The Explorations IV: Masculinities exhibition opens today, Sunday, December 6. Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm. The opening function starts at 1:30 pm, with Dr Michael Bucknor as guest speaker. DJ Biko is providing music today. As a continuation of our blog posts on the exhibition, please read more about the theme of Gallery 6: Fathers, Brothers and Sons:
One of the most pervasive negative stereotypes affecting (black) Jamaican masculinity pertains to fatherhood: the absent, irresponsible father who fails his children and provides a negative role model for his sons. It is no doubt for this reason that images of black fathers and children are rare in Jamaican art, while images of motherhood are quite common. Two examples are featured in this gallery: Leonard Morris’ Mountain Folk (1953), which was originally in Edna Manley’s collection, and Rose Murray’s Rasta Father and Child (1975), which documents the emphasis on positive father roles in the context of Rastafari. Murray’s Seated Boy (1975), a portrait of a young Rastafarian boy, does not include a father figure but implies his presence. Greg Bailey’s Recruits (2014) represents a troubling counterpoint, pertaining to how the absence of positive male role models draws young boys into the culture of gangs and guns.
While images of fatherhood are as such rare, there is no shortage of artistic depictions of patriarchal figures, family, and homosocial interaction (and homosocial here refers to non-romantic and non-sexual interactions among men, although the term is also used to describe similar interactions between women). Such works shed revealing light on Jamaican cultural practices and value systems and, specifically, the life world of Jamaican men. Kapo’s Father Abraham (c1955), for instance, speaks about the relevance of biblical notions about patriarchy with which the artist, who was a Revivalist leader, surely identified. Similar conceptions of patriarchy can be seen in the work of Everald Brown, who was an elder in the local Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the patriarch of a small, but artistically very active family-based church group. Family, in its extended sense, is a significant theme in the work of both artists and often focuses on male family relationships. Brown’s mystical Ethiopian Apple (1970) features his sons drumming around a hybrid figure – half human and half Otaheite Apple – which may be a self-portrait of Brown and an evocation of His Imperial Majesty. Kapo’s Trouble Not (1964) is a powerful image of brotherhood and male solidarity, which provides shelter against the outside world. Roy Lawrence’s Game (1974) has a similar quality and represents a closely-knit group of men (or boys) who are involved in a game of dice, obviously gambling for money, and the game represents an intense moment of homosocial interaction.
Alvin Marriott’s Boysie (1962), finally, was created in the year of Jamaica’s independence and represents a handsome young man. His nickname alludes to his position in a family context, as somebody’s son.