The work of self-taught painter and sculptor Everald Brown is best understood in the context of religious Rastafari and African-Jamaican spirituality. Like many other religious Rastafarians, Brother Brown was attracted to the teachings and ritual practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and in the early 1960s established the Assembly of the Living, a self-styled mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which was located at 82 ½ Spanish Town Road. The beliefs, ritual practices and symbols of Brother Brown and his church community were however far from “orthodox’” and freely combined elements of religious Rastafari, Freemasonry, Kumina, Revival, and Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.
This eclectic spirituality is evident throughout Everald Brown’s artistic work, most obviously in those works that depict his own ritual practices and mystical symbols but it is also implied in his landscapes and his depictions of rocks and vegetation. In these works, nature is celebrated for its bountifulness to humankind, as the material incarnation of the divine. Brother Brown’s preoccupation with this theme became more pronounced after he moved his family to Murray Mountain, in the hills of St Ann in 1973. Inspired by the grandiose vistas and suggestive erosions and vegetation of the limestone landscape of central Jamaica, his mystical imagination took full flight, leading to paintings such as Bush Have Ears (1976) that reflect a vision of nature and the land in which everything is imbued with spiritual meaning and ancient truths, to be revealed by the artist-mystic. Brown’s “natural mysticism” is also evident in the later Cotton Duppy Tree (1994), although the ghostly cotton tree in this work is more obviously linked to Jamaican popular culture, in which the cotton tree is seen as a dwelling space for spirits and an “axis mundi” which links the earthly and spiritual realms.