A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. – Proverbs 18:16
Well, it’s not often that I post quotes from the Bible. However, my Christian cab driver quoted this on my way home from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade this afternoon, and I thought it rather apt – except for the fact that it is a young girl who has the gift, and I hope and expect that it will bring her before great men and women, before too long.
The girl in question is twelve-year-old Ebonique Taylor, a student of Drews Avenue Primary School in Waterhouse, Kingston. Ebonique recently won a special painting competition organized by the Mexican Embassy in Jamaica as part of their ongoing celebrations of fifty years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The theme was Mexico, a Caribbean Country. A panel of experts in children’s art from the Mexican Ministry of Culture selected Ebonique’s painting from 57 entries by nine- to twelve-year-olds in eight primary schools, on the basis of artistic technique and originality.
Ebonique’s prize will be a trip to Mexico (from June 17 – 24) with her mother Kaceta Morris (who beamed throughout the presentation ceremony at the Ministry). The Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Hotel donated the tickets; the affable Guillermo Oliva from Moon Palace presented an oversized “boarding pass” to Ebonique and Ms. Morris.
“Our best ambassadors are our children,” said Her Excellency Mrs. Cecelia Jaber, Ambassador of Mexico to Jamaica. Indeed, young people have that spirit of openness that we often seem to lose as adults. During their stay in Mexico, Ebonique and her mother will visit a Children’s Museum, Mayan pyramids and more, as guests of the Mexican Government. After the event, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith took the time to show them photos she took on a recent visit to Mexico – including one of a “basket to carry water” (basketry is a rich and diverse handicraft in Mexico).
Ebonique called her winning painting The Colours of Jamaica and Mexico, and it is this combination of swirling colors that seizes one with its energy on looking at the painting. I did not expect such a painting – abstract, easy to embrace, confident – from a twelve-year-old girl. I had expected something more representational. The three colors of the Mexican flag – white, rich red and grass green – danced with the Jamaican flag colors – green, black, gold, with the clear white highlighting the colors – separate and then joining. Ebonique had clearly given thought to the “separateness” of the two countries, and at the same time their “connectedness.” As Minister Johnson Smith noted, Ebonique sees “one people” through the colors, seeking out their combined spirit. The Minister urged the young artist to be proud of her achievement, to recognize herself as a “winner.” Turning to her mother, she said she honored “every parent who brings out the best in their child.”
As an extra prize from the Ministry – and quite a major contribution – Minister Johnson Smith announced that Ebonique would also participate in a four-week summer course for young people at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston in July. I am sure this will inspire her even further and give her the opportunity to explore and grow in her art. Ambassador Jaber also donated Spanish teaching manuals for her school library to the Principal Sacheel Grant-Henry.
So, next week Ebonique will go on her first trip abroad. It will be memorable, I am quite sure.
Good luck and bon voyage, Ebonique and Ms. Morris! Or rather, I should say ¡Buen viaje!
Footnotes: Two things crossed my mind while considering Ebonique’s achievement. Firstly, the concept of Mexico as a Caribbean country reminded me of a blog post I wrote just a few days ago, referring to the Wider Caribbean Region. Because our seas are connected (the Gulf of Mexico to the west of the Caribbean, and parts of the Atlantic Ocean coast to the east) the countries of Central America, including Mexico, are indeed Caribbean countries. Secondly, Jamaica and Mexico are not connected by language – something that Ebonique pointed out in her entry description. This reminds me of the current rather fatuous debate resulting from Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ comments that Spanish could (or should) be Jamaica’s second language. What is wrong with this statement? As several of us mentioned to Ebonique, acquiring a second language is a huge asset. More Jamaicans need to learn another language. It opens doors. We need to take language teaching seriously; it has great value.