The painting Road Menders, by Jamaican Intuitive Gaston Tabois (1924 – 2012), was created in 1956, six years before Jamaica achieved political Independence in 1962. It depicts a group of labourers in the process of building a road. Taking place within an idyllic tropical scene, women and men work together to ‘dig up’ the ground, lay aggregate and pour water. As they work, a steam roller operator paves the areas they had previously completed. In the background, left-hand side of the composition, another woman sits on the ground with a fire going under a vessel, perhaps cooking in preparation for when the workers take their break.
Despite the fact that Road Menders preceded 1962, its depictions symbolize major themes of Jamaican Independence, which have been used to enrich our contemporary understanding of what becoming a nation may have meant for Jamaicans, such as the ones Tabois portrayed. These include but are not limited to, the importance of our communities as a part of social, infrastructural and economic development, and also critically, of self-determination. It is the fight for this right that helped Jamaica to achieve self-governance in 1944, a celebration of which Tabois may have considered for this painted scene. It was also the continued advocacy for that right by Jamaicans that helped to establish the new nation of Jamaica on August 6, 1962.
As we reflect on the circumstances surrounding Jamaica’s first national achievement and the progressions we have made since, let us remember that the journey of nationhood will always be ongoing, transitioning from one generation of citizens to the next. As the current generation of Jamaican people, let us remember that challenges overcome will yield the fruits of resilience, unity and insight for a greater and prosperous future.
The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays event for April 26, 2015 will feature a performance by the band BLACK as COLE.
Brainchild of songstress Cecile Black and bassist Craig Cole, BLACK as COLE’s performance style is a fusion of different genres: Alternative, Blues, Gospel, R&B, Reggae/Dub-Rock which they have integrated into a base component of Reggae and Dub; the result is a new genre that the band calls Jam-on- Dub. Most of the band’s members became close during their time in the UWI Pop society at the Mona campus and according to the band their goal is to ‘to ignite your hearts with conscious uplifting messages of truth and love.’
BLACK as COLE performs mostly original material and cover versions are usually interpretations of songs with significant impact on the band. The band has been together for over three years and have graced a number of stages performing several times at the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival and venues such as Red Bones Blues Cafe’; Jamnesia; and Plug ‘n’ Play @ the Jonkanoo Lounge of the Wyndham Hotel to name a few. To date the band has released two official singles namely, ‘Musical Romance’ a R&B themed love song of how the founders of the band met; and also a Reggae cover of Adele’s ‘Hometown Glory’.
Visitors will also be able to view the Edna Manley and Kapo galleries, A.D. Scott galleries as well as our recently installed temporary exhibit featuring selections from the Gallery’s modern Jamaican art collection. This exhibit features major works by Carl Abrahams, Albert Artwell, Everald Brown, Gloria Escoffery, Colin Garland, Koren Der Harootian, Albert Huie, Eugene Hyde, Edna Manley, David Pottinger and Barrington Watson.
Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm, the performance starts at 1:30 pm. As is customary admission to the NGJ and guided tours and children’s activities will be free. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and we welcome contributions to our donations box. The revenues from our shop and your donations help to fund programmes such as our Last Sundays.
The National Gallery of Jamaica’s Last Sundays event for March 29, 2015, will feature two short plays set in the galleries, Sure Thing by David Ives and Untitled #2 by Jim Gordon, which are staged in observation of Theatre Month.
Sure Thing is a short comic play featuring a chance meeting of two characters, Betty and Bill, whose conversation is continually reset by the use of a ringing bell, starting over when one of them responds negatively to the other. The play is directed by Peter Abrikian and features Craig McNally and Natalee Cole. Untitled #2 is about two “art critics” who view a painting by one of their favourite artists in an art gallery and come to strikingly different opinions as to the meaning of the work. Caught up in a fever of contrasting artistic and political views they come close to fisticuffs before the artist appears and sets them straight. This second play is directed by Brian Heap and features Jean-Paul Menou and Hilary Nicholson.
Visitors will also be able to view the Kapo and Edna Manley Galleries, the Historical Galleries, and the A.D. Scott Galleries, as well as a new temporary exhibition consisting of sections from the Gallery’s modern Jamaican collection. The latter includes major work by Edna Manley, Albert Huie, Carl Abrahams, Koren der Harootian, David Pottinger, Barrington Watson, Karl Parboosingh, Eugene Hyde, Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, Everald Brown, Albert Artwell, Colin Garland, and Gloria Escoffery. Guided tours and children’s activities will be offered.
Doors will be open from 11 am to 4 pm, the plays start 1:30 pm. As is now customary, admission to the NGJ and guided tours and children’s activities will be free. The 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 our Last Sundays.
Having spent three months exhibiting a wide range of work produced in the last two years in the National Biennial, we at the National Gallery now turn our attention to history and memory. The current temporary exhibition honours those who are recently departed and brings back some of our Permanent Collection favourites.
In the last few months, the Jamaican artistic community has reeled from the deaths of three of our most long-standing, productive and prolific members; Gaston Tabois (d. Nov 20, 2012), Petrine Archer-Straw (d. Dec 5, 2012) and Fitz Harrack (d. Jan 10, 2013). To honour them, three mini tributes have been installed, showcasing their work. For the next few weeks, patrons will be able to see several of Tabois’ most beloved works (including Taino Cave Rituals – on loan from Michael Gardner), a display of a number of Harrack’s wood sculptures and his larger-than-life metal work North, South, East, West in Conversation. Both displays are accompanied by a text panel with a brief biography. In the case of Archer-Straw who was an artist, but also a curator and art historian, patrons will be treated to a small sampling of her art work, a display of a selection of her publications and an additional text panel that explains her work and its relationship to global and local art world trends.
The rest of the exhibition features works from our National Collection drawing on four themes: Pattern and Decoration, Postcolonialism and Religion, Depictions of Motherhood and the Intuitives. Longtime favourites of the Jamaican public such as Barrington Watson’s Mother and Child and Allan ‘Zion’ Johnson’s Peacock are back on display. However, there are also a number of rarely seen works such as Sherida Levy’s unusual Jamaican Madonna and J. McCloud’s Mother and Child.
Needless to say, the current exhibition offers something for everyone and complements our permanent exhibitions, which provide an overview of Jamaican art from the Taino the the late 20th century. School groups will benefit from the thematic focus of the current exhibition and families are encouraged to take advantage of our Last Sundays and other special events. Our more familiar visitors can engage with memories of friends passed and artwork long missed. We hope to see you soon!