When life gives you LIME…make LIMEade

Between Digicel and LIME, Jamaica’s two cellular phone providers are systematically letting us down. While this post focuses on LIME–Digi is no better, i have several friends who left Digicel and fled to LIME only to discover that they’d jumped out of the frying pan into the fire–

Rumour has it that LIME’s woes are temporary due to a major upgrade they’re in the middle of. But WTH at least give your customers rebates for the last few months when service has been so spotty! Anyway, thank the various gods for social media where we can vent and let non-performing corporations know exactly how we feel…

 

  1.  
     
    Why is #LIMEJamaica charging me for mobile data when for the past few weeks their service hardly works??? Internet & data over WIFI only WTH
     
  2.  
    Anywhere in KGN I’ve been recently … from Manor Park to Downtown to Port Royal, #LIMEJamaica data DOES NOT (cont)  http://tl.gd/n_1s6k1t0 
     
    Here’s the full text of Sandor’s tweet: Anywhere in KGN I’ve been recently … from Manor Park to Downtown to Port Royal, #LIMEJamaica data DOES NOT WORK! What’s the point, what are we paying for???
    The only place it barely works is in New Kingston!
  3.  
    Having to use Skype to make local calls….#LIMEFAIL
     
  4.  
    @CindysDaughter EVERY SINGLE RAHTID DAY! No call goes through on the first second or third try! #LIMEWOES
  5.  
    @CindysDaughter I’ve given up complaining! And the only reason I’m still a customer is they’re cheaper, but maybe cos calls dont get thru!

     

  6.  
    @CindysDaughter and you know me get it dbl bad because both work and personal phones are on LIME network! ALL THE SIGHS!

     

  7.  
    @jahmekyagyal @CindysDaughter same so!! lime is a disgrace, fullstop! @LIMEJamaica @LimeHelp They don’t care about customers


     

  8. @CindysDaughter all 8 o’ clock ah night we get circuits busy message yuh nuh! One night the phone & the wall nearly had a forcefilled intro!

     

  9.  
    @CindysDaughter @wincee5 @LIMEJamaica @LimeHelp all ah guh happen is dem ah guh DM we ah ask what our issues & then ask fi # fi check it out
     

     and on cue…

  10.  
    @anniepaul Please can you follow us and DM us your service number + area code and include location where you are trying to make the calls

     

  11.  
    @LimeHelp @anniepaul lol, don’t do it Annie! they ask everyone the same things then do absolutely NOTHING!!!

     

  12.  
    @jahmekyagyal @CindysDaughter @LIMEJamaica @LimeHelp EXACTLY!!! That’s ALL they do, I want a refund for my DATA! i say we sue them, teef!!!!
     
  13.  
    @jahmekyagyal @CindysDaughter @LIMEJamaica @LimeHelp Plus people call you, no sign of missed call, no voicemessg till DAYS later #EPICFAIL
     
  14.  
    @CindysDaughter @jahmekyagyal @LIMEJamaica @LimeHelp doesn’t work! they can do nothing, tired of going there, i want my monies back

     

  15.  
    @CindysDaughter @jahmekyagyal @LIMEJamaica @LimeHelp exactly this is why i want refund,they ignore,there’s proof i had no data! @Garry4LIME

     

  16.  
    I wonder if #LIME ah pree dem tweet yah! So many of your customers can’t be complaining! Calls nah guh thru, cyaah get data we pay fah
     

    Ok seriously I know LIME Jamaica is updating their platform..but it is becoming increasingly hard to stay loyal when all of their circuits are busy and you have important calls to make…Plus is MONTHS this going on

“The Last Conjuncture”–David Scott’s moving tribute to Stuart Hall

 

 

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David Scott with Stuart Hall in New Kingston, 1996

It’s about six months since the world-renowned intellectual Stuart Hall passed away in London after years of ill health. In Jamaica where he was born and brought up Hall remains largely unknown so that it took local media a few days to register the fact of his passing. It was scandalous then and remains scandalous today that the highly acclaimed film about his life and work, The Stuart Hall Project, has yet to be shown in Jamaica. A friend who attended the recent Global Art Forum at Art Dubai 2014 remarked that she had seen busloads of people going to view the film which was a highlight of the programming there. I excerpt below a question Ibraaz Editor-in-Chief Anthony Downey asked the director of the film, John Akomfrah, at the forum.  It will give a sense of how the film and its subject, so little valued in Jamaica, are viewed by the rest of the world:

AD: …You mentioned Stuart Hall and the pivotal, seminal importance of Stuart Hall for your generation. Certainly for my generation, coming to England in the late 80s, Stuart Hall’s work opened my eyes to the potentiality not only of theory but of thinking, clear thinking; how you could assess a situation in a manner in which it had never been considered before.

