Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Saint James

Good things in life are discovered by chance, and that’s how I ended up spontaneously visiting the Montego Bay Cultural Centre. On my first ever visit to Jamaica’s second city, my morning commute to school led through the Sam Sharpe Square and I happened to look out the window just as we were passing the cultural centre that morning. I finished school early that same day and after alighting from a taxi in Downtown, I realized I was on what appeared to be the other side of the building.

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National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) is the oldest and largest public art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean, established in 1974. It was borne out of a need to showcase the excellent talent and beauty of the Jamaican art scene, sending a powerful message to the ex-colonial powers that we too are capable of creating technically sound masterpieces to uniquely depict the Jamaican story. This gallery bears a comprehensive collection of early, modern and contemporary local art alongside smaller Caribbean and international holdings, with a significant part of its collections on permanent display. There are also frequent temporary exhibitions– the most recent of which was John Dunkley’s ‘Neither Day nor Night’ which ended on July 29.

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Fleet Street, Kingston

Fleet Street is the pearl of Downtown Kingston which breaks down barriers and breathes hope into disadvantaged communities. Downtown is a bustling metropolis featuring the headquarters of leading Jamaican businesses, stores, government offices and the House of Parliament. However, for my entire life I’ve heard my mother say she doesn’t go downtown if she doesn’t absolutely have to and when she did, she rarely took me along. Why? Downtown has been plagued for decades with many socio-economic issues, troubled inner-city communities and now as a result harbours notorious gangs and garrisons which led to the city once being labeled as the murder capital of the world. Political corruption has severed communities, led to the stark increase in crime and now our leaders grapple with reining in the monster which they have created. Nonetheless, as we say in Jamaica “wah nuh dead nuh call ih duppy” (literally translated: if it’s not dead, don’t call it a ghost). And that’s what Downtown Kingston is– a reawakening city and perhaps the most colourful part of that renaissance is located on Fleet Street.

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Liguanea Art Festival, Saint Andrew

Aptly called the artbeat of Jamaica, the annual Liguanea Art Festival (LAF) is the Caribbean’s largest. This festival showcases upcoming talent alongside local veterans in photography, painting, ceramics, jewellery and sculpture since its 2005 inception. Hosted by June and Tony Wong, a Jamaican couple which shares a passion for the arts, LAF has evolved into a household name with 2017 being its biggest yet. This year featured more than 110 artists, some of whom are widely celebrated and have traversed the Jamaican and international art landscape.

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What It Means To Be Jamaican

I have more free time these next few weeks so my blog neglect will subside, at least until January 2018. Watching the sun set over the ocean yesterday and some healing solitude has got me reflecting. Part of that reflection entails what it means to be Jamaican since it’s Heroes’ Weekend after all so if not patriotism, at least staycations are in full swing.  I’m sort of doing both. Anyway, here’s my take for today: what being Jamaican means to me and why I’ll likely live here my whole life no matter how far and wide I eventually travel.

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