Panel Discussion: Perspectives on Dunkley

On Saturday July 21, 2018, the National Gallery of Jamaica will be hosting a panel discussion entitled Perspectives on Dunkley at 2:00 pm. Moderated by independent Jamaican curator and writer Nicole Smythe-Johnson who co-curated the critically acclaimed John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night exhibition with independent US-based curator Diana Nawi; the discussion will feature presentations by Deborah A. Thomas and Oneika Russell.  

Conceptualized by Smythe-Johnson this panel will include a presentation by her on Dunkley’s significance from an art historical context; a presentation by Deborah A. Thomas on the role of culture in Jamaica’s Nationalist movements, and also a presentation by Oneika Russell from the perspective of an artist with a particular interest in Dunkley and his influence on other artists. This panel serves as part of the programming for the exhibition John Dunkley Neither Day nor Night, as well as its complementary exhibit Daylight come…Picturing Dunkley’s Jamaica.

The critically acclaimed exhibition John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night showcases a once in a lifetime compilation of the work of renowned Jamaican Intuitive artist, John Dunkley (1891-1947) and was originally shown at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Born in Savanna-la-Mar, Dunkley was of the generation of Jamaicans who travelled to Panama, Costa Rica and Cuba at the beginning of the 20th Century seeking opportunities for work and advancement. His moody paintings and whimsical sculptures reflect his life, experiences and views on Jamaica’s fledgling nationalist movement.

Daylight Come…Picturing Dunkley’s Jamaica acts as a complement to John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night. It explores the themes of tourism, immigration and the emergence of cultural nationalism during Dunkley’s lifetime. The exhibition contains rare photographs, artifacts and film footage from the turn of the century and shows the move from ethnographic and oftentimes disparaging depictions of Jamaicans, to the attempts at social and cultural empowerment by the Jamaican Cultural Nationalist movement of the early 1900s; providing further context to Dunkley’s creative output.   

Nicole Smythe-Johnson is a writer and independent curator based in Kingston Jamaica. She studied Humanities, Media and Cultural Studies at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota (BA, 2007) and Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds (MA, 2011). She has written for TerremotoMiami RailFlash ArtJamaica Journal and several other local and international publications. In 2016 she was awarded the inaugural Tilting Axis Curatorial Research Fellowship. She visited Scotland, Grenada, Barbados, Suriname and Puerto Rico, looking at curatorial practice in alternative and artist-run spaces. Currently, she is Acting Editor of Caribbean Quarterly, the University of the West Indies’ flagship journal.

Deborah A. Thomas is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also core faculty in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, holds a secondary appointment with the Graduate School of Education, and is a member of the graduate groups in English, Africana Studies, and the School of Social Policy and Practice.  She is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation:  Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair (forthcoming), Exceptional Violence:  Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (2011), and Modern Blackness:  Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica (2004).

A graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Oneika Russell completed a diploma in the Painting Department before leaving to study at Goldsmiths College in London in the Centre for Cultural Studies in 2003. While at Goldsmiths, Russell began to integrate her deep interest in combining the practice of Painting with New Media. She went on to complete the Doctoral Course in Art at Kyoto Seika University, Japan concentrating on Animation in Contemporary Art.  Russell is currently a lecturer across The Fine Art and Visual Communication Departments at The Edna Manley College.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. Persons in attendance will also have an opportunity to view the John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night exhibition and also Daylight Come…Picturing Dunkley’s Jamaica both of which close on July 29.  

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Invited Artists: Oneika Russell

Oneika Russell – A Bit of What You Fancy (2017, video still)

On view until June 10 in the Jamaica Biennial 2017 at the National Gallery of Jamaica:

Oneika Russell was born in 1980, in St Andrew, Jamaica. She has a diploma in 2003 from the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts, and an MA in Interactive Media from Goldsmiths College, University of London. She has recently completed her PhD in Art, concentrated in Media, Film & Video Art at Kyoto Seika University, Japan. She was a Commonwealth Foundation Arts & Craft Awardee and in 2003, she was the recipient of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts Purchase Award. Russell has participated in many local and international exhibitions, and has been a regular exhibitor at the National Gallery of Jamaica, most recently in the Jamaica Biennial 2014 and Digital (2016). She works in a variety of physical and digital media and says that “an interest in hand-craft and technological meeting points in service of explorations of history, culture and social narratives has always informed my work.” She is currently a lecturer in the Fine Art and Visual Communication Departments at the Edna Manley College. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica.

Oneika Russell – Antilles for the Antilleans: Saltwater (2017)

Digital: Oneika Russell

Postcards 1 - Copy

Oneika Russell – Postcard Preservations (2016)

Oneika Russell is one of the pioneers of digital and time-based art in Jamaica and is represented in Digital (April 24-July 4, 2016):


Oneika Russell was born in Jamaica, 1980. She was educated at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she received an MA in Interactive Media. She more recently obtained a PhD in Art, concentrated in Media, Film & Video Art, from Kyoto Seika University, Japan. She was a Commonwealth Foundation Arts & Crafts Awardee in 2007, which was conducted at the Post-Museum in Singapore. Russell has exhibited widely in Jamaica and abroad and was featured in Young Talent V (2010), the National Biennial (2012) and Natural Histories (2013) at the National Gallery of Jamaica. She presently lives and works in Kingston, Jamaica, and lectures at the Edna Manley College.

Postcards 2 - Copy

Oneika Russell – Postcard Preservations (2016)

About the Work

Postcard Preservations builds on two earlier works shown first at the 2014 Jamaica Biennial titled Preservations and Notes to You. The body of work is investigating representations we make to specific audiences to construct desired narratives about ourselves, our nation, our families, our history.”

“The Postcard Preservations series takes postcards collected from the era of the artist’s childhood and adolescent life-span in Jamaica (1980s to early 2000s), which were used to promote Jamaica as a paradise. I am then creating altered forms of them in printed work, video, drawing etc. This particular set of work takes the form of three digitally composed and printed pseudo-scrolls/ curtains, which use the imagery and aspects of the text and typography from the collected postcards.”

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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