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Reggae, Jazz and the Legacies of Slavery - First Sunday at National Gallery of Jamaica

Leasho Johnson explores  history, tourism and dancehall - We Have Met Before

As an unusually dreary November began in Kingston, The National Gallery of Jamaica had a vibrant First Sunday featuring the exhibition We Have Me Before to a vibrant close. The event was a little outside the ordinary, but the combination of provocative art and great music has become the usual fare at the NGJ. The difference was, that while this usually takes place on the last Sunday of the month, it was November 5, 2017 - the first Sunday of the month.

Jamila Falak, a recent graduate of the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts wooed with the audience with her blend of charm and a fusion of jazz, reggae and pop music. 

Jamila Falak at We Have Met Before National Gallery of Jamaica

Accompanied by O’niel Dacres on key boards, Falak, alternately playing the upright bass delivered Norah Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why’, Lauryn Hill’s ‘Tell Him’, Adele’s Send My Love and Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About That Bass’ - given an extra bit of punning power as it was one of the pieces on which Falak played bass. 

We Have Met Before, featuring pieces by four artists who explore the lasting legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, was co-presented by the British Council. All four artists in various ways incorporated and interpreted historic source materials in their work

Ingrid Pollard’s (Guyana/UK) black and white photography installation sat across from Leasho Johnson’s dynamic avatars and sculptures which explore and implode ideas of dancehall, history, the gaze, tourism and the twinned legacy of colonialism and enslavement. 

Joscelyn Gaynor's beautiful and terrible images capture sexual abuse as torture in slavery

Graham Fagen’s (Scotland) audio visual installation comprised the captured performance in song of Robert Burn’s The Slave’s Lament, by reggae singer Ghetto Priest. Delivered with slight reggae strains, the performance has been bleached of all strains of a lamentation and instead comes across as a catchy ballad.

Joscelyn Gardner (Barbados/ Canada) was the fourth artist. Her , Leasho Johnson (Jamaica) and dual installations Creole Portraits III and Plantation Poker are terrifyingly beautiful. In Creole Portraits III flowers used to effect abortions, are fused with instruments of torture showing the impact of sexual abuse as a form of torture during slavery. In Plantation Poker she combines excerpts from Thomas Thistlewood’s diary outlining his sexual abuse and other elements of torture. 

The Annabella and Peter Proudlock Collection  - documenting the history of the Harmony Hall Gallery which held a unique position in the development and promotion of the arts in post –independence Jamaica was also being exhibited. 

Both exhibitions have been extended to November 26, 2017.