Exhibition Opening: National Gallery of Jamaica Summer Exhibition 2019

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for July 28, 2019 will feature the opening of the inaugural National Gallery of Jamaica Summer Exhibition 2019 and features a musical performance by Jaz Elise. The keynote speaker will be The Honourable Olivia Grange MP, CD, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. 

This exhibition was developed in the tradition of previous open-submission art exhibitions staged by the National Gallery since 1974. Notable predecessors include the Annual National, the National Biennial and the Jamaica Biennial exhibitions. Similar to those exhibitions, the NGJ Summer Show is comprised of an invited and a juried section and the summer show seeks to unearth new artistic talent, as well as provide an enriching perspective on the already diverse and exciting cohort of Jamaican visual artists, both locally and abroad. A total of one hundred and ninety-two (192) artworks, produced by one hundred and fifteen (115) artists were reviewed by three judges: art historians Petrina Dacres and Erica Moiah James, as well as exhibition designer Sara Shabaka.  The resulting exhibition show will feature ninety-nine (97) artworks, by sixty-eight (68) Jamaican artists, based locally and overseas.

Artworks in the exhibition take on many forms: sculpture, fibre and textile arts, painting, photography, mixed media works, as well as large-scale installations. As is expected with any open submission-based art show, the themes explored by our artists are diverse. Some of the more timeless ones include issues surrounding gender, ancestry, the environment, personas and personalities.

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Raised and molded in the strongly cultured City of Kingston Jamaica, Jaz Elise is an artiste who is on a mission to make great songs and uplift and spread positivity. Born Jasmine Taylor, she began singing in the children’s choir at age 5 and continued to pursue it throughout her life. Jaz Elise also has extensive experience in dancing and acting, performing in the Quilt Performing Arts Company and co-starring in films such as Capture Land (Directed by Nabil Elderkin) and Proscenium. Her style is a mixture of soulful melodies and DJ style and her aim is to tell real stories, give real perspectives and to entertain through her music.

The National Gallery of Jamaica will be open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The formalities will begin at 1:30 pm and the performance will follow afterwards. As per usual on Last Sundays, admission is free, but contributions to our Donations Box, located in the lobby, are appreciated. These donations help to fund our in house exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming. The National Gallery’s Gift Shop and Coffee Shop will be open for business.

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Last Sundays: Lupus Awareness Month

Lupus Awareness Month_Flyer

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programming for the month of May will be the last opportunity to view mark The 25th Art of Reggae Exhibition. It will also feature a screening of the film The Lupus Life and special musical by performances by Evad Campbell and Roshane Wright.

May is Lupus Awareness Month and as part of its observances the National Gallery in partnership with The Music House, will be screening the short documentary film The Lupus Life. Directed by Kevin Jackson the film will offer our audience a glimpse into the daily struggle with the oftentimes invisible disease lupus. Following the film there will also be musical performances by former and current students of The Music House: Evad Campbell and Roshane Wright.

Born and raised in Kingston, Evad Campbell is a keyboardist, musical director, arranger and soundtrack producer. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music Degree at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, with a goal to contribute to the further development of Jamaica’s musical industry. Campbell returns to Jamaica regularly during his breaks from his studies to work with local groups such as Ashe and the UWI Panoridim Steel Orchestra.

Former president and advisor for the RD Drummers, Roshane Wright is a professional percussionist, playing for various artists and performing arts groups such as Jamique Ensemble, Apollo Tafari and L’Acadco: A United Caribbean Dance Force. He has received numerous awards for his drumming and arrangements and is preparing to further his studies at the Humber College in Toronto, Canada.

The National Gallery of Jamaica will be open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, with the entertainment beginning at 1:30 p.m. As per usual on Last Sundays, admission is free, but contributions to our Donations Box, located in the lobby, are appreciated. These donations help to fund our in house exhibitions and our Last Sundays programming. The National Gallery’s Gift Shop and Coffee Shop will be open for business.

