On the Sunday after Hurricane Sandy, with spirits somewhat restored, we spent the day with a new friend from Suriname. The gloom of the storm in the endless mists and forests of the Blue Mountains still weighed a little heavily, and our friend was far from home. So we endeavored to lighten her load (and ours, into the bargain) with a visit to the National Gallery of Jamaica.
We did not regret it.
As I noted in a recent post, a strong move is under way to “revive” the downtown area of Kingston. This can only work to the benefit of a cultural oasis like the National Gallery – a government entity, but certainly not dull or lacking in variety and vibrancy. The NGJ’s mission statement is “to collect, research, document and preserve Jamaican, other Caribbean Art and related material and to promote our artistic heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.” This is something which Executive Director Veerle Poupeye and Assistant Curator O’Neil Lawrence put into practice every day. Moreover…with her small and enthusiastic team, Ms. Poupeye has also, in her quiet, determined way, greatly expanded the Gallery’s outreach through innovative programs, such as its monthly Sunday openings (the last Sunday of each month from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) These are free and include guided tours, musical interludes, children’s activities…and simply the enjoyment of permanent as well as current exhibitions.
Now, it is well worth while spending some time downtown, as we did, where the waters of Kingston Harbour sparkle brilliantly and the city somehow seems to regain its personality in the calm of a Sunday lunchtime. The day was quieter than usual, as the good citizens of Kingston pulling their affairs back together after the storm. But we had had enough of sweeping and cleaning and clearing up, and wanted to refresh ourselves; and we found many friends and acquaintances eager to do the same.
While we were away (or “off the island” as Jamaicans like to say) a remarkable exhibition opened at the National Gallery: the winners of the First International Reggae Poster Contest went on display. There were 1,142 entries from 678 designers in eighty countries – from every corner of the planet – an indicator, of course, of reggae music’s extraordinary global resonance. The first prize winner was Alon Braier, from Israel, who visited Jamaica for the exhibit opening. His piece was a serious portrayal of the “Roots of Dub.” The central figure, the engineer/producer, has one finger poised to press a button on the amplifier; in one corner, roots musician Augustus Pablo plays his haunting melodica tunes; in the other, a rather stoned-looking Lee “Scratch” Perry half-smiles, enigmatically.
Second prize, from Turkey, is completely different: a dazzling five-point, red gold and green star; third prize, from Italy, is a flowing portrayal of a singer with birds nesting, resting and then flying from his dreads with the logo, “Riddim is Freedom”; fourth – and one of my personal favorites – from Poland, is a fine portrait of veteran reggae singer Winston Rodney (Burning Spear); and fifth is a Jamaican entry full of vigor and complexity by Taj Francis, a graduate of Kingston’s Edna Manley College for the Visual & Performing Arts. The “top ten” can be found on the contest’s website – link below; including #10, which I find quite beautiful, from Greece.
All I can say is that we were so overwhelmed and impressed by the diversity of the 100 posters on show that we realized it must have been incredibly hard for the fifteen international judges to pick the very best. Some reflected the lyricism of roots reggae; some expressed the harder, more aggressive mood of dancehall and the first deejays; others simply celebrated the music, interpreting its messages for the most part as peace, love and harmony. I have posted a few other favorites of mine below, so that you can see the amazing range of moods and interpretations.
Reggae music is complex. It is not one thing. It is not just rhythm and baseline – although these are important components, to draw you in. It is so much more – and the “more” is what this ground-breaking exhibition encompasses – the quiet philosophy, the raw emotion of reggae music, for better or for worse.
Now to the even more important part: The posters are to be auctioned off this weekend – yes THIS weekend - at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sunday, November 11 at 2:30 p.m. All proceeds will go to the Alpha Boys School (which deserves at least another blog post for itself), where many of Jamaica’s musicians got their training with the Alpha Boy’s Band. Alpha Boys is no ordinary boys’ school; it was, in fact an orphanage, founded by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy in 1880 on Kingston’s South Camp Road. The flyer below shows Sister Mary Ignatius Davis, the iconic head of the school for an astounding 64 years, who passed away in 2003. The school teaches music and as well as academics has a strong focus on vocational training for boys from very deprived backgrounds (a number of them were homeless, alone, and without family, but Alpha takes care of them, gives their lives structure – and brings music). The illustrious alumni of Alpha include jazz trumpeter Dizzy Reece, singers Leroy Smart and Johnny Osbourne, pioneering dancehall deejay Yellowman; trombonist Rico Rodriguez; founding members of the legendary Skatalites, Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling and Dizzy Moore – among many others. What better beneficiary could there be?
