Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dance Hall Queen

Dance Hall Queen
Dancehall Queen is a Jamaican movie which features actress Audrey Reed playing the role of Marcia, who is a single mom of three going through the struggles of everyday poverty in Jamaica. The movie encompasses what many poor Jamaican women are faced with. In an attempt to provide for her family she does vending on the streets. Here she is exposed to the roughest elements within the society, and  is constantly being provoked by a vicious murderer called Priest. She also has a guy that she needs  because of the financial assistance that he gives her. He is however a child molester and she knows it, but because of fearing to lose the financial support, she turns a blind eye to the fact he is sexually assaulting her teenage daughter. In an attempt to escape this way of life she disguised herself, wearing false hair and facial make-up and enters a dance hall contest, with the hope of winning some money.
                There is actually such an event that takes place every year in Jamaica that brings with a range of opportunity; however there are many Jamaican females who don’t get such an opportunity. They are either stranded with abusive men, or have chosen to try other ways of escaping into a better life, such as prostitution and even drugs trafficking. Many have settled with accepting life with the hardship it presence, and are satisfied with whatever little minimum wages work that they may get. There is however a minority that stuggles towards receiving a tertiary education, making them prepared for great job opportunity. Dance hall queen is  a subtle scope into reality of poor Jamaican women, none the less, it stays true to the reality of the Jamaican society.

Home Sickness

Home Sickness, by Louise Bennett
Me dah dead fe drink some coaknut  wata
Se a breadfruit tree,
Lawd fe walk eena de broilin sun
An bade eena de sea.

Me nyam cabbage an pittata chips
An gwan like sey me please,
But me belly disa halla
Fe a plate a rice an peas.

Fe a dumpling a duckoonoo
Fe a bulla fulla spice
An fe cool mi sugan-wata
Wid a quatti lump a ice.

An fe board a market train an hear
De people dem a chat
Bout de good foot weh dem buck up
Or de bad dream weh dem got.

English county road dem pretty
An sometimes wen mi dah roam
An mi se a little a lickle village
Me feel jus like me deh home.

But me galang and me galang,
Me no see no donkey cart!
Me no meet no black smady
An it heaby up me heart.

For me long fe se a bankra basket
An a hampa load
A number- eleven, beafy, blacky,
Hairy mango pon de road !

An me mout top start fe wata
Me mout corner start fe foam
A dose a hundry buckle hole me
An me want fe go back home.

Go back home to me Jamaica
To me fambly! To me wa?
Lawd ha masse, me feget,
All a me famble over yah!

‘Home Sickness,’
Migration is cultured within the minds of Jamaican as it is believed that an abundant of opportunities waits in another land. However there are always consequences to be faced with migrating to a place where the culture is different.  ‘Home Sickness’ is a poem written by Louise Bennett in the Jamaican dialect, using the ballad quatrain style of writing.  Here she incorporates a narrative dialect as she humors the experience of Jamaicans abroad, who are missing home. She uses the opportunity to highlight some significant elements that distinguishes Jamaica from the new land which they have settled. Each four line stanza is used to dramatically package and reveal details about the landscape, food and customs of the Jamaican people. These are also the same elements that have been promoted to boast the Jamaica’s tourism industry.
Coconut water, bread fruit trees, the Sun and the sea are things highlighted within the first stanza as being missed. In a dramatically exaggerating style the poem begins, “Me a dead fe drink some coconut wata…”( line1) and she goes on by listing the other things that are being missed. These are always the very first things that visitors and returning citizens appear to want to dig into, immediately after landing in Jamaica and getting off the plane, while those already at home look forward to the foreign goodies being brought. It has become a customary practice for families, friend and other Jamaicans to trade these goods and associated services with visitors. Visitors also look forward to taking roast breadfruit along with other items with them, when they are leaving. By the time the narrator gets to the third stanza she had already expresses in a sarcastic manner her disgust for cabbage and potato chips (a Europeans main dish). She did this while expressing how much she would love to have some rice and peas, her longing for dumpling, dukoono, spiced bulla and sugar in water “wid a quattie lump a ice” (line 12). Rice and Peas is a national dish of Jamaica that is customarily cooked on Sundays. The other foods listed are also customary to the Jamaican dish.
While moving about on the English the soil the character reminisces on the market settings of Jamaica, thinking about the market train, donkey carts, bankra basket and the people. She then sadly expresses, “Me no meet up no black smady an it heaby up me heart.”(lines 23-24) She is longing to see some of her own kind of people to the point that at the ending she decided that she wanted to come home to sse her family; but in a twist irony that expresses how vast the foreign land must be, she remembers that all her family are there in England. It also points back to Jamaican mentality towards migrating. Today there are no market trains and dockey carts and bankra baskets are no longer popular, however these things are a part of Jamaica’s history. The market is however still alive and active.    

