Heritage Matters – For Young Jamaicans, Too


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

A slight logjam on the staircase.
A slight logjam on the staircase.

I recently had the honor of volunteering with the JN Foundation again. This time, we were at the venerable Institute of Jamaica, a  colonial relic that still maintains its dignity and still functions as a bastion of history and culture, in downtown Kingston. Its halls have echoed with the footsteps of thousands of Jamaican schoolchildren over the years, and this day was no exception.

Chair of Jamaica Heritage Clubs Dotsie Gordon (right) smiles, while Chairman of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Ainsley Henriques and Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna seem deep in thought.
Chair of Jamaica Heritage Clubs Dotsie Gordon (right) smiles, while Chairman of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Ainsley Henriques and Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna seem deep in thought at the opening of the Symposium.

The occasion was the first gathering of all the Heritage Clubs of Jamaica, which operate under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth and Culture. The first Heritage Clubs were founded in 1996 in Jamaican high schools; their aim is “to provide support to Jamaican schools in heritage education and awareness for social, economic and environmental preservation” through community-based activities. In collaboration with the Jamaican National Heritage Trust (JNHT), the theme of the first Symposium was “Our Heritage…Our Responsibility.” The JN Foundation, along with the Government’s CHASE Fund, has been a major sponsor of the Clubs, whose Chairperson, Ms. Dotsie Gordon, welcomed a swelling audience of high school students and watched the proceedings with a happy smile. “This is a great achievement,” she said.

St. Catherine High School students were the first to arrive, so got to browse the beautiful Earth Day posters on display, and sip cups of Milo.
St. Catherine High School students were the first to arrive, so got to browse the beautiful Earth Day posters on display, and sip cups of Milo, tea and coffee.
Here is one of the many beautiful Earth Day posters on display, from a school competition.
Here is one of the many beautiful Earth Day posters on display, from a school competition.

The school presentations followed the speeches – and a refreshment break during which the students demolished large quantities of sandwiches and patties. The lunch break was even more hectic. The students were well fed, indeed.

I loved Morant Bay High School’s documentary film, in which the students interviewed elderly residents of the small village of Stony Gut, birthplace of National Hero Paul Bogle, in the parish of St. Thomas. During an interview with a descendant of Paul Bogle himself, a bird introduced himself and proceeded to join the conversation, loudly and beautifully. Mr. Bogle had a lot to say, and so did the bird. It was delightful.

Ms. Ashley Henry, a member of the Morant Bay High School Heritage Club, introduced their documentary film focusing on the birthplace of Paul Bogle.
Ms. Ashley Henry, a member of the Morant Bay High School Heritage Club, introduced their documentary film focusing on the birthplace of Paul Bogle.

There was a dramatic change in tempo after that presentation, as the wildly energetic St. Catherine High School drummers took their places on the stage. I had met them earlier in the exhibition area, where you can see a very impressive schools arts and crafts exhibition. The drummers posed for their picture, in a state of some excitement, before their performance – which was an attacking volley of drumming, played with great humor and flamboyance. The audience screamed its applause at the end. I had a chat with the group’s teacher, Kemar Grant, who told me the students are perfectionists, who hate to get the smallest detail wrong. Like true artists.

Members of the St. Catherine High School drumming troupe strike poses in the art exhibition.
Members of the St. Catherine High School drumming troupe strike poses in the art exhibition.

The girls also had their say. Westwood High School, a boarding school in rural Trelawny, swept the board with an energetic performance history of their school, through dance, poetry and drumming. They won first prize in the competition, whereby schools  won cash to continue their Heritage Club activities. Second was Holland High School for their documentary on historic buildings in Falmouth; and third came our drummers.

Westwood High School girls wear their trademark hats made from "jippi jappa" - the leaves of a particular palm tree. They put a little doll wearing their uniform at the front of the stage.
Westwood High School girls wear their trademark hats made from “jippi jappa” – the leaves of a particular palm tree. They put a little doll wearing their uniform at the front of the stage.
The St. Catherine High School drummers - true showmen - and women...
The St. Catherine High School drummers – true showmen – and women… Yes, there are girl drummers in the group.

Congratulations to Ms. Gordon, Ms. Junie Bolton of the JNHT, the JN Foundation, volunteers, teachers and especially the noisy, energetic and enthusiastic students, who had much to say about their history.

I think Jamaica’s heritage is alive and well in their hands! I hope this interest in our history – however painful it may have been – will continue to flourish in our schools. Our children must understand the experiences and travails of their ancestors. With their feet rooted in the past, they can step confidently into the future.

Below are a few photographs from the marvelous art exhibition, which I do recommend that you go and see…

Campion College, Kingston, showcased some intricate wildlife drawings - some with mermaids.
Campion College, Kingston, showcased some intricate wildlife drawings – some with mermaids.
Urban expressions from St. George's College, Kingston.
Urban expressions from St. George’s College, a boys’s school in Kingston.
Bright textiles from Seaforth High School in St. Thomas - which had a rich display of art and craft.
Bright batik textiles from Seaforth High School in St. Thomas – which had a rich display of art and craft.
A striking painting by an 18-year-old student of Foga Road High School in Denbigh, Clarendon.
A striking painting by an 18-year-old student of Foga Road High School in Denbigh, Clarendon.
Vibrant art and craft in the schools exhibition.
Vibrant art and craft in the schools exhibition from Buff Bay High School in Portland.
A boy balances a drum on his head, going down the stairs.
A boy balances a drum on his head, going down the stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like your high school to establish a Heritage Club, you may contact the Heritage Clubs of Jamaica on Facebook and they are also on Twitter @HeritageClubs. Email: heritageclubsofjamaica@gmail.com.


4 thoughts on “Heritage Matters – For Young Jamaicans, Too

  1. Dear Emma,

    I hate to sound boastful but I co-founded the Heritage Clubs concept some 16 years ago. The Trust et al allowed it to die after I left the chair in 99. We have now resurrected it as a concept and made it an NGO so it may survive this time around. Hope so. We want to have such a club in every school.

    If you read the program I am named as the co-founder.

    Thanks for the blog

    One love

    Ainsley

    From: Rachel [mailto:rf@rachelfrankelarch.com] Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2014 15:12 To: Petchary’s Blog; Ainsley Henriques Subject: Re: [New post] Heritage Matters – For Young Jamaicans, Too

    Dear Emma,

    Wonderful and assuring. Thank you.

    Rachel Frankel

    via iPhone

    Like

    1. Dear Ainsley: I am sorry! I am looking at the program, but do not see this mentioned? And I would have pointed this out. Maybe I didn’t get the full program. But you are not being boastful! I am glad it has been resurrected, as I think it is a brilliant concept. I really hope it does grow and extend to every school. It makes sense. Thanks for your comment and warm wishes…

      Like

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