I’m thinking now as well of your most recent film The Unfinished Conversation (2012), also known as The Stuart Hall Project. I’m wondering – this must have been a labour of love, this could not have been an easy film for anyone to make, because, in effect, one is dealing with the father figure; one is dealing with the person who made a lot of what we do today possible. He is, effectively, the father of multicultural studies, but equally he transcends that.

Could you talk a little bit about how that film came into being, and what you see it as? Because it’s taking on a life of its own now; it’s transcending you. It’s being shown worldwide, it has garnered awards, and it will be shown tomorrow here in Sharjah. Can you talk a little bit about how it came into being and the importance of that, and where you see it going, or indeed, if you can?

For the full interview go here.

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004

Perhaps the most moving elegy to Hall was written by Columbia University-based David Scott, also Jamaican, editor and founder of the journal Small Axe, who is working, among other things, on a biography of the acclaimed cultural theorist. I excerpt below from his posthumous letter to Stuart and ask that we reflect on how and why a country that takes such pride in its triumphal culture is incapable of celebrating a son–widely acknowledged as having put culture on the curricula globally as an object of study–who was as much a trailblazer as Usain Bolt.

So here then is Scott’s letter:

Dear Stuart,

There remains, as you may well imagine, a lot to say. That is why I have, once more, taken refuge in writing you a letter, selfishly perhaps, foolishly, yes, but it is for the sake of my own belated clarification, and to sustain the dialogue (henceforth, alas, a fictive one) we have been engaged in these past many years—and all without heed, I apologize in advance, of your undoubted desire to be done with the bother and burden of all this.

But there are now so many conversations left stranded in the middle, Stuart, by your lamented departure, cut off without ending, without prospect of an ending. Death does that, though, doesn’t it, in an uncanny, unforgiving sort of way. Death is the sharp knife-edge of our finitude, the moment (however it comes, timely or untimely) when we are overtaken by the irreversible—and the ineluctable—fact of our mortal being. It is the last conjuncture, isn’t it? As you once said to me, somewhat gravely, ruefully, apropos of what I can’t now remember: Life unfolds in one direction only. It does. I take that to be an existential truth, with tragic implications. Whatever the Augustinian distensions of temporality we are inclined to imagine, whatever our hermeneutic desire to refute or refuse the linearity of time’s arrow, we all round the corner on this particular crossroads—Papa Legba’s—where we find ourselves summoned to render up what is owed for what we have spent. The one thing we are guaranteed: death is simply the price we pay for time. As we made our way behind you through Highgate Cemetery that bright and private Friday morning this past February, with strains of Marley’s great elegy, “Redemption Song,” still plaintively resonant, we all, I think, noticed Marx pause his ruminations and nod his fraternal welcome, and, just next to him, our own Claudia Jones whispered a dread chant of greeting; and as I watched you being lowered caringly into the ground’s reluctant embrace, I almost cried out with Derek Walcott, “O earth, the number of friends you keep / exceeds those left to be loved.”1

But it is finitude, Stuart, about which I want to talk to you on this occasion, the strange, haunting sense of a last conjuncture. Because this is something we talked about a good deal in the last years—sometimes directly, mostly obliquely—as talk about your life and your work (an admitted obsession on my part) came to be shadowed by talk about the immediacy of pain, the permanence of discomfort, the long, difficult nights without sleep, the creeping anxieties, the dispiriting experience of a body less and less under your command. We spoke, too, occasionally, about death—not only its frank imminence but also its peculiar immanence, how it comes from within as much as from without. And yet, even so, Stuart, finitude is not exactly a word many would readily associate with your name. Too lugubriously Heideggerian in feel, maybe; too complicit in a fatalistic sense of limits, constraints; too redolent of a realm of necessity. So much of your life was committed to the construction of new possibilities out of seeming dead ends, new times and new identities out of old, beleaguered, frozen ones, that there is undoubtedly something perversely paradoxical in this image of you face to face with your finitude, not a philosophic abstraction now, but face to face with what you might have called, with a slow, sardonic smile, the final play of contingency. So, I wonder whether finitude isn’t precisely a word that bears reflection in relation to you because of what it illuminates about the tension between what you are given and what you can make.

