Introducing: National Gallery West

Belisario_actor_boy_montego_bayNational Gallery West is the new, Montego Bay based extension of the National Gallery of Jamaica. It is part of the newly refurbished and rebranded Montego Bay Cultural Centre, which is housed in the historic Montego Bay Court House on Sam Sharpe Square and was previously known as the Montego Bay Civic Centre. In addition to National Gallery West, the Montego Bay Cultural Centre houses National Museum West (a branch of National Museum Jamaica, which is like the National Gallery a division of the Institute of Jamaica), a gift shop and a café, a large multi-purpose town hall, and outdoor performance space.

National Gallery West, which is located in the beautiful domed building at the back of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre complex, will offer four exhibitions per year. At least one of these will be curated specifically curated for National Gallery West, while most of the others will be related to exhibitions shown at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence has curatorial oversight over the exhibition programme. The inaugural exhibition, which will be on view from July 11 to August 331, 2014, is Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican Art, an abridged version of the Religion and Spirituality exhibition previously shown in Kingston, which features work by major Jamaican artists such as Carl Abrahams, Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Albert Artwell, Everald and Clinton Brown, Eugene Hyde, Ralph Campbell, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, and Ebony G. Patterson.

The Montego Bay Cultural Centre, and National Gallery West, are scheduled to open officially on July 11, 2014 and will be open to the public thereafter. Opening hours are: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Monday) and admission is free until September 30. For more information contact the National Gallery of Jamaica at 922-1561 or -63 (Lime), 618-0654 or -55 (Digicel). You can follow National Gallery West on Facebook and at the National Gallery West blog.

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Last Sundays – April 27, 2014: Last Chance to See Religion and Spirituality

ngj_Sunday_Opening_April_27_2014_WEBThe National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for April 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, April 27, from 11 am to 4 pm.

The focus of the April Last Sundays programme will be the Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition, which closes at the end of that day, but the permanent exhibitions will also be open for viewing. The Religion and Spirituality exhibition explores what is arguably one of the most important subjects in Jamaican art and, since it consists entirely of works from the National Gallery collection, provides viewers with an opportunity to view well-known and less frequently exhibited masterpieces of Jamaican art in a new context, while provoking discussion and reflection. The exhibition includes work by artists such as Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Carl Abrahams, Everald and Clinton Brown, Renee Cox, Ebony G. Patterson, Gloria Escoffery and Norma Rodney-Harrack.

In-depth guided tours of the exhibition, presented by members of the National Gallery curatorial staff, will be offered at 12 noon, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm and interested persons should meet at the National Gallery front desk at those times. A special children’s programme consisting of a “treasure hunt” in the Religion and Spirituality exhibition will also be offered, starting at 1 pm.

As is now customary for Last Sundays, admission to the NGJ will be free on Sunday, March 30, and the guided tours and children’s activities will also be free. Our gift and coffee shop will be open for business and contributions to the donations box are welcomed. Revenues from our shops and donations help to fund programmes such as the Religion and Spirituality exhibition and our Last Sunday programming.

Click here to read more about the Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition.

 

Exploring Spirituality in Jamaica – a Presentation by Bernard Jankee, April 24 @ 11 am

Everald Brown - Instrument for Four People (1986), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Instrument for Four People (1986), Collection: NGJ

The National Gallery of Jamaica and African-Caribbean Institute/Jamaica Memory Bank present:

EXPLORING SPIRITUALITY IN JAMAICA

by Bernard Jankee, Director, African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank

Thursday April 24, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Free Admission


The presentation focuses on the cosmology and manifestations of spirituality in Jamaica, with special reference to the materials in the collections of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank. This collaborative effort forms part of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition and public education program and is free to the public.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to view the National Gallery’s acclaimed Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition, which explores the role of religion and spirituality in Jamaican culture and history, by means of 68 works from the NGJ collections, some of them well known and others only rarely exhibited. The exhibition includes work by artists such as Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Carl Abrahams, Everald and Clinton Brown, Renee Cox, Ebony G. Patterson, Gloria Escoffery, Norma Rodney-Harrack and Omari Ra. The exhibition is part of a new series that explores important themes in Jamaican art and the National Art Collection. Religion and Spirituality is scheduled to close on April 27.

The Exploring Spirituality presentation is part of the Institute of Jamaica’s Open House programme.

Last Sundays: March 30, 2014, featuring TRIAD and Religion and Spirituality

ngj_Sunday_Opening_mar_30_2014-01

The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays programme for March 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, March 30, from 11 am to 4 pm.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to view the National Gallery’s acclaimed Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition, which explores the role of religion and spirituality in Jamaican culture and history, by means of 68 works from the NGJ collections, some of them well known and others only rarely exhibited. The exhibition, which continues until April 27, includes work by artists such as Osmond Watson, Edna Manley, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Carl Abrahams, Everald and Clinton Brown, Renee Cox, Ebony G. Patterson, Gloria Escoffery, Norma Rodney-Harrack and Omari Ra.