The Alpha Boys are more than half-way downtown. Another important arrow in the bow that the poster competition has let fly is the campaign to build a Reggae Hall of Fame on Kingston’s waterfront. Something along the lines of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, which I have visited and which is a delightfully brash and enticing attraction on the lakeside, built of glass and steel. As a huge rock fan since the age of ten, for me it was like visiting a cross between a shrine and a garden of unexpected delights (their small but intimate exhibit on the Doors moved me nearly to tears, when I visited). I hope the reggae version might be something similar, for the true fan. On the Reggae Hall of Fame’s Facebook page (why don’t you “like” it?) Michael Thompson describes the vision as “a new approach for Kingston’s development, linking reggae with urban revitalization.” Aha.
So there you have it. Please come down on Sunday to bid for your favorite poster – or, if you cannot afford it, just enjoy a final look at the exhibit. The exhibition officially closes TOMORROW!
For more details, visit the National Gallery of Jamaica website or contact them via their blog, Facebook page or on Twitter. Support Jamaican art, and especially this amazing initiative!
http://natgalja.org.jm/ioj_wp/ (National Gallery of Jamaica website)
http://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com (National Gallery of Jamaica blog)
http://www.reggaepostercontest.com (First International Reggae Poster Contest: website)
http://www.alphaoldboysassociation.com/history.html (Alpha Old Boys’ Association: History of the School)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120917/ent/ent2.html (Alpha Boys’ Home gets Royal Philharmonic treat: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://freestylee.net/tag/reggae-hall-of-fame-propaganda/ (Posters for Reggae Hall of Fame)
http://www.reggaehalloffame.com (Reggae Hall of Fame.com)
A Pause for Refreshment…and Art to Soothe the Soul (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sticks and Stones (petchary.wordpress.com)
What to See and Do in Kingston (channelvoyager.com)
Post-Sandy Cheer, Part One: Gastronomic (petchary.wordpress.com)
National Gallery of Jamaica’s Saturday Art-Time (repeatingislands.com)
National Gallery To Open ‘World-A-Reggae’ Exhibition (repeatingislands.com)
VIDEO: Hurricane Sandy hits Jamaica coast (bbc.co.uk)
A few more of my favorite posters, below:
- Clarks, the shoes that tap to Jamaica’s reggae beat (guardian.co.uk)
- Heart on sleeves: 50 years of Jamaican album covers tell the story of a nation (independent.co.uk)
This story may sound familiar to some of us. Many Jamaicans have the unfortunate habit of talking very loudly on their cell phones, no matter where they are or who they are with. We have to endure all the details of their gossip, latest purchases, family issues, boyfriend/girlfriend issues, etc., whether we like it or not. Of course, Jamaicans love talking (and talking on the phone) of course; cell phones were an absolute godsend when they arrived on the island – both for rural dwellers who were virtually cut off before, and for the poseurs who want us all to see and admire their latest model phone. And of course, to hear their very uninteresting conversations, which often sound more like a monologue (I sometimes wonder if there is someone on the other end of the line at all…)
Anyway, I came across this delightful piece in the Sunday version of the Zambia Daily Mail. I think it will make you chuckle… (and of course, we all know what a vuvuzela is – again, whether we like it or not)…
(I’ve added a few links to other news from Zambia below. And I’m sorry, I don’t know what the African words are in the article below…although I can take a guess at some of them…)
MY THOUGHTS ON SUNDAY with CHARLES CHISALA
A READER called me a few days ago and asked me to write about showy commuters and other travellers who have the habit of talking loudly on the phone while travelling on public transport without caring about the feelings and rights of the other passengers.
I am sure you have also travelled with such uncultured and backward passengers, who know nothing about public place etiquette.
The reader narrated how a minibus she was travelling on recently in Lusaka from the city centre to one of the townships picked up a woman on one of the numerous stops that dot the route. As soon as the woman got on the bus, the reader recounted, all hell broke loose.
