Panel Discussion “Kingston: Filming The City” – October 27 @ 2 pm

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On Thursday, October 27, 2016, starting at 2:00 pm, the National Gallery of Jamaica will be hosting a panel discussion entitled Kingston: Filming the City. This event aims to explore the the work of filmmakers in depicting and interpreting Kingston life and its environs. Kingston: Filming the City is part of the educational programming associated with the NGJ’s current feature exhibition Kingston, Part 1: The City and Art, which opened on July 31 and will now close on November 5. The exhibition utilizes paintings, sculpture, ceramics, film and photography to explore the dynamic between Kingston’s growth as a major commercial as well as cultural centre and the development of Jamaican visual art practice and infrastructure.

The focus on film for the panel discussion was inspired by the inclusion of two motion-picture works in the exhibition: Chaotic Beauty (2016), a video by emerging Jamaican digital artist Di-Andre Caprice Davis, and The Harder They Come (1972), the iconic Jamaican film directed by Perry Henzell and written by himself and Trevor Rhone. Both of these productions have featured Kingston not just as a backdrop to story-telling, but as a key location element that informs narrative progression and character development. Some have argued that The Harder They Come is also a portrait of Kingston and a time-capsule representation of urban life in Jamaica in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kingston has featured in several other memorable, locally produced and international films, including the first James Bond film Dr No (1962), Rockers (1978), Dancehall Queen (1997), Third World Cop (1999), Better Mus’ Come (2010) and Kingston Paradise (2013). Kingston also serves as the locale and backdrop to numerous Jamaican and other music videos, such as Proteje’s Kingston Be Wise (2013).

The discussion on October 27 will be moderated by lecturer of Audio-Visual History at the University of the West Indies (Mona), Dr. Julian Cresser, along with the following panellists:

  • Franklyn “Chappy” St. Juste, veteran cinematographer who has been credited in films such as The Harder They Come (1972), Children of Babylon (1980) and Coolie Pink and Green (2009). St. Juste has also contributed valuable years of service to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) and the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC).
  • Natalie Thompson, film producer and managing director of Cinecom. Some of Thompson’s acclaimed productions have included Third World Cop (1999), Knight and Day (2010) and the Marley documentary (2012).
  • Nile Saulter, cinematographer and film director as well as founding member of New Caribbean Cinema. Some of his notable productions include Coast (2011), Pillowman (2013) and Everblessed (2016), a collaboration between himself and Canadian journalist Jeremy Relph.
  • Randall Richards, emerging photographer, videographer and one of the founders of ARRC Creative Media Ltd. Richards’ recent productions have included the music video for music single by Reggae artiste Protogé, Kingston Be Wise (2013).

Also as an accompanying mini-campaign to the Kingston: Filming The City panel discussion, persons are being invited to create 10 to 20 second videos about Kingston and post them to the NGJ Education Department Facebook page, using the hashtag #ngjkingstonfilm. The final day for posting will be on November 4, 2016. All posts will be reviewed by the National Gallery of Jamaica before appearing on the page’s timeline.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. Persons in attendance will also have an opportunity to view the Kingston, Part 1: The City and Art exhibition.

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Last Sundays, September 25, 2016 – feat. Quilt and Kingston

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The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for September 25, 2016, will feature a performance by the award-winning Quilt Performing Arts Company and guided tours of the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition.

Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art examines how Jamaica’s turbulent capital city has generated many of the circumstances and opportunities that have propelled the development of Jamaican art, from the natural resources to the economic activities and institutions and the events, big and small, that have marked the city’s history. The exhibition features works of art that date from the late 17th century to the present day and portrays life in the city in all its diversity, seen through the eyes of artists such as Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sidney McLaren, David Pottinger, Osmond Watson, Carl Abrahams, Andy Jefferson, Edna Manley, Cecil Baugh, Kapo, Michael Lester and Roy Reid. The exhibition also features the iconic Jamaican feature film The Harder They Come (1972, dir. Perry Henzell), which is in many ways also a portrait of Kingston and, particularly, a time capsule of life in the city in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kingston was curated by National Gallery Assistant Curator Monique Barnett-Davidson and continues until October 30, 2016.