I want to talk specifically about finitude and writing, more specifically, about my impression that the growing awareness of the coming end increasingly shaped the exercise of writing, especially the uncertain, or anyway not-so-straightforward, exercise of composing your memoirs—the last, definitive, story of yourself. What do I mean? I know you would have asked me that, Stuart, leaning slightly forward in your chair and regarding me with a resigned but skeptical air, trying to discern whether on this occasion our conceptual languages were overlapping, or at odds. I don’t mean anything very mysterious, of course. You already know that it has always seemed to me that for you writing was a way of moving on, of not standing still; it was a way of not being the same, of occasionally changing yourself, of saying the next thing rather than the last thing. Indeed, there was never for you a plausible “last” thing to say. This was deeply a matter of the politics as well as the poetics of writing. For you, therefore, writing was always to have an orientation toward futurity. I don’t think that the past as such ever much enchanted you; you certainly never reified it. The challenge of writing, then, was to subject the present to a form of redescription—what you famously called “reading the conjuncture”—that aimed to loosen its bondage to the past, to release it from its congealed assumptions so as to make possible a contingent practice of reinvention.

This is why, as I keep repeating, the essay-form so appealed to you as a genre of writing. The thing about the essay-form, it seems to me, is its embodiment of a mobile temporality so conducive to your temperament and the general ethos of your style. The essay is always, precisely, moving on. It has, in this sense, an active more so than a contemplative character; or rather, however meditative it may be, it always suffers an internal restlessness, an agitation of spirit that drives it in one direction or another—or in one direction after another. This is what enables the essay to evade closure and to defer its rendezvous with finitude. The essay is a thinking form—thinking that is inherently situational, occasional, embodied. One might say that the essay-form is a mode of presencing, of being present, of voicing presence, within writing. In this sense it is as close as nonfictive writing can get to the uneven grain of an audibly speaking voice.

Scott’s poetic tone and the probing register of his elegiacal missive are not ones we often come across in intellectual work here where public debate and discussion seem frozen at certain basic levels. Building Brand Jamaica. Attaining sustainable growth. Poverty alleviation. Reducing risk perceptions. The buzzwords trip off our tongue and down the drain. Gleaner columnist and Nationwide broadcaster George Davis rightly questions the quality of education available to Jamaican youth lamenting the fact that “An essay in university is like honour in the Jamaican Parliament; it’s almost disappeared.”

For the rest of Scott’s letter go here.

 

 

From #Gaza with Love #Ferguson

  • WesleyLowery
    But the residents have not been “rioting.” It just isn’t true. Protesting: yes. Outraged: yes. Clashing with police: yes. Rioting: No
     
There are Americans who think a black teenager reached for a cop’s gun, from 35 feet away, but demand further proof for global warming.
 
When @KristinFisher approached our protest, she immediately went to the white woman for details. Ignoring the Black faces who organized.
 
This is the WaPo piece @WesleyLowery filed not long before he was arrested in Ferguson.  http://wapo.st/1nQtysv 
 
 
People in #Gaza are tweeting information on how to handle tear gas to the citizens of #Ferguson. Mind blown. #MikeBrown
 
Crowd in #ferguson now chanting “End the occupation from Gaza to St Louis!!!”
 
An American army is attacking unarmed Americans. Who is willing to invade America to protect Americans? Isn’t that our logic when we invade?
 
Wow! People from Gaza are tweeting to the people in #Ferguson on how to protect themselves from tear gas. Think about that! #Maddow
 
 
Whole world is watching #Ferguson & every dictator who sets his police like attack dogs on protesters shrugs & says “See, the US does it.”
 
That sound cannon that the police is using in Ferguson was used in Iraq and Somalia and causes permanent hearing loss
 
So weird to see reporters covering the Midwest tweet tips on now to handle tear gas, police violence, etc. What is happening out there?
 
 
Stun grenades and tear gas in #Ferguson now. Police rioting in the streets against calm protesters.
 
 
Tip learned in Bil’in, Palestine on tear gas: use onion peels to breathe easier. #Ferguson
 
Do not expect Obama to travel to #Ferguson, unless it is to show solidarity with the police.
 
“@manofsteele: Wow...A man picks up burning tear gas can and throws it back at police. #ferguson  http://t.co/qiLwujczqr” @YourAnonNews
Wow…A man picks up burning tear gas can and throws it back at police  pic.twitter.com/qiLwujczqrwujYourAnonNews @YourAnonNews<Not just a man…a dread! Jah RASTAfari!!!!
 
Look at these black men be heroes RT @jonswaine: Police "This is your final warning." Protesters at front not nudging http://t.co/Kp2O4qEGWZ
Look at these black men be heroes RT @jonswaine: Police “This is your final warning.” Protesters at front nopic.twitter.com/Kp2O4qEGWZKp2O4qEGWZ
It’s like a law of nature. Marginalized people protest the senseless killing of one of their own. Face a brutal, militarized police machine.
 
