Jamaican Art and Craft

Jamaican art is a rich mixture of sources, rhythm and styles, forming an endless fascinating cultural mirror. It is vibrant and full of cultural spirit. It reflects the lively mix of musicraces, social levels and cultural sources.

Like a majority of Caribbean art form, Jamaican art takes many forms: realism, surrealism, Afro-Caribbean cubism, abstract, modernism, and academic and installation art. Wood sculpture is an essentially strong tradition in Jamaica, springing from African tribal culture and tempered by the European-influenced symbolic wood sculpture of the late Edna Manley, matriarch of Jamaican art. Ceramics is also a popular art form in Jamaica and is also considered a fine art in Jamaica, with a number of world class ceramists mounting regular gallery exhibitions.

Contemporary art traces its roots from Edna Manley’s arrival in 1922, to the present highly active international art scene based in Kingston. Her early work includes:

  • Negro Aroused (1935)
  • The Prophet (1936)
  • Tomorrow (1939)
  • Crucifix (1950)
  • He Cometh Fourth (1962 – Jamaica independence year)
  • Paul Bogle (1965)

The Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts were named after her to honor the contribution she made to the emergence and development of art in Jamaica. There are many young and current artists that are making a name for their work, and are too many to mention. A visit to the tourist regions will give you a good glimpse of the artists and the work. There are art and craft shops in almost all regions. One such example is Wassi Art Studio and the Craft Market in Ocho Rios.

Ten other prominent Jamaica artists are:

  1. Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, believe to be the first Jamaican to paint by divine inspiration. His first important work done in 1947 called “The Black Christ”
  2. Barrington Watson introduced canons of scale, composition and draftsmanship.
  3. Karl Parboosingh – filled his expressionist paints with Rastafarian colors and ribald drama.
  4. Eugene Hyde – paintings of displaced, dismembered and deranged persons who roamed the streets.
  5. Cecil Baugh – explored native clay and formulated his own glazes in the art of creative ceramists.
  6. Albert Huie – Considered as one of Jamaica’s foremost landscape painter.
  7. Carl Abrahams – create ironic send-ups of great religious themes
  8. Bryan McFarlane painter and university professor of fine art
  9. Christopher Gonzalez – sculptor of heavily debated Bob Marley Monument (1983)
  10. Lara Facey Cooper – bronze sculptor of “Redemption Song” located in New Kingston Emancipation Park

Kingston remains the focus of activity for contemporary Jamaican art. Located at the geographic center of the Caribbean, the “big Ackee” as it’s regionally, is ideally suited for cultural exchange, travel and trade.

The National Gallery of Jamaica, downtown by Kingston’s waterfront, represents rotating exhibitions and a permanent collection. What you will find includes indigenous Jamaican art from the “Zemis” of the prehistoric Arawak Indians, colonial portraiture and landscape, individual mainstream styles of the 20th century artists, and installation art.

Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, located in uptown Kingston, contains school of music, dance, drama and visual arts. Students are trained in painting, sculpture, graphic arts, photography, ceramics, textile design, and commercial art. This multidisciplinary institution is the center of much of Jamaican contemporary art.

Kingston is home to the largest number of commercial galleries. There are usually regular exhibitions for solo artists that focus on modern themes and trends. They usually cater to enthusiastic local collectors. Some of the galleries found in Jamaica by tourist regions are:

Kingston Galleries

  • National Gallery of Art – 12 Ocean Blvd., (Tel.# 1-876-992-1561)
  • Belcour Art Gallery – Gordon town, (Tel.# 1-876-356-5769)
  • Art Centre Gallery – 202 Old Hope Rd., (Tel.# 1-876-9271608)
  • Hi Qo/ Spanish Court Centre – 1 St. Lucea Ave., (Tel.# 1-876-926-4183)
  • Easel Gallery – 134 Old Hope Rd., (Tel.# 1-876-977-2067)
  • Grosvenor Galleries – 1 Grosvenor Terrace, (Tel.# 1-876-924-6684)
  • Gallery Pegasus – Jamaica Pegasus, (Tel.# 1-876-926-3690)
  • Revolution Galleries – 52 Musgrave Rd., (Tel.# 1-876-946-0054)
  • Frame Centre Gallery – 10 Tangerine Place, (Tel.# 1-876-926-4644)

Montego Bay Galleries

  • Gallery of West Indian Art – Catherine Hall, (Tel.# 1-876-952-4547)
  • Elgo’s Art Gallery – 31 Gloucester Ave, (Tel.# 1-876-971-3310)

Negril Galleries

  • JAJA Originals – Norman Manley Blvd., (Tel.# 1-876- 957-4326)
  • Gallery Hoffstead II – Vendors Plaza, West End Road, (Tel.# 1-876-957-3903)
  • Jamaica Jane – Norman Manley Blvd., (Tel.# 1-876-957-9079)

Port Antonio Gallery

  • Gallery Carriacou – Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, (Tel.# 1-876-993-7267)
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