SOUND AND VISION: MUSIC AND SOUND IN THE WORK OF KAPO, EVERALD BROWN AND WOODY JOSEPH – Part III

Everald Brown - Niabinghi Hour (1969), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Niabinghi Hour (1969), Collection: NGJ

Here is the third and final of a three-part blog post series based on a lecture presented by NGJ Executive Director, Dr Veerle Poupeye, at the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation programme of February 16, 2014.

Everald Brown, to turn to my last and main case study, was born in Mado District, deep rural St Ann in 1917 and died in New York City in 2003, where he was visiting with one of his children. In another example of rural to urban migration, Brother Brown, who was a carpenter by trade, and his young wife Jenny moved to West Kingston in 1947. They settled at 82 ½ Spanish Town Road, at a yard which also housed a Zion Revival band and a Kumina community. The 1940s and 50s were a period of Rastafarian ferment in West Kingston and Brother Brown was attracted by the teachings of Joseph Hibbert, a pioneering exponent who emphasized the mystical, religious aspects of Rastafari. Like many religious Rastafari, Brother Brown found inspiration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as the authentic Christian church from the African Zion and around 1960 Brother Brown established an informal mission of the EOC, which he named the Assembly of the Living. Brother Brown and his family were baptised in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church when this denomination was formally established in Jamaica in 1970 and he was initially an active member, who for instance constructed the EOC cathedral’s Ark of the Covenant, but his beliefs and practices were far from orthodox, and combined elements of Rastafari, Revival, Kumina, and Freemasonry – all of which are also evident in his artistic work. The question thus arises whether Brother Brown can be labelled as a Rastafarian artist. As I wrote in the 2004 Everald Brown retrospective catalogue:

I believe that to insist that Brother Brown was a Rastafarian artist, in any narrow sense, would be as short-sighted and incorrect as to suggest that he wasn’t. First of all, it is inappropriate to impose any narrow, rigid definitions on Rastafari itself, a religious and political belief system that is, except for a few groups, devoid of the dogmatism that characterizes organized religion and allows for significant personal interpretation. While many Rastafarians have been critical of traditional Afro-Jamaican religious and magical beliefs and practices, especially Obeah, there is in fact considerable cultural and religious continuity between Rastafari and Revival and Kumina. Furthermore, religious Rastafari does not necessarily exist in opposition to Christianity but often incorporates it, hence the attraction to elements of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Inevitably, there are tensions and contradictions in such syncretic beliefs—the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for instance, does not recognize the divinity of Haile Selassie I and no doubt takes a dim view of Jamaican spiritualism—but these are an integral and legitimate part of cultural and ideological dynamics of these beliefs. It is therefore more productive to think of Jamaican Rastafarian culture as a broad, fluid and open-ended cultural spectrum or sphere, which overlaps and interacts with other local and transnational cultural spheres, such as those of the traditional Afro-Jamaican religions. If approached from that perspective, it becomes a lot less problematic to define Brother Brown’s work as ‘Rastafarian art.’

Brother Brown’s small, self-built church on Spanish Town Road was decorated with paintings and Brown also produced various ritual objects and musical instruments which were used by his church community, which consisted mainly of his own extended family. He was discovered as an artist in the late 1960s, by Janet Grant-Woodham, who was Folklore Research Officer at the Institute of Jamaica, and some of the radical young intellectuals at the University of the West Indies, such as Timothy Callender, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and Eleanor Wint, who brokered his first exhibition at the Creative Arts Centre in 1969. Brother Brown started exhibiting regularly since then, in the 1970s often jointly with his young son Clinton Brown, who also painted and produced musical instruments.

Everald Brown surrounded by his work at the Assembly of the Living, c1971

Everald Brown surrounded by his work at the Assembly of the Living, c1971

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SOUND AND VISION: MUSIC AND SOUND IN THE WORK OF KAPO, EVERALD BROWN AND WOODY JOSEPH – Part II

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We now present the second of a three-part blog post series based on a lecture presented by NGJ Executive Director, Dr Veerle Poupeye, at the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation programme of February 16, 2014.