WHERE IS ANDERSON COOPER?????
 
Oh Twitter. People in #Gaza following #Ferguson events tweeting like ‘Hope you’re OK, don’t stop resisting’

<p>

You know it’s a bad situation when the people of #Gaza are empathizing with you and seeing parallels #Ferguson
 
 
Got folks in #Gaza tweeting tips to help people during the #Ferguson protest...wild. http://t.co/HNH0nlAouk #mikebrown
Got folks in #Gaza tweeting tips to help people during the #Ferguson protest…wild. pic.twitter.com/HNH0nlAouk #mikebrown
The oppressed stands with the oppressed. #Palestine stands with #Ferguson. http://t.co/hxK94VqfsO
The oppressed stands with the oppressed. #Palestine stands with #Ferguson. pic.twitter.com/hxK94VqfsO
#MikeBrown shooting; 'War zone' in #Ferguson. Photos and story: http://t.co/ZUSuL3tLjr http://t.co/XhekatA2F6
#MikeBrown shooting; ‘War zone in #Ferguson. Photos and story ibt.uk/A00685n  http://pic.twitter.com/XhekatA2F6
MORE BREAKING PHOTOS: After Aljazeera crew was directly hit with tear gas, their cameras were disassembled: #Ferguson http://t.co/j1Xxk93CVU
MORE BREAKING PHOTOS: After Aljazeera crew was directly hit with tear gas, their cameras were disassembled: #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/j1Xxk93CVU
I respect law enforcement. I have issues with the political classes who use them. #Ferguson #Gaza
 
When the words “NEW CEASE FIRE TAKES HOLD” appear on the screen, one wonders if the report’s on #Iraq #Ukraine #Gaza or #Ferguson.

Mario Deane Is Only A Statistic, But What An Awful Statistic It Is!

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Annie Paul:

and a brilliant but bone chilling post from Kei on the numbers behind police killings in Jamaica “…divide the number of victims killed at the hands of police against the number of police who are in jail for such a crime and the answer is simple. Injustice.”

Originally posted on Under the Saltire Flag:

Mario-deane

The case of Mario Deane represents a very human and tragic story — a story that should make us all angry. As the cliche goes, he should not be reduced to a statistic. And yet, those statistics tell an important story, one that shouldn’t lessen our anger but should focus it. Here are those statistics:

statistics3

In the last 20 years in Jamaica, at least 200 people have been killed each year by police. This is not an average. 200 is the lowest number killed in any given year. In some years the figure is actually much higher than that.

To put this into another statistical context, let us consider the UK – a country with a population 23 times higher than Jamaica’s. The UK does not report police killings 23 times more than Jamaica’s. Over the last 20 years a total of 1433 people have died after having had some manner of…

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Development can’t happen so! – Columns – JamaicaObserver.com

An excellent column…thoroughly enjoyed it and thought my readers might like it as well…by Grace Virtue

A simple wreath-laying ceremony to complete my parents “tombing” was long over, but the people remained. Early on, I began noticing just how many children were showing up with parents whose features I can no longer connect with the families I used to know, and how many teenagers turned up on their own. Where do they gather to run and play and learn some of those lessons that an unimaginative classroom cannot teach, I wonder?

Seven of my parents’ 11 children are teachers, and those of the next generation are making their way in the world. When we sat on the verandah, the conversation quickly turned to education and the chatter about teacher quality, poverty, parenting, and patois. We laughed at much of it. My 12-year-old niece scored a 99.6 per cent overall average on the GSAT. She speaks in our native tongue, but in her hand she is holding a copy of Bel Canto. She is working through it. She reads at first-year college level. My other niece, a 2012 graduate of the University of the West Indies, warmed my heart with recollections of how much she learned by just reading the books I left behind. And she brought to my attention the plight of a young man from the community — an extraordinary visual artist. According to her, he entered the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s art competition with four entries and placed first, second and third, but his high school sent him up for only two CSEC exams. As a result, he is unable to matriculate for the Edna Manley School for the Arts and to fulfil his dream to develop as an artist.

For full column see link below…

Development can’t happen so! – Columns – JamaicaObserver.com.

And the war rages on in Gaza (that is – Gaza, Jamaica)

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Annie Paul:

Another great post from Kei–in which i get mentioned and cited :)

Originally posted on Under the Saltire Flag:

There is Gaza in the Middle East, and there is Gaza in Jamaica. A war is happening in both places.