The featured performance for the day, which starts at 1:30 pm, will be an excerpt from the dance production TRIAD, which was choreographed by Kim-Lee Campbell, a full-time dancer and choreographer and a final year student in the BFA programme in Dance Performance and Choreography at the Edna Manley College. Campbell is the first recipient of the Institute of Jamaica’s Rex Nettleford Memorial Scholarship Award (2013) and her works have been featured in Jamaica Dance Umbrella, the annual University Dance Society Season of Dance and Danceworks. She is also the Project Director for a performing arts community development programme Yaad Arts in the August Town community.

TRIAD, which will be performed by Sophia McKain, Simone Harris and Nneka Staple, explores the similarities between three women who face sexuality-based discrimination, because of their style of dress. The three women take the audience on a journey through movement; exposing issues of love, their fears, anger, frustrations, anxiety and the many emotions that surface within the minds of the discriminated. The dance implores us to remember that we are all humans. Focused on understanding the body, mind and spirit connection; this piece is a holistic interrogation. The movement vocabulary for TRIAD evolves from a base of hatha yoga postures, abstracted and fused with Caribbean folk nuances, and encompasses a contemporary modern style. The movement writes to unique percussion soundscapes layered with the vocals of Sweet Honey in the Rock and poetry. TRIAD is a final year production that will be performed in full at the School of Dance, Edna Manley College on May 9, 2014.

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SOUND AND VISION: MUSIC AND SOUND IN THE WORK OF KAPO, EVERALD BROWN AND WOODY JOSEPH – Part III

Everald Brown - Niabinghi Hour (1969), Collection: NGJ

Everald Brown – Niabinghi Hour (1969), Collection: NGJ

Here is the third and final 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.

Everald Brown, to turn to my last and main case study, was born in Mado District, deep rural St Ann in 1917 and died in New York City in 2003, where he was visiting with one of his children. In another example of rural to urban migration, Brother Brown, who was a carpenter by trade, and his young wife Jenny moved to West Kingston in 1947. They settled at 82 ½ Spanish Town Road, at a yard which also housed a Zion Revival band and a Kumina community. The 1940s and 50s were a period of Rastafarian ferment in West Kingston and Brother Brown was attracted by the teachings of Joseph Hibbert, a pioneering exponent who emphasized the mystical, religious aspects of Rastafari. Like many religious Rastafari, Brother Brown found inspiration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as the authentic Christian church from the African Zion and around 1960 Brother Brown established an informal mission of the EOC, which he named the Assembly of the Living. Brother Brown and his family were baptised in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church when this denomination was formally established in Jamaica in 1970 and he was initially an active member, who for instance constructed the EOC cathedral’s Ark of the Covenant, but his beliefs and practices were far from orthodox, and combined elements of Rastafari, Revival, Kumina, and Freemasonry – all of which are also evident in his artistic work. The question thus arises whether Brother Brown can be labelled as a Rastafarian artist. As I wrote in the 2004 Everald Brown retrospective catalogue:

I believe that to insist that Brother Brown was a Rastafarian artist, in any narrow sense, would be as short-sighted and incorrect as to suggest that he wasn’t. First of all, it is inappropriate to impose any narrow, rigid definitions on Rastafari itself, a religious and political belief system that is, except for a few groups, devoid of the dogmatism that characterizes organized religion and allows for significant personal interpretation. While many Rastafarians have been critical of traditional Afro-Jamaican religious and magical beliefs and practices, especially Obeah, there is in fact considerable cultural and religious continuity between Rastafari and Revival and Kumina. Furthermore, religious Rastafari does not necessarily exist in opposition to Christianity but often incorporates it, hence the attraction to elements of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Inevitably, there are tensions and contradictions in such syncretic beliefs—the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for instance, does not recognize the divinity of Haile Selassie I and no doubt takes a dim view of Jamaican spiritualism—but these are an integral and legitimate part of cultural and ideological dynamics of these beliefs. It is therefore more productive to think of Jamaican Rastafarian culture as a broad, fluid and open-ended cultural spectrum or sphere, which overlaps and interacts with other local and transnational cultural spheres, such as those of the traditional Afro-Jamaican religions. If approached from that perspective, it becomes a lot less problematic to define Brother Brown’s work as ‘Rastafarian art.’

Brother Brown’s small, self-built church on Spanish Town Road was decorated with paintings and Brown also produced various ritual objects and musical instruments which were used by his church community, which consisted mainly of his own extended family. He was discovered as an artist in the late 1960s, by Janet Grant-Woodham, who was Folklore Research Officer at the Institute of Jamaica, and some of the radical young intellectuals at the University of the West Indies, such as Timothy Callender, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and Eleanor Wint, who brokered his first exhibition at the Creative Arts Centre in 1969. Brother Brown started exhibiting regularly since then, in the 1970s often jointly with his young son Clinton Brown, who also painted and produced musical instruments.

Everald Brown surrounded by his work at the Assembly of the Living, c1971

Everald Brown surrounded by his work at the Assembly of the Living, c1971

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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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