WARE Collective’s Virtual Art Auction to support Jamaica’s unique architectural heritage

For me, there is a strong connection between preserving and protecting our cultural traditions and history and environmental conservation. In Jamaica, we are not very good at either. One example is the continued deterioration of the Vale Royal building in St. Andrew, which is the responsibility of the Office of the Prime Minister. The late Prime Minister Edward Seaga, who once lived there, must be turning in his grave at its deplorable state.

Since COVID-19 started to eat into Jamaica’s budget, there is “no money” for such matters; it seems that we can do without those things that make us feel good about our island and its heritage. No matter. We like new things: new highways, new apartment blocks, even new trees and mangroves!

A traditional Spanish Wall house in St. Elizabeth (Photo: WARE Collective)

So, if you feel, as I do, that Jamaica’s cultural heritage is actually still rather important in the scheme of things, you will be interested in an upcoming event, organized by the WARE Collective – a Jamaican charitable non-profit organization intently focused on the preservation (and celebration) of traditional arts and sustainable building techniques, in southern St. Elizabeth and across Jamaica. WARE stands for Wattle and Red Earth, referring to the parish’s traditional earth and limestone structures; Spanish walling is the construction method used for these buildings, and this is currently a dying art. Only 40 or 50 of the centuries-old buildings remain.

I wrote more about the WARE Collective and the people involved (it was founded in 2017) here.

WARE needs community involvement, which is growing; it needs expertise and dedication, which it has in abundance; and it needs investment – hence the upcoming fundraising Virtual Art Auction, to take place on Sunday, October 17 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Jamaica time. You can reserve your spot on the website and register to receive your free catalogue (I promise you – it will be tempting!)

WARE intends to reconstruct and repurpose this house and others, in order to create a Living Museum for education, research and cultural purposes.

I have registered for the auction and have a “virtual paddle.” Browsing through the catalogue, I was struck by the diversity of the works that will go on the auction block: Surrealist paintings and photographs from Michael Elliott’s “Windrush Series.” Aretha Facey-Dennis’ shining ceramics. Peter Francis’ delicate watercolors. Claudette Lopez-Lewis’ glowing hand-painted kimonos. Striking jewellery by Carol Campbell. Marie Baillie’s photos of the Jamaican countryside. Katrina Coombs’ hand-woven textiles. Mixed media artist Rosa Naday Garmendia’s “Black Lives Matter” photographs. An exquisite traditional basket by Jonas Cummings. What riches!

There are also works by such well-known names such as sculptor Laura Facey, painter Bernard Hoyes, ceramicist Norma Harrack, painter Judy-Ann MacMillan, sculptor and digital artist Petrona Morrison, photographer Donnette Zacca, painter Samere Tansley, visual artist Camille Chedda, renowned painter, the late Alexander Cooper…and many more. Splash out on something solidly and wonderfully Jamaican! And share with art lovers everywhere; this is not to be missed.

I am particularly drawn to the works of Margaret and Mike Stanley, who are dear family friends. Mike died just before Christmas, 2019. Margaret is a textile artist and Mike was a British-born abstract painter. In their different ways, their work is filled with colour, energy, and love of life. We all miss Mike very much; I interviewed him for Global Voices five years ago, and you can read much more about him there.

Curator of the auction Carol Campbell observes in her introduction to the online catalogue:

Without exception, every artist who responded to the invitation to participate, did so from a deep connection with WARE’s vision and mission…Heritage maintenance, promoting the preservation of traditional arts, crafts, and building methods, and the sense of belonging that it brings. WARE’s long-term goal is the establishment of a Living Museum along the Southern corridor of Jamaica, utilizing rescued, revisioned and repurposed structures to aid research, education, and cultural activities.

WARE Auction Catalogue, October 17, 2021.

I also read the wonderful message of support in the catalogue, from the Consul General of Jamaica in Miami, The Hon. R. Oliver Mair. It is clear from his message that he appreciates that “tangible cultural retentions” such as the Spanish Wall buildings have “inherent meaning for who we are.”

Who we are! Where we belong.

See you at the Auction!

A glimpse of Margaret Stanley’s “Dance at Dawn” is in the background here.

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