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Redemption Song

Redemption Song
The larger than life sculpture piece was done by Laura Facey and has been strategically placed at the entrance to Emancipation Park, located in New Kingston. It was commissioned by the Jamaican government to be a part of the Emancipation theme and was unveiled by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson   in 2003, on the 1st anniversary of the Park. The 11 feet male and female bronzed figures with African like features are placed on a concrete base, thus further emphasizing the monumental essence of the forms. Water overflows from the top of the concrete base while it is apparent that the bodies are emerging from the centre.  They stand facing each other in the nude form, as only two/third (2/3) of their bodies are clearly visible to eyes of viewers. Standing with their hands at their side, they are however not looking at each other, but are instead focusing their view to the sky. Entitled “Redemption Song,” the work came under immediate fire, from all levels of society. Many controversial debates developed under the scope of international media presentations; thus making the work, globally one of the most infamous works of art done in Jamaica. It provoked the historical awareness of Jamaicans while stimulating their interest in the social structuring of the Jamaican society.    
While some Jamaicans had no problem with the nudity others found it to be degrading and offensive to ‘black people.’ Claims were made that it supported stereotypical ideas that Africans and their descendants alike are highly sexual, illiterate people. These persons focused primarily on arguing that the male reproductive organ had been oversized, thus giving focal attention to this part of the body while distracting and diverting from the seriousness of the subject at hand; “Emancipation”. The artist however stated that her intention was otherwise,
“Prayer is what I intended. In the words of Dr. David Boxer, who sent me an e-mail last night, 'I see two black human beings resplendent in their purity, their heads raised heaven-wards in prayer... Yes, this is a prayer. The work is a silent hymn of communion with and thanksgiving to the Almighty'.”[1]
The majority of Jamaicans plainly could not identify with the relationship between the nude figures and the concept of Emancipation and as a result, felt as if the roots and struggles of ‘black people’ towards freedom have been misrepresented. Many would rather have been represented by dynamic figures in the act of breaking from shackles, instead of standing in such a passive misguided manner.  There were also persons who cried that the work was indecent, uncensored and therefore damaging to the moralities of our society, with claims that the images weren’t suitable for the viewing of children. The artist however had more to say.
When asked if the figures could not have been done wearing clothing, Laura Facey’s responds was, “I never considered clothes... In the creative process, I just went for the essence of what emancipation would have meant for slaves.”[2] This is not the first time that a Jamaican sculptor have created a work which addressed the freedom of ‘black people’ without the consideration of clothing. In fact the work reminisces, Edna Manley’s “Negro Aroused” (1935) and bears strong resemblance to Christopher Gonzalez “Man Arisen” (1966). Both works addresses the issue of freedom from enslavement. Significant similarities that exist among the three works are that they all depictions of the newly freed black ‘people,’ done in the nude and they are all looking to the sky. The only great differences that exist between “Man Arisen” and “Redemption Song” are that, Laura Facey added a female counterpart in “Redemption Song,” the piece was commissioned for public display, while Man Arisen is in an enclosed space and Redemption Song is a larger than life bronze piece while Man Arisen is a little short of being a life size wooden sculpture.  However these differences were enough to trigger the attention of the entire Jamaican society towards Redemption Song, while the other work remains relatively unknown.
 Within the history of Western art, sculptors have often represented the human body in the nude form. This practice has been done for aesthetics purposes as well as for symbolic reasons. Symbolically nudity has always represented purity. However the mass of Jamaican society have long considered public nudity to be indecent and in many cases disgraceful, and there was no exception for the arts. With the presentation of “Redemption Song,” Laura Facey and the Jamaican Government at the time challenged this perception.  The immediate reaction was so overwhelming it led the artist to say,
        “I didn't think I would escape controversy but I had no idea that the controversy would be this huge. However, I view the controversy as being all good because, at least, it gives people the chance to express their feelings and views and continue the process of learning and growing spiritually… I am very hopeful that in the future, the public will understand the work for what it is, a prayer by two black slaves in a 'healing stream'. Nudity is part of their rebirth in freedom”[3]
The work was unveiled in a Jamaican society and spoke directly to Jamaican, while inviting the views of others. Today the work is not much spoken about, but remains known as a Jamaican art work that succeeded in engaging the majority of Jamaicans, the history of Jamaican sculptures were incorporated and it has become unavoidable enjoyed as a land mark of Jamaica.

