Selections from the National Collection: Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds

National Gallery West

National Gallery West is pleased to present its latest exhibition Selections from the National Collection: Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, which will be on view until mid October 2017. The exhibition is the first in a series of exhibitions that feature aspects of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s collections, while the permanent galleries in Kingston are being refurbished.

The Jamaican artist and charismatic Revivalist Bishop Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds was born in 1911 in Byndloss, a rural St. Catherine community some thirty miles from Kingston. At age sixteen he received his first vision and started traveling the countryside preaching. In the early 1930s he made his way to Kingston and settled in Trench Town where he established his Zion Revival church, the St. Michael Tabernacle. He later relocated to the Olympic Gardens community in western Kingston.

In Trench Town in the mid-forties he began translating his visions and his imaginative transcriptions of biblical…

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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

Natural Histories: A Note on Cotton Trees and Jamaican Art

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TOM CRINGLE’S COTTON TREE: This Ceiba, or Silk Cotton, tree is of a type common to many parts of Jamaica. Its majestic spread of branches provides shade and shelter, and you will notice, a host of many types of parasitic plans. This particular tree was mentioned in ‘Tom Cringle’s Log” a 19th century novel by Michael Scott. Cotton trees are believed by the superstitious to be the haunt of “duppies” (ghosts)

Jamaica Tourist Board, Kingston, Jamaica

The Silk Cotton tree or Ceiba Pentandra is indigenous to the tropical Americas, Jamaica included, and a variety is also found in West Africa. One of the largest and most visually spectacular indigenous trees, the Silk Cotton tree takes more than a century to reach its typical size – up to 40 metres high and with the diameter of its trunk up to 3 metres – and to develop its dramatic buttress roots. The tree blooms annually and produces fruits that burst open to reveal a ball of silky white fibres inside.

Silk Cotton trees can survive for centuries and, as Olive Senior points out, often harbour “on its branches a great variety of wild life – orchids, wild pines, parasites, birds’ nests, creepers – which contribute to its almost supernatural appearance.” (134) The Silk Cotton tree also has a number of practical applications: its light wood and large size made it the material of choice for the Taíno dugout canoes; it is a source of kapok and was used to make cloth by the Taíno; and various parts of the tree are used for medicinal purposes.

Not surprisingly, the Silk Cotton Tree has considerable cultural significance, as is evident throughout the Caribbean. The trees were considered sacred by the Taíno, as the dwelling place of spirits and hold similar significance in African-derived popular religion, which may have incorporated some Taíno beliefs. In Jamaican culture, the Silk Cotton tree is associated with duppies and serves as a site for gatherings, rituals and revelations in Revival and Kumina. Because of their size and longevity, Silk Cotton trees stand as silent, giant witnesses to centuries of history and serve as landmarks that provide shelter and shade.

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Monthly Sunday Openings Starting June 24

The NGJ is pleased to announce that it will be open to the public every last Sunday of the month, from 11 am to 4 pm, starting on June 24. There will be special programming and free tours on each of these Sundays, to be announced on a monthly basis.

On June 24, visitors will have the opportunity to view our new Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds Gallery, which was reinstalled with assistance from Tourism Enhancement Fund; to participate in free tours of the permanent collection; and at 1 pm to participate in a public discussion titled “Intellectual Property and Creativity in Jamaica” which is staged in association with the Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) festival and Visual & Performing Arts Jamaica (VPAJ).

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Press Release – The John Pringle Collection

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The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce the receipt of the John Pringle Collection, a major donation of 23 paintings by the Jamaican Intuitive master Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds. The inaugural exhibition of the John Pringle Collection will take place at the Montego Bay Civic Centre from May 2 to June 25.

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