Mon | May 10, 2021

Art brightens dreary downtown Kingston streets

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2020 | 12:12 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Artist John Elliott painting a mural as part of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Sherwin-Williams and Kingston Creative-led art revival on Water Lane in downtown Kingston yesterday.
Artist John Elliott painting a mural as part of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Sherwin-Williams and Kingston Creative-led art revival on Water Lane in downtown Kingston yesterday.
A dramatic eye-catching mural brings life to this intersection.
A dramatic eye-catching mural brings life to this intersection.
Kerry-Ann Spencer is captivated by this riveting piece by Errol Keane in his ‘Daughters of Oshun’ series.
Kerry-Ann Spencer is captivated by this riveting piece by Errol Keane in his ‘Daughters of Oshun’ series.
A passer-by captures an image of one of the murals along Water Lane yesterday.
A passer-by captures an image of one of the murals along Water Lane yesterday.
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Things are definitely looking brighter in sections of downtown Kingston with eye-catching murals along Water Lane and other sections of the capital generating a groundswell of positive vibrations.

Workers and passers-by in the area dubbed the Kingston Creative Hub on Water Lane say they now enjoy leisurely walks to nearby restaurants, fast-food joints, and bars. This is in sharp contrast to the hurried, apprehensive, and fearful dashes they used to make past dull, graffiti-covered walls along urine-soaked and filthy roadways, which were once a haven for pickpockets and other criminals.

Yesterday, The Gleaner watched as number of persons made their way along the bright street in a new, warm atmosphere. Some walked purposefully along while others ambled, but all of them engaged with the different themes of the murals in some way as they passed Water Lane.

For many, mobile phones were at the ready, capturing photos and videos as they walked by. Others stopped in open admiration of the works but all appreciating the refreshing difference.

Totsie Manning, who works in the area, was returning from an errand and was quite happy to share her thoughts on the improvement.

“It is very good, and if all the streets could clean and stay like how down here clean, it would be beautiful,” she told The Gleaner.

Kerry-Ann Spencer pointed to the nearby KPMG office and proudly declared, “I work over there”, before stopping in front of the particularly riveting piece by Errol Keane in his ‘Daughters of Oshun’ series.

Using Yoruba culture, Afrofuturism, social realism, and the many narratives of womanhood, it speaks to the benefits of women’s openness about sexual assault with each other.

“It depicts a woman’s strengths and weaknesses,” Spencer said. “It is so uplifting to pass through the area and see all this artwork so bright and uplifting.”

She said concepts like this, which brighten moods, were great for public spaces.

“It reminds us that as Jamaicans, we can come together and put something into the community that is more than just violence and negativity. All this right now shows that Jamaicans have creativity and there is kindness everywhere. So it’s a good reflection, going to get lunch, coming to work, walking past this is a positive feeling, that even if you are having a bad day, it makes you feel better,” said Spencer.

Gone are the dingy walls with peeling paint, reeking of the stink of garbage and filth, competing with the rank odour of stale urine. Those memories are fading for Sharon Gray, who works on Duke Street and sees the murals as a game-changer.

“It has injected some sort of air into the place because normally, you would pass, and there would be graffiti on the walls, and the place would be looking terrible. But I think this sort of uplifts the lane. It has made a vast difference,” she said.

Kingsley Coley was on the way from his favourite restaurant in the area when The Gleaner caught up with him. He admitted that the transformation has made a world of a difference.

“I like it,” he declared emphatically. “Whoever a do it, it looking good. It really beautifies the place.”

Yanique Robinson, who is employed by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, was relaxing on a stool along the sidewalk and recalled that “round here did stay bad fi true”.

Now, things are so much better.

“Most of the artist dem come ‘round here and take pictures and do video shoots, and a lot of people from all over come and take pictures as well. So it kinda brings a little upliftment to the community,” she said.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com