Still on the highs of the wins made in Beijing by the Jamaican team, it seems appropriate to speak about 'Niggah Deh Winnah'. Lawrence Graham-Brown, A Jamaican artist based in the United States who has exhibited regularly on the Jamaican art scene,tells us about his work.
I first saw Graham-Brown's work in the 2005 Biennial at The National Gallery. I was convinced it was the work of a newly emerging older artist, given the 'intuitive' use of materials and the links to the work of contemporary intuitives like David Marchand.The scribbling of the text 'Niggah Deh Winnah' on work in later exhibitions however began to put this to rest. This was an artist who had sly covert and deeply political concern. This I must admit revealed my prejudice of the label 'intuitive'. I looked at the method of craftsmanship, the colour scheme, manner of representation and immediately felt that this must be the work of one of the artists we often label 'Intuitives'. The label often seems associated with a kind of mysticism and romanticism about their process and 'inspiration'.
This is how I placed Graham-Brown neatly in a box as I tried to absorb the huge phallus attached to a small ethnicized figurine resembling a kind of centaur. The phrase 'Niggah Deh Winnah' kept appearing on his work mounted in various group exhibitions held locally in the last two or so years. Appearing in shows such as 'Materialising Slavery' an installation-focused exhibit at the Institute of Jamaica last September and the JCDC Fine Arts Festival in 2007. Graham-Brown's work has since helped me travel further into the intellectual depth of our Intuitive artists such as Ras Dizzy, Everald Brown and Evadne Cruikshank. The artist now gives us some insight into the series.
'Wrestling with struggles within the confines and legacies
of Black self-hatred, gay self-hatred, Black-ness,
Jamaican-ness, African-ness, sexuality, class and religion.
With influences from the Rastafarian movement, Hon. Marcus
Garvey, history, the present and the future for my artistic
commentary and protest.
There are three themes that my work circum-navigates:
The series “The legacy of degradation. The Black man
relegated to a life of servitude and the beast of
burden.” This is the genesis of my work from my Black
memorabilia collection. A re-discovery of Black hatred and
a quest for identity has driven me to investigating
architectural components of Black servitude, free labor and
its legacies via modern industrialization example: the
prison system, factories, hospitals, and domestics in the
form of printed historical documents from the
mid-nineteenth century to the present. displayed in a
collage mixed media.
The series The Nigger the Winner, “Niggah deh Winnah”
Pan-African play on words, is a form of aspiration and
protest for my race. Since the images that I use in my art
are so degrading of the Negro. "Negro in impropia
Writing the words in a broken Jamaican dialect [patois]
is a form of passive protest of the colonizers language.
C. The series “Who is most masculine?” interrogates and
comments on masculine constructs, identities and legacies by
the display of power and control within the domestics,
tourist trade, industrialization, gender policing within
the Afro-Caribbean culture and the gay balls in the United
States via dvd.'
- Lawrence Graham-Brown