Our inaugural exhibition, Religion and Spirituality in Jamaican Art opens officially on July 11 and will be available for public viewing from July 12 to August 3. The exhibition considers six overlapping themes:
A Chapter a Day explores the central role of the Bible in Jamaican life and appropriates its title from the saying “a chapter a day keeps the devil away.” In a good illustration that the Bible is not the exclusive province of mainstream Christianity, the saying has particular resonance in Rastafari culture and appears in several reggae songs, by Jacob Miller, Luciano and Junior Gong. Several works in this exhibition illustrate passages from the New and Old Testament, some of them more literal, such as Leslie Clerk’s Christ and the Apostles (Writing in the Sand) andCarl Abrahams’ Woman I Must Be about My Father’s Business, and others more imaginative, such as Everald Brown’s The Earth is the Lord.
Ancestral Memorieslooks at the way in which ancestral religious and spiritual practices have survived and have been imagined in Jamaican art, often in relation to modern identities. Osmond Watson’s Secret of the Arawaks (1977), for instance, ponders the foundational absence/presence of the aboriginal Taino, of whom evocative traces have survived in cave pictographs and other archaeological finds. Other works, such as Everald Brown’s Mystical Sign and Clinton Brown’s Drum, reflect Jamaica’s African heritage.
In Our Own Image explores how “white” colonial religious representations, and the power structures these represent, have been implicitly and explicitly challenged in local religious and artistic practice, as is perhaps most eloquently illustrated in this exhibition by Osmond Watson’s magisterial Jah Lives and Albert Artwell’s 33 ½ Years Story of Christ. As can be seen in these examples, the prevalence of assertively Black religious imagery in Jamaican art is heavily indebted to the teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garveyand the emergence of Rastafari. (more…)