The Quilt Performing Arts Company was born out of a need for a fresh, new, innovative way of creating performance art. Using Caribbean rhythms, merging poetry, dance and music, the Quilt performers have developed their own unique performance style and an evolving devised theatre technique. The performance at Last Sundays on September 25 will of consist Revolution (2016) and a new work that is yet to be titled. Revolution looks at hegemony and the ‘zombification’ of the human race. It travels through stage vignettes from the slave ships to the sound boxes of Kingston.  Artistic director Rayon Mclean and his team continue break boundaries and redefine performance spaces. This is the company’s second time in the National Gallery and the members are pumped up about serving of cocktail of art and heart.

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The National Gallery’s doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday, September 25, 2016 and the Quilt performance will start at 1:30 pm. Admission and guided tours will be free, but contributions to the National Gallery’s donations box are gratefully accepted. The National Gallery gift and coffee shops will also be open and the gift shop is stocked for the Christmas gift-buying season. Proceeds from these ventures help to fund exhibitions and programmes such as Last Sundays.

Kingston: Stories to Tell

Here is the final of our features on the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition:

In addition to concrete structures and infrastructures, stories from the documented and lived experiences of generations of Kingston inhabitants and visitors, contribute to this city’s character, to its celebrity and its infamy. The events, personalities and tales that have shaped this city are part of its collective imagery and have provided major inspiration for artists, some of whom are themselves among the city’s key personalities. A variety of stories have already been explored in the preceding galleries. However, this section focuses on a distinct selection of narratives that are particularly relevant to Kingston events and experiences.

Kingston and its environs have been the sites of some of the deadliest natural disasters in human history and this has been recognized and recorded by documenters and artists alike. The apocalyptic destruction of Port Royal in 1692, was re-imagined by Carl Abrahams in several works produced in the mid-1970s. The 1907 earthquake which almost obliterated Kingston is memorialized forever by several archival photographs from the period which can be found at institutions such as the National Library of Jamaica, another Downtown Kingston institution situated on East Street. Despair in the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie, the deadliest storm of 1951, is expressed in two oil paintings created in the same year by poet and playwright Roger Mais, and his seemingly broken and dejected figures are almost camouflaged within the debris left in the storm’s wake, becoming one with the devastation.

Several works in this section comment critically on the social life of Kingston. The works of Roy Reid, Edna Manley and later, Stanford Watson and Ikem Smith for instance, question ongoing issues of social inequality, economic downturn, violence and civil unrest. Michael Parchment’s No Woman Nuh Cry (2005), a visualization of the 1975 reggae ballad of the same name performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers, reiterates that critical value of endurance in the face of adversity and atrocity resulting from the wave of violence that permeated Jamaica’s inner-cities in the 1970s. Interestingly, the reggae music and the visual arts communities have benefitted greatly from the creative insights of personages like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and a number of other Jamaican musicians, many of whom originated from Kingston or migrated to the city to seek their fortune at Kingston’s active entertainment scene and recording studios. It was in Kingston at the National Stadium on Arthur Wint Drive that the historic One Love Peace Concert took place in April 1978. The concert took place during the climax of a deadly political war between gang supporters of the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Jamaican photographer Howard Moo-Young captures on film the most memorable highlight of the show, when Bob Marley during his performance of the song Jammin invited the two political leaders to the stage—the then Prime Minister Michael Manley of the People’s National Party and the then Leader of the Opposition, Edward Seaga of the Jamaica Labour Party–and encouraged them to join hands before the audience as a symbolic gesture towards peace and unity.

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Kingston: Institutions and Collections

Phannel Toussiant - National gallery of Jamaica, Devon House (rgb)

Phannel Toussaint – National gallery Ballroom, Devon House (1980), Collection: NGJ

Here is another feature on the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition:

As we speak of “crossroads” and opportunities, we have to recognize that Kingston is also the centre of cultural infrastructure in Jamaica. This includes the two main visual arts institutions, the Edna Manley College and the National Gallery of Jamaica, and several major corporate art collections. Jamaica’s main private art collections are also located in Kingston. This Kingston-centeredness is slowly changing as governmental and corporate authorities as well as other private interests have been employing strategies to de-centralize the infrastructural dominance of Kingston. The 2014 establishment of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which houses the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Montego Bay branch National Gallery West, is one such example. That being said, this section of the exhibition acknowledges a selection of those Kingston-based entities that have been key pillars for the development of visual art practice and promotion in Jamaica, and have also contributed to urban development and renewal.

