New Roots: Ikem Smith


Ikem Smith is a multimedia artist born in Kingston, Jamaica. He is a recent graduate of the Edna Manley College of The Visual and Performing Arts where he earned his BFA in Visual Communication. He has directed a number of music videos and continues to dabble in music production and animation.

Artist’s Statement

Tools of trade, image and spoken word. Sorting through the stream of information presented to me by the news, the church, my parents and trying respond in ways that I feel right or necessary. This work is my voice and one of my first responses to living life in this young Jamaica at the beginning of the twenty first century. Continue reading

Young Talent V: Oneika Russell

Oneika Russell - Still from Drift (2010), written and produced by Tanya Davies


Oneika Russell was born in 1980, in Kingston, Jamaica. She was educated at Goldsmith’s College, University College of London, Centre for Cultural Studies (MA in Interactive Arts) and at the Edna Manley College, where she studied Painting. She was a Commonwealth Foundation Arts & Crafts Awardee in 2007, which was conducted at the Post-Museum in Singapore. She currently resides in Kyoto, Japan, where she is conducting postgraduate research at the Kyoto Seika University, Film, Video and Media Arts Department. Oneika also edits Art:Jamaica, a blog on contemporary art from the perspective of a young Jamaican artist.

Artist’s Statement

My current work consists of drawings, objects, digital animations and video. Characters and stories are the basis of my work. Many of the stories are my own inventions, reworked from the romanticized memories of images and tales of literary sources and mass media. My images are sequential and often episodic as I use reoccurring figures to suggest stories witch are in the Western psyche but filtered through my experience as a part of the Jamaican culture.  The work is often done as animations, mixed media on paper or as digital images intended for book publication or print. I seek to create a new narrative from old stories, which say something about my cultural experience and continued understanding of my self through the media.

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Jamaican Taíno Art at the NGJ

Zemi carving on staff (Yucahu?), Jamaican Taino culture, Collection: National Gallery of Jamaica

This week, we celebrate the earliest beginnings of art in Jamaica, the art of the Jamaican Taíno, and the earliest works in the NGJ’s permanent collection, four very rare Taíno woodcarvings. The introductory text below was prepared by the NGJ’s Education Department.

They are a people so full of love and without greed… that I believe there is no better race or better land … they love their neighbours as themselves…

— Christopher  Columbus.

The Jamaican Taíno shared much of the culture of the so called Classic Taíno of Hispaniola, having originated from the same roots in South America.

It is believed that at the time of Columbus arrival here there were dozens of large Taíno settlements, some with hundreds of multifamily huts. Estimates of their number range from sixty thousand to six hundred thousand. Each village was controlled by a Cacique. It appears that there was a principal Cacique or “Cacique of the Caciques” for the entire island.

The Taíno were an agricultural people. They also hunted iguanas and coneys, fished and reaped shell food. But central to their way of life was the growing of cassava, their staple food. Highly important were the rituals associated with the growing and preparing of cassava (yucca), which involved the expelling of poisonous juices. In fact, the name Yucahu, given to their supreme Deity, translates as “spirit of cassava.”  In general they worshiped a wide range of sub-deities in the form of idols or zemis, who controlled all aspects of their lives and supervised the land of the dead, but they were in effect monotheistic as they believed in a single Supreme Deity, Yucahu.

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