“Charles, can’t you write about these people who broadcast their personal affairs while on public buses without any regard for the other passengers? It’s just too much! Why are some people not ashamed to disturb the peace of the other passengers, who are total strangers, by talking loudly on their mobile phones for long periods?” she complained.
“Immediately this woman got on the bus she started dialling one number after the other. She managed to get through to one of the numbers and started talking with the other person at the other end of the line at the top of her voice, shouting and laughing all the way from Kamwala to Chilenje South. I was very disappointed with that woman because she kept talking even when it was clear that most of the other passengers were angry with her,” she said.
The reader said several passengers looked at her angrily to express their displeasure, but the caller was not bothered. One would have expected her to read the facial expressions of her fellow passengers, but she didn’t care.
One young man who was unfortunate enough to sit next to her grimaced, frowned, grunted, snorted, fidgeted and even clucked his tongue in a futile attempt to help the woman realise that she was being a nuisance to the other passengers, but she just kept yapping, non-stop.
First she asked the other person how she was, then changed the topic to groundnuts, pumpkins, cassava and God knows what. When she ran out of farm produce to talk about she started gossiping about another woman and her husband.
Unfortunately, there was no-one courageous enough on the bus to challenge her. All the other passengers could do was look at each other, glare at the talker, murmur and pout.
Someone should have boldly told the uncultured woman that she is an ifontini or umututu. Who was interested in her cheap banter?
I remember one incident when I was forced to use public transport because I did not have fuel in my personal motor vehicle. I boarded this minibus at Melisa shopping complex in Kabulonga going back to the city centre.
There was this young man who kept making one call after the other talking and laughing as if he was the only passenger on the bus. And no-one was courageous enough to intervene except frown and murmur.
When we reached the Longacres bus stop, the bus stopped to allow some passengers to disembark and pick up others. All the while the bus was stationary the boy kept talking. By the time it started off again he was still shouting and laughing into his handset.
At Hotel Intercontinental I was so annoyed that I could no longer remain silent. The fool was seated just a seat ahead of me and I couldn’t just allow him to continue assaulting our ears.
“Bakalamba, I think we have had enough of this nonsense. You can’t be shouting all the way from Melisa without any respect for the other passengers. Can you call your friends or whoever you are talking with after you have left the bus?
“If you continue I will have no choice but to confiscate your phone and only give it back to you when you leave this bus.”
Several voices spoke out in support of me. Even the conductor who had kept quiet despite complaints from passengers about the exhibitionist caller joined the chorus.
“Kwati pali ka foni balelangisha (what a cheap phone to show off),” he quipped triggering a cacophony of contemptuous laughter across the entire bus. “Someone must have donated it to him,” I rubbed it in, and there were more sniggers as people looked at me gratefully.
The twit turned to look at the person who had just spoken and was about to mouth something silly, but froze when he saw my posture and physical build. I was ready to take him on. After all I had the support of all the other passengers and the crew.
But for the rest of the journey he just kept quiet, sulking.
I needed not remind that unmannered chongololo that in all the years I was a police detective I was a respected karamoja sprinter and purple belt holding Taekwondo karateka. I still have those skills and am ready to use them whenever necessary. He therefore did a wise thing to keep quiet because I was ready to kick and punch the bad habit out of him.
Another reader told me she is a cross-border trader based in Lusaka. She complained that every time she boards a bus at Nakonde on her way to Dar es Salaam there is a male trader from Ndola’s Masala market who talks like a machine. I have withheld his name but I am sure those who have travelled with him know the person I am talking about.
She said the man will talk all the way until he falls asleep, and when he wakes up he resumes the non-stop talking until he falls asleep again.
“The man is such an embarrassment,” the sister complained. “He will tell everybody how much money he is carrying, how much he has in the bank, how much he has left with his wife at home, what words he spoke to her when giving her the money and the latest household property he has bought.”
The sister said at first the other passengers used to just laugh at this talkative man, but he has now become a big nuisance.
Please, my fellow Zambians let us not make fools of ourselves by talking loudly on our mobile phones while in public places such as funerals or public buses. No one is interested in knowing your private affairs.