But let me now turn to the more specific instance of music and art in Jamaica. Music plays a pivotal role in Jamaican culture and this is predictably and prominently reflected in the country’s visual art. Much of this has to do with the performative character of popular, African-derived religions in Jamaica, which make very active ritual use of music and dance. The three artists who are the focus of this presentation – Kapo, Everald Brown, and Woody – all came from such context. Pioneering research was done by Olive Lewin, Janet Grant-Woodham and others on the music produced by the church communities of Kapo and Everald Brown. Not being a music specialist myself, I have little to add to the research on their music and my focus is instead on the represented and implied music in their work. Everald Brown was also an instrument-maker and his instruments qualify as works of art in their own right, so I am also discussing these in this presentation.

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds was born in 1911 in Byndloss, St Catherine and died in 1989. He received his first vision at age 16 and started preaching in the country side. Like many young rural men and women of his generation, Kapo soon moved to Kingston in search of opportunity and settled in Trench Town, where he established his Zion Revival Church, the St Michael Tabernacle. Kapo started painting and sculpting in the 1940s and 50s and rose to local and international prominence as a major artist and cultural icon in the 1960s, aided by the support he received from Edward Seaga and also from others, such as the first Tourism Director John Pringle and the American art impresario Selden Rodman.

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SOUND AND VISION: MUSIC AND SOUND IN THE WORK OF KAPO, EVERALD BROWN AND WOODY JOSEPH – Part I

Everald Brown - Bush Have Ears (1976), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Bush Have Ears (1976), Collection: NGJ

This is the first of a three-part blog post series based on a lecture presented by NGJ Executive Director, Dr Veerle Poupeye, at the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation programme of February 16, 2014. The lecture’s topic is relevant to the current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality Exhibition, which continues until April 27, 2014.

The theme of this year’s Grounation series is “seeing sounds and hearing images” and my presentation invites you to do just that. I will not use sound in my presentation, but I will appeal to your imagination, to “see the sounds” and “hear the images” in the work of three major Jamaican artists: the painter and sculptor Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, who was a Revival leader; the painter, sculptor and musical instrument-maker Everald Brown, who was a religious Rastafari leader and a pioneer of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; and the sculptor William “Woody” Joseph, who had no specific religious affiliation but was part of the cultural sphere of Revival. Everald Brown is an artist I have focused on in my original research, writing, and curatorial work since the mid-1980s and I curated his retrospective for the National Gallery in 2004, so he will be my main case study in this presentation.

Everald Brown - Everlasting King (1987), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Everlasting King (198), Collection: NGJ

At first sight – and the pun is intentional – visual art may seem to speak an exclusively visual language. Yet we all know that to be untrue. Art arguably appeals to all the senses, most obviously also to touch but potentially also to taste, smell and, for that matter, hearing. Those who work in art museums and galleries know how difficult it is prevent visitors from touching the art on view, because it powerfully appeals to the sense of touch, and anybody who has spent some time in an artist’s studio must be familiar with the distinctive smells of various art materials. Most works of art are as such mute but there is a powerful connection between sound and vision which has played a major role in the development of art and music alike and from time immemorial. A 2008 Science Daily article asserted that music played an important role in the ritual production and use of ancient cave art and that early musical instruments, such as bone flutes, are therefore often found in close proximity to ancient cave paintings. The relationship between art and music and the capacity of one to support the other has also been a major preoccupation in modern art, for instance in the work of the Swiss artist Paul Klee, whose abstract paintings were often based on musical interpretation. Music and the visual are also closely intertwined in the popular music industry, in the production of record covers, posters, concert backdrops, fashions and other visual materials, and the association between reggae and graphic design has played an important role in the development of Jamaican visual culture, with several major local designers such as Neville Garrick emerging. More recently, with the development of video and digital art, actual sound has become part of many works of art and sound and music have thereby entered the conventionally hushed environment of the art museum and gallery. It is now a trend for galleries and museums to have a resident deejay to create soundscapes for the museum environment, as was recently done at the Tate Modern and, even, the venerable Metropolitan Museum. Continue reading