Last Sundays, August 28, 2016 – feat. Kingston and Jane Macgizmo

Last Sundays - August 28,2016

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for August 28, 2016, will feature a musical performance by Jane Macgizmo and guided tours of the recently opened Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition.

Denieze Anderson, popularly known as Jane Macgizmo, is a recording artiste, songwriter, producer & designer. Jane’s artistic passion was instilled at the age of seven by her parents who encouraged her to take music and art classes. She studied film production at Northern Caribbean University and also became a designer & photographer, both of which have aided her music career. Her second release “Babylon” quickly became an anthem to her supporters, as it captures the enticing and defiant nature of Jane’s music. It was the music video for this song, set in lush green scenery high in the mountains, filmed, directed, and edited by Jane and Tricia Bent that truly brought the message of the song to life and it has been in regular rotation on BET SOUL. The record label Zincfence Records has also released a dubmix of “Babylon.” Jane’s inventive persona is what propels her works, without boundaries and across genres such as dubtronica, indie reggae, jazz and EDM. The fearless creative has a catalogue of exciting music, stimulating visuals, and confident messages in preparation for the world to experience.

Jane Macgizmo

Jane Macgizmo

Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art is the first instalment of a two-part exhibition series that explores the role of Kingston in the development of Jamaican art and, conversely, the role of art in the development of the city of Kingston. The present edition of Kingston features artists such as Isaac Mendez Belisario, Carl Abrahams, Hope Brooks, Edna Manley, Cecil Baugh, Kapo, Di-Andre Caprice Davis, Roy Reid, and Stanford Watson and the iconic Jamaican feature film The Harder They Come (1972, dir. Perry Henzell). The exhibition examines how Jamaica’s turbulent but culturally fertile capital city has generated many of the circumstances and opportunities that have propelled the development of Jamaican art over time, from the natural resources to the economic activities and institutions. It also explores how artists have been inspired in their work by the events, personalities and tales that have defined life in the city, starting with the 1692 destruction of Port Royal, which led to the establishment of the city. Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art was curated by National Gallery Assistant Curator Monique Barnett-Davidson and continues until October 30, 2016.

Carl Abrahams - The Destruction of Port Royal (1972), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

Carl Abrahams – The Destruction of Port Royal (1972), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday, August 28, 2016 and the musical programme will start at 1:30 pm. As is customary, admission and guided tours will be free for the day, but contributions to the National Gallery’s donations box are always welcome. The National Gallery gift and coffee shops will also be open and proceeds from these ventures help to fund programmes such as Last Sundays and exhibitions such as Kingston.


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: 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

Kingston – Nature’s Bounty

Hilton Nembhard - Rasta Head (rgb)

Hilton Nembhard – Rasta Head (c1970), Collection: NGJ

Here is the first of five sectional introductions to the main themes in the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition, which opened on July 31. The sectional introductions were written by the exhibition curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson, Assistant Curator at the NGJ:

Natural resources have been used for the creation of artworks in Jamaica for all of the island’s known history. The Jamaican Taino and their ancestors, who had begun settling in the island from as early as circa 650 AD, utilized wood, charcoal, plant fibres, animal bone, stone and clays. Later arrivals to the island, mainly Europeans and Africans, also imported and syncretised art-making traditions and techniques and in doing so made great use of the natural bounty this land of wood and water had to offer. The objects featured in this section explore the use by local artists of four materials that are available in Kingston and its environs: tortoise shell, wood, alabaster gypsum, and clay.

Turtle Shell Casket 3 (rgb)

Rectangular Tortoise Shell Casket with Two Combs (1679), Collection: NGJ

The 17th century tortoise shell objects in this exhibition exemplify a creative industry that thrived in Port Royal Jamaica from circa 1672 to 1692, until the earthquake disaster. The name “tortoise” is a misnomer, since these objects are made from sea turtle shells while tortoises are their land-dwelling relatives. Four species of sea turtle that appear in Jamaica’s coastal waters but the shell most suitable for the creation of these objects is the Hawksbill Turtle shell. The tradition of using these shells to create decorative objects no longer continues, as the animals are now legally protected. However, one cannot deny the mastery and elegance of the examples featured in this exhibition. The Port Royal tortoise shell objects, most of them coomb cases and trinket boxes, appear to have been produced as mementoes and have their place of origin and production year inscribed on them. Some also feature early versions of Jamaica’s Coat of Arms. It has been argued that they qualify as Jamaica’s first examples of “tourist art.”

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Brief Reflections on Kingston as a Visual and Cultural Space – Charles V. Carnegie

Sidney McLaren - King and Barry Street (1971), Collection: NGJ

Sidney McLaren – King and Barry Street (1971), Collection: NGJ

The Jamaican anthropologist Charles V. Carnegie, former head of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Memory Bank, has contributed to the following essay to the catalogue of Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition, which opens on July 31:

For its first two-hundred-plus years as the island’s principal city—up until around the 1920s—much of Kingston’s population lived in close proximity to each other within or on the fringes of the city centre: an area just 1,080 acres in extent in 1890.  Rich and poor rode together on horse-drawn and, later, electric tramcars beginning in the 1870s.  Despite sharp legal distinctions between slave and free and marked divisions of class, color, and religion, people of different rank routinely crossed paths for work, worship, commerce, recreation, healthcare, and to bury their dead.  Beginning around the 1930s and gaining momentum in the following decades, the city’s elites dispersed themselves to increasingly distant suburbs.  A pattern of urban sprawl, similar to that in North America, took hold. What does it mean and why does it matter that for the most recent period of its history Kingston’s poor and the more well off come into direct contact so much more infrequently than they once did?  What’s been the impact, and can we now begin to assess the consequences, of residents of the city no longer trodding the same piece of ground day by day: not routinely encountering each other in the same space?

Parade, Downtown Kingston, on a Sunday

King Street, near Parade, Downtown Kingston, on a Sunday

In making my way about Kingston these days on foot and by bus, I am struck both by the cultural expressiveness, energy and imagination so evident in the streets, and the realization of how much of this is new and news to friends Uptown.  My accounts of the commonplace wonders of street life—those elegantly outfitted mannequins posed dramatically atop booming, four-foot high speaker boxes along the sidewalks on Orange Street, the cleverly improvised performances of male vendors of women’s lingerie, the welcome arrival of this or that fruit in season at Coronation Market—are received Uptown as reports from distant foreign shores.  Many Uptowners, I’ve discovered, have rarely if ever taken a bus in Kingston, almost never go downtown; don’t know the number or routes of buses that serve their own neighbourhoods; and see nothing amiss with their ignorance.  Sadly, automotivity and the physical retreat to the suburbs have reinforced a certain social disengagement: places close at hand have become as places far away, former neighbors now seen as people who scarcely matter. Continue reading