This Tuesday February 12, 2019 the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will be opening the 25th Art of Reggae Exhibition held by the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC). At the NGJ, we will have the top 100 designs on view, in addition to the winning 2018 entry by Vinicio Sejas of Bolivia. The posters in this exhibition will give an expansive view of how reggae may be interpreted and represented from a variety of perspectives.
The IRPC was founded in 2011 by graphic designers Michael Thompson (1958-2016) and Maria Papaefstathiou. The contest aims to highlight how widespread and impactful reggae has become across the globe. Its long term aim, is to construct a Reggae Hall of Fame museum and performance centre in Kingston, Jamaica that lauds Jamaican music in all it’s capacities, forms and iterations.
“I am thrilled that the 25th International Reggae Poster Contest Exhibition will be held at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston, three months after the show at the Sangster International Airport. Almost seven years ago, the very first exhibition was held at the National Gallery. I must thank the Acting Director, Dr. Jonathan Greenland, and our sponsors Geoff Lewis, owner of PaperBoy and Dr. Rafael Echevarne, CEO of MBJ airports, who all immediately embraced the idea. Reggae Music has the power to draw creative people from around the world to participate in this poster contest, which is such an excellent manifestation of Bob Marley’s “One Love” vision.” – Maria Papaefstathiou
Another major goal of the IRPC is to raise awareness and support for the Alpha Boys School, which has produced a number of notable reggae icons such as artists Desmond Dekker, Yellowman and Don Drummond of the Skatalites. The IRPC believes that the school should become a template for other vocational institutions of its kind.
Taj Francis – The Upsetter (2012), fifth place winner in the First International Reggae Poster Contest
The Jamaican graphic designer and illustrator Taj Francis placed fifth in the International Reggae Poster Contest, of which the best 100 entries can currently be seen at the NGJ. His poster is a tribute to “The Upsetter” – Lee Scratch Perry. The design not only captures this seminal Jamaican musician’s eccentric appearance but also visualizes Scratch’s dub philosophy, as related to Doug Wendt in an interview from the mid 1990s:
“Everyone who started dub music must have heart. Your heart goes boop boop, boop-boop; that’s the beat of the drum. A brain goes tick-tick, tick tick; that’s the bass. Your brain is your bass and your heart is your drum. So make sure your heart is not corrupted because what you send out comes back to your heart. If you send out a good heartwave it’ll come back with a dub you see flying in a cloud of good news. So you start from a good heart and a clean brain – drum and bass. You can have guitarists and pianists around, if they are not confusing, but I prefer drum and bass”
Taj is a recent graduate of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Art, with a major in Illustration and has been doing art for as long as he can remember. The media used for his artworks are the usual pen and ink, brush and ink, spray paint, and digital illustration and painting and he thus combines traditional and new media. Taj has a unique graphic style which relies on elaborate, psychedelic patterns, contrasting textures, 3-D effects offset against 2-D backgrounds, and bold splashes of colour – it can be described as “contemporary baroque” and resonates with Jamaican and global pop culture. His artwork is inspired by music, a strong social conscience, and a passion for what he does. Much of his current free-lance work is for the music industry and he is also working on a clothing line where he does custom artwork on sneakers.