Recognising the ‘power of culture’
- Artists inspired by Kingston Creative travel programme, lobby for more festivals
Some Jamaican creatives have called for more art festivals to be organised in the various communities across Jamaica to help struggling artists promote themselves and realise their full potential.
Musician Kenardo Ellis was one of three persons who participated in the Kingston Creative travel programme for creatives in August.
He described his journey to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Forum in Querétaro, Mexico, which marked his first flight outside of the country, as surreal.
This, he said, offered him much experience and opportunities to connect with international partners and fellow creatives giving him a deeper perspective on his art.
So much so that the 28-year-old has been invited to represent Jamaica, at a jazz festival to be held next June in Querétaro.
But the roots, reggae and jazz artiste with seven years of experience in the industry said that he still faces difficulties in Jamaica’s creative industry.
He said that in Mexico the locals had a positive attitude towards the arts.
“It’s a booming country in terms of culture and creativity. They spend a lot on that and they take care of it better than even how Jamaica does it,” he said.
The majority of events, he continued, were held in old, well-maintained theatres with similar stature to the Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston.
He said that there were a lot of old buildings downtown which needed to be transformed as this could help in curating more spaces for art shows and festivals to be held.
“I would love to see more of that happening in Jamaica and in Kingston,” he said, adding that through this more avenues would be established to help compensate Jamaican creatives who are still fighting in the profession to get a show.
LEVERAGE CULTURAL DISTRICTS
The travel programme put on by Kingston Creative in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank Lab (IDB Lab) and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) gave the artists the opportunity to promote themselves and their art work while also forging internationally connections.
Tavia Benjamin, project manager told The Gleaner that participants benefited from business training on how to establish successful foreign contacts prior to the programme’s commencement. This, she said, prepared them for opportunities as they presented themselves.
By 2023, another three individuals will be selected, affording them the same opportunities.
Andrea Dempster Chung, executive director of Kingston Creative, said the programme under the theme, ‘global movement to transform cities through art’, helps to leverage cultural districts as drivers to transform derelict places into hubs for art, commerce, and cultural tourism.
“Around the world many cities are recognising the power of culture not just to bring cities artistic or educational value, but economic and social value too,” she said.
“The global cultural districts network, of which Kingston Creative is a member, is a grouping of cities from Cape Town to Montreal to Dubai whose cultural districts are using art to catalyse social and economic transformation for their cities and communities,” she added.
Visual artist and muralist, Anthony ‘Taoszen’ Smith who participated in the Kaya Kaya Festival in Curaçao has worked on some of Jamaica’s largest murals, namely the country’s tallest and highest mural at the Carib Cement factory on silo number 10 and the Sabina Park mural.
During his time in Curaçao, he spent seven days painting one of Curaçao’s largest murals in Otrobanda, standing at over 13 feet. Though the street festival is hosted for one day, for months leading up to the festival, locals engage and work together with the neighbourhood to transform the area through art and culture.
Smith expressed that the trip had expanded his perspective on art and the techniques he can employ in his work, especially regarding the business aspect of his profession.
“What hasn’t impacted my work here going forward? Because I’ve been working since, I got back and I have been seeing how some of the things that I have developed there and learnt impacted me as an artist,” he said.
The 25-year-old, who has been working on murals full-time for the past year and a half, said that the ways in which he communicated in his works of art and the kinds of stories he told through his artwork has changed. His method of approaching the projects has also changed. He now adopts a visual poetry perspective that involves the use of literary elements.
Smith who realised that murals were not only painted in commercial spaces, but also residential areas said that he is currently looking into introducing this idea locally.
“The difference though with houses in Otrobanda is that the homes are at the roadside, just like the buildings in downtown Kingston, but they aren’t buildings that became homes, they are just homes,” he said.
Muralist Matthew McCarthy who participated in the Festi Graffiti Festival in Haiti and is deeply interested in the Haitian Revolution, said that his opportunity to visit the country was as a result of pure ‘manifestation’.
The 30-year-old explained that he found the work of the Kingston Creatives organisation to be particularly important in giving young and aspiring artists a chance to live out their dreams.
“I was just a young artist who was fascinated (with) the idea of Haitian art and I had written down on a piece of paper that I want to go to Haiti, you know, planning out some goals and shortly after this came through,” he said.
He added that though there are a lot of good things happening in the creative space already there was room for improvement.
He also commended the ‘Jamaica Creative: Paint Up Yuh Creative Space’ mural project, which commenced in December 2019 and the Tivoli Gardens beautification project.
“But I think that what’s going to happen next is to really do something where it is a festival that can kind of now take almost like an Edna Manley (College of the Visual and Performing Arts) approach where they can be far more forms of art kind of intertwined with this experience,” he said.