallery West;
  • Natural History Museum of Jamaica;
  • National Museum Jamaica; 
  • Jamaica Music Museum;
  • National Library of Jamaica;
  • National Stadium;
  • National Aquatics Centre;
  • and Trelawny Stadium

Source: The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport

Introducing First Saturdays: Hard Road to Travel

First Saturdays Flyer

Beginning in March 2020, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will be hosting a film series entitled First Saturdays, which will be held on the first Saturdays of March, April, May and June of this year. This film series has been initiated as a part of the public programming associated with the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition, which opened to the public on February 2, 2020 and is scheduled to close on June 28, 2020.  

The NGJ will commence the film series on Saturday March 7, 2020 with the documentary film Hard Road To Travel: The Making of the Harder They Come, by Jamaican film-maker Chris Browne. Hard Road To Travel explores the two-year journey undertaken by Jamaican film-maker Perry Henzell to film and release the iconic 1972 film The Harder They Come, for which Henzell was both director and co- writer alongside Trevor Rhone. The documentary highlights the struggles of Jamaica’s early film industry, while simultaneously providing a lens through which a period of Jamaican music can be explored and interpreted. Chris Browne’s own filmography includes another outstanding Jamaican feature film, Third World Cop (1999), as well as his more recent Ghett’a Life (2011). 

The film screening of Hard Road To Travel: The Making of the Harder They Come is scheduled to commence at 1:30pm. Attendance to the event is free of cost and is open to the public. Visitors are also being encouraged to view the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition prior to the beginning of the film. For further details, contact the National Gallery of Jamaica at (876) 618-0654, (876) 922-1561 or (876) 922-1563.

Last Sundays to ft. Heavyweight Rockaz

Heavyweight Rockaz_Flyer

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for February 23, 2020 will feature the most recently opened exhibition Jamaica Jamaica! and a musical performance by Heavyweight Rockaz.

Co-curated by Sebastien Carayol  (Independent Curator), Herbie Miller (Director/Curator Jamaica Music Museum) and O’Neil Lawrence (Chief Curator National Gallery of Jamaica), the exhibition takes a look at the beginnings of Jamaican music and how it evolved into an international phenomenon. Utilizing art and artifact, video and interactive technology, it looks at the musical genres of Kumina, Revival, Mento, Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dub and Dancehall as well as the local culture and figures that influenced their development.


Interlocking to produce musical patterns you can feel through a sound system, the drum and bass are core elements of Reggae Music. As a Drum ‘n’ Bass duo Heavyweight Rockaz uses this synergy to create relatable music that you can groove to. Members Unga Barunga and WelshBass started a new phase of their musical journey in 2013 as Heavyweight Rockaz and had their debut performance at Wickie Wackie Live in December 2014.

The two met in early 2000 while still attending college and have been collaborating since with the goal of unifying others through their music. They have worked with the likes of Tanya Stephens, Jesse Royal and Jimmy Cliff and have performed at venues locally and internationally. Heavyweight Rockaz aims to release new music this Reggae Month including an album and the song Sweet Sensation featuring Jesse Royal.

Doors will open to the public from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The performance will begin at 1:30 p.m. As is customary on Last Sundays, entry is free, but contributions to the Donations Box located in the lobby are appreciated. 

These donations help to fund our Last Sundays events. The National Gallery’s Gift Shop and Coffee Shop will also be open for business.

Last Sundays to ft. Chris Malachi

Chris Malachi_Flyer

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for January 26, 2020 will feature a musical performance by the singer Chris Malachi.

Chris Malachi is a musical artiste on a mission to impact the hearts of people through his potent lyrics, soul-stirring vocal delivery and genre-bending sounds, grounded in Jamaican culture. Malachi, a name that means “one who is charged with a message”, encapsulates his belief in the transformative power of good and honest music.


His musical journey started at an early age when his parents noticed his ability to remember songs from church as he often learned and practiced them on the keyboard at home. This prompted them to enroll him in piano classes. As time progressed, he joined the church choir- his first platform as a vocalist and performer. He also developed an interest in poetry and songwriting through English Language and Literature classes in high school. During his time as a student of the University Of The West Indies, Chris joined several performance and musical groups, where he had the opportunity to perform many different styles of music, ranging from Jazz to Roots Reggae. These experiences gave him the tools to hone his skills as vocalist, writer, musical arranger and co-producer for much of his work.

The line “Malachi rise up fi build di nation, calling everyone from one to pension” from his debut single, All I’ve Got, speaks to his personal development and encourages his generation to be the leaders of purpose that he knows they were born to be.

On August 31, 2019, Malachi released his debut EP “The Messenger” alongside producer J.L.L.

Doors will open to the public from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The performance will begin at 1:30 p.m. As is customary on Last Sundays, guided tours are free, but contributions to the Donations Box located in the Coffee Shop are appreciated. These donations help to fund our Last Sundays events. The National Gallery’s Gift Shop and Coffee Shop will also be open for business.