Devon House

Sidney McLaren – Devon House (1979), Collection: NGJ

The Institute of Jamaica, which was established in 1879, is the oldest cultural institution in Jamaica and has been pivotal in the development of national art exhibition programming and art educational opportunities, especially from the 1930s to the present. The National Gallery of Jamaica has its origins in the pioneering art collecting and exhibition programmes of the Institute and presently operates as one of its divisions. Established in 1974 at Devon House on Hope Road and then relocated to the Roy West Building on the Kingston Waterfront in 1982, the National Gallery of Jamaica functions as the custodian of carefully developed collections of Jamaican art, representing more than ten centuries of artistic history in our country. Other Institute of Jamaica divisions that have been involved in the visual arts are the Junior Centre and the National Library of Jamaica, before the latter attained autonomy. The Junior Centre hosted Edna Manley’s seminal free adult art classes that started in 1939 and served as a meeting place for the members of the emerging nationalist school, and it continues to offer children’s art programmes today.

Whitney Miller - Little North Street (rgb)

Whitney Miller – Little North Street (1963), Collection: Edna Manley College

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Kingston: Art on the Streets

Here is another feature on the themes that structure the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition, written by the exhibition curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson:

A simple bus commute or walking tour of the city can bring one into an even more direct engagement with Kingston’s artistic heritage. Street and public art proliferate in the city, whether as officially commissioned statues, monuments and murals, or more informal expressions on community walls, vehicles or vending stalls. These works are experienced on a daily basis by the people who use, traverse, relax or congregate around these spaces and often command their surroundings as iconic landmarks.

As Jamaica’s capital, Kingston is home to a number of public monuments. Their narratives reflect memories of historic triumph, expressions of hope in the face of adversity, or simply reflection in the wake of tragedy; exemplified by Edna Manley’s Negro Aroused sculpture, the monuments of the National Heroes Park, and the Secret Gardens monument, which are all located in Downtown Kingston. Secret Gardens was commissioned by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, the local government authority, to commemorate children who die under tragic or violent circumstances and the local media recently reported that no more space was left to add further names—a very sad reflection of the vulnerability of children in Jamaican society.

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Kingston: Crossroads

Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sketches of Character: French Set Girls (1837-38)

Isaac Mendez Belisario, Sketches of Character: French Set Girls (1837-38)

Here is another feature on our current exhibition, Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art, which opened on July 31. It was written by the exhibition curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson:

Like any major capital city, Kingston is a proverbial land of opportunity and a microcosm of social development in Jamaica. And like its predecessor Port Royal, it is a point of intersection, the juncture of a myriad of commercial and cultural pathways. One needs to look no further than the intensely trade- and business-oriented areas of Downtown, the Waterfront, our natural harbour (the seventh largest in the world), or the Crossroads and Half Way Tree areas. Artists have always been active participants and beneficiaries in these intersections, by participating in these exchanges and commercial opportunities, and by representing them in their work.

This section features pre-twentieth century itinerant artists such as Frenchman Adolphe Duperly, who operated his commercial photography and lithography studio, Adolphe Duperly and Son, at 85 King Street in Kingston. Duperly published a number of images of early Jamaican places, people and events such as the Daguerian Excursions (c1844), a series of lithographs of island scenes that were originally produced as daguerrotypes. Duperly is generally credited as the one who introduced photographic technology to Jamaica in the 1840s.

Duperly also collaborated with the Kingston-born lithographer and painter, Isaac Mendes Belisario who is famous for his 1837-1838 lithograph publications Sketches of Character in Illustration of the Habits, Occupation and Costume of the Negro Population in the Island of Jamaica. Despite the problematic ideological questions raised by Belisario’s images, the Christmas Amusements and Cries of Kingston have become icons of heritage that inform the memory of our enslaved, apprenticed, and later emancipated Jamaican fore-parents, as they worked and celebrated the gift of life and culture during times of great colonial oppression. Continue reading