Saturday, January 5, 2008

Materialising Slavery: Art, Artefact Memory and Identity



Images taken of the current exhibition at the Institute of Jamaica

The opening of the exhibition Materialising Slavery: Art, Artefact Memory and Identity was very well attended on Thursday, December 13, at 3 pm. Wayne Modest set the stage with the historical background of our Nation and the context within which each representing artist and ambassador leads. The exhibiting artists are David Boxer, Lawrence Graham-Brown, Christopher Irons, Khalfani Ra and Oneika Russell.

Though exhibited within fragmented spaces, the consistent threads that tied the exhibition together as a powerful forward movement shared by more established artists and the younger generation set examples for us all, as we celebrate the mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Trade of enslaved Africans to Jamaica.

The theory of existentialism, very simular to that of the chaos vs. symmetry theory were also clearly at work throughout the exhibition. Chattel slavery was clearly an injustice served against our Jamaican people in the context of our connection to Africa, the Black Diaspora, to Black people and to humanity in general. In this context, existentially, our ancestors have already bourn enough pain, suffering and anguish in our honour, this being a past purpose. If we refuse to view the world as being chaotic, there is always symmetry in the greater view of humanity. Every thing does in fact serve a purpose, one to learn from and add to our everyday rituals of "living good with people".

In locating ourselves in the present day and in an attempt to set a new paradigm, we need not necessarily re-live this pain and suffering. It is a much more suitable position to identify ourselves with the fact that those wounds have already been healed. We, the descendants, therefore are “Free” of these issues. The contemporary issues that our history continues to prove relevant are issues of identity, race, gender and the body.

It all came together in the new galleries of the Institute of Jamaica, 95-97 Water Lane (entrance at #10 East Street). This exhibition is part of the collaborative project Materialising Slavery: Art, Artefact Memory and Identity being put on by the Museums of History and Ethnography and the National Gallery of Jamaica.

I cannot possibly reflect to you what experiencing this installation of fine artists is like, please visit the site in person. All were and continue to be invited to play a significant part in this exhibition.

The exhibition closes in March 2008.

contributed by Tricia Gordon-Johnston

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