2 Mills, Claude; “A Prayer…in a healing stream,” Jamaica Gleaner. Published: Thursday/ August, 2003.

[1] Mills, Claude; “A Prayer…in a healing stream,” Jamaica Gleaner. Published: Thursday/ August, 2003.
[2] Mills, Claude; “A Prayer…in a healing stream,” Jamaica Gleaner. Published: Thursday/ August, 2003.
[3] Ibid

Graffiti on the main street of St. Andrew

Graffiti on the main street of St. Andrew

On the side wall of the Total gas station located at the intersection of Barbican road and Old Hope road, this graffiti painting is covered with playful colours, child like imagery and words. Ironically there is nothing playful about this image as it allures to various problems within our Jamaican Society. Phases such as, big up Jamaica, Justice 4 all, bawling out equal rights, though shall not kill, we are poor people, peace and love,  etc. are entwined with images of flowers, children, people crying, cars and houses. The primary focus of this composition is injustice, poverty and crime while asking for peace, love, equally and justice.  Centrally located and undisturbed by the chaotic structure of the composition, is  the black silhouette image of a big man, dressed in a formal suit and is elevated by several very small men. Written immediately below this image is the phase, “slavery people.” This can be identified as the representation of the ‘big men and the position they hold within the society. The politicians, pastors, area leaders, business men and all those who remain undisturbed, because they are being held high by the masses are the ‘big men’ within the society.
Here the structure of Jamaica is being classified as modern day slavery, where the poverty level is high, crime and violence is rampant and the ‘big men takes advantage of the situation. In Jamaica it is impossible for the average working man to maintain a good standard of life on minimum wages, with the cost of necessities always on the rise. Hence the average working man is always hungry and therefore always looking for an opportunity to make a little extra money; and for those without a job the situation is worse. This makes the lower class of society valnuable to exploitations, which encourages criminal activities. Politicians are so often accused of being strongly associated with criminal elements, which often forces different areas within the society to support one political party or another, to the point that it is widely accepted to be true. This is often viewed as a way to elevate out of poverty, hence criminals are role models for the younger generation within the lower class society; and the cycle is set to repeat itself. On the other hand, the children of the ‘big men’ in society are exposed to the finest qualities of life that money can buy. They go to the best schools, see the best doctors and are almost never interrogated by the justice system. It is widely known that the politicians get their election funding from the business sector, thus making politicians and business men alike, apart of one big happy family.  The work evokes all this and more about the Jamaican society.