If you are travelling on a public bus and you want to make an important call make it short. Equally, if you receive a call and feel compelled to answer it, be brief.
But to some primitive people it is an opportunity to let all and sundry know what the call is all about without realising that they are actually being a nuisance. Don’t you people know that the people on that bus have different reasons for travelling?
Some of them are going for funerals of their loved ones, some for job interviews while others are going for weddings. So they are in different states of their minds and need peace so that they can introspect on their respective missions.
Who are you to disturb your fellow passengers with your silly phone conversations? Let me hear you again!
Comments to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- African Postman: Turning Mangoes Into Money (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Watch out IKEA! Paddy Power launch giant vuvuzela attack on London’s Swedish landmarks (mirror.co.uk)
- African Postman: International Year of the Rhino (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2164857/Adorable-photos-baby-Sumatran-rhino-born-captivity-taking-steps.html?ito=feeds-newsxml: Photos and video of baby Sumatran Rhino
- After A Rash Of Vuvuzela Injuries, We Must Ask: Is The Pope Safe? [World Cuppage] (deadspin.com)
- Record ivory heist at Zambia wildlife HQ (terradaily.com)
- Zambia launches 2nd securities exchange firm (times.co.zm)
- Zambia Closed chess tourney on (times.co.zm)
- Zambia inks water sector deal with MCC (devex.com)
- Record ivory heist at Zambia wildlife HQ (terradaily.com)
- Zambia launches 2nd securities exchange firm (times.co.zm)
Today, June 5, is the start of International Year of the Rhino 2012. The rhinoceros is not only a creature of Africa – in fact, it was President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia who made today’s announcement. In his own country, the mainland population of the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis lasiotus) is listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature‘s (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species. It is one of the most endangered mammals on Earth. The Black Rhinoceros (diceros bicornis) and the Javan Rhinoceros (rhinoceros sondaicus) are in the same category.
Last November, I wrote a blog post about the Western Black Rhinoceros (the “animal with the golden horn”) – which the IUCN has now declared extinct; its last known habitat was Northern Cameroon. It is hunted for its horn, which the Chinese and Vietnamese value highly for its alleged aphrodisiac qualities. Africa’s Northern and Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is now Near Threatened, according to the IUCN, but its population has increased somewhat, despite its extinction in countries such as Sudan, Southern Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic. It has been introduced in Zambia, and reintroduced in five other countries. For the record, the Indian Rhinoceros (rhinoceros unicorns) is Vulnerable.
The African Wildlife Foundation and other organizations are seeking funding to support the conservation of the Black Rhinoceros, whose survival is on the brink. If you can donate $10, $20 or $30 towards the survival of one of these magnificent animals, please do so. Meanwhile, scientists such as those at the San Diego Zoo and elsewhere are doing incredible work to see if they can get the rhinoceros to reproduce more quickly and to reintroduce them into the wild. Conservationists seek to monitor their ranges and their numbers (at one time the population of White Rhinos was down to 2,500) and to raise awareness of rhino conservation issues.
I have always been a fan of Babar the Elephant since my youth (and before the cartoon movies, which admittedly aren’t bad). Lord Rataxes of Rhinoland, which adjoins Babar’s Celesteville, is a lovable and important character. His somewhat smarter Lady Retaxes is the power behind the throne. Lord Rataxes is a somewhat uncertain ally of Babar, perhaps less refined, and often does the wrong thing. Wouldn’t it be sad if this wonderful character became a symbol of the days when the rhinoceros roamed wild and free across the plains of Africa?
Please look at the links below, and see if there is any way in which you can assist in the conservation of these monumental creatures.
Related links and websites:
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/black-african-extinct/: Black, African…Extinct – the Western Black Rhinoceros
http://www.awf.org/content/wildlife/detail/rhinoceros: African Wildlife Foundation
Rhinoceros Undergoes Assisted Reproduction to Rescue Species from Extinction (scientificamerican.com)
Photo of the Day Contest, “Red Rhino”, An exquisite photograph of a (bushwarriors.org)
Video – Watch White Rhinos being saved from poachers’ wounds! (conservationguardians.com)
Rhinos May be Extinct in South Africa by 2015 (treehugger.com)