My new book – The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion – is, in parts, fascinated with Jamaica’s unusual place names, and the politics of naming generally – how we often imagine one place onto another place. Jamaica isn’t unique in this. In New Zealand, there is Dunedin, derived from the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, and the map of Edinburgh here is imposed onto the territory. But it doesn’t quite work. No place can ever be another place, no matter how hard we try to imagine it. In Dunedin, there are valleys where there should be hills, and water where there should be land. The landscape resists the imposed map of Edinburgh. And there are examples of this sort of thing all over the colonial world.

cartographerbooks

In Jamaica…

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Mismanagement, machinations and more at the National Gallery of Jamaica…

 

Charles Campbell, chairing session at the National Gallery with artists from Anything with Nothing.

Charles Campbell, chairing session at the National Gallery with artists from Anything with Nothing.

 

Yesterday morning I put up a post documenting some of the experiences of the former Chief Curator of the National Gallery, Charles Campbell, during his short stint at the Gallery (January to July 2014). I didn’t realize then that Campbell was in the middle of exit interviews with the Institute of Jamaica and that therefore the timing of the post was inconvenient for him. He asked if I would take down the post and I duly did so as I explained on my blog, out of concern for his well being and our continued friendship. This is the sole reason I made the original post unavailable and am now providing an updated version below which doesn’t focus as much on Campbell’s brief and unhappy tenure at the institution but still highlights the inefficient, autocratic and extremely problematic management style of the Executive Director.

I have since learnt that the Executive Director of the National Gallery, Veerle Poupeye, has been informing people that her lawyers made me take down my post. This is patently untrue and further underscores the problems I am trying to bring to the public’s attention. To the list of problematic behavior described below I now add a clear and blatant disregard for the truth.

No lawyer has contacted either me or my lawyers since or before my post went up yesterday. Let me repeat–no lawyer has been in touch with me about this or any other matter. This is simply one of the intimidatory tactics routinely and infamously used by the Executive Director of the National Gallery. It may have been an effective tool in the past, serving to silence others but it has only made me more determined to highlight the untenable situation at the National Gallery of Jamaica. This is a public institution and I am using this medium to raise questions that need to be asked about the management and credibility of its current directorate. I believe that it is in the public interest that I do so.

There is a deep malaise at the National Gallery of Jamaica, an institution I’ve taken an interest in since the mid-90s when my critiques of the Jamaican art scene were first published. In more recent times I’ve been closely involved with the Gallery, serving on its Exhibitions Committee for the last few years and before that its PR Committee. In these capacities I’ve been privy to some of the internal workings of the institution and have experienced at first hand some of the problems I will be detailing in this post.

The National Gallery of Jamaica was established in 1974 and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Veerle Poupeye has been Executive Director (hereafter referred to as ED) of the Gallery since 2009, having worked there as a curator for many years under its previous head, David Boxer.  Credited with raising the Gallery to international standards, an achievement she certainly deserves some credit for, Poupeye is a talented art historian and curator. Where programming is concerned, choice of themes, raising the frequency of exhibitions, and maintaining a web presence the Executive Director (ED) deserves high marks. The Gallery has certainly become a more active player in the Jamaican and international cultural scene under her leadership.

I know of no international best practice, however, that recommends that Museum directors manage their human resources by intimidation, fear, bullying and general terror tactics: inappropriately berating members of staff for instance, imperiously ordering that they not meet with each other or have conversations without her permission, demanding that she be consulted before they post personal updates on their Facebook pages, and generally paralyzing them by constant micro-management. Things are so bad staff members at the Gallery have taken to walking down to the waterfront to have routine conversations for fear of rousing the ire of the ED.

 

Nicole Smythe-Johnson at recent KOTE event

Nicole Smythe-Johnson at recent KOTE event

It was this kind of abusive behaviour that caused the resignation of the former Senior Curator, Nicole Smythe-Johnson in 2013 (recently in the news for her very successful curation of the show Trajectories for the law firm Myers, Fletcher and Gordon), less than a year into her appointment. Earlier this month the newly appointed Chief Curator, Charles Campbell, walked, citing systemic management and leadership issues and a hostile working environment, a mere six months into his contract period of two years. In both cases the individuals concerned had been the ED’s preferred choice for the positions, sometimes against concerns raised by board members and members of the interview committee.

Urged by me and others to put his reasons for resigning in writing for the benefit of members of the board Campbell summarized the situation as follows:

“At issue is not a few small disagreements, it is about a fundamental breakdown in accountability, broken communication systems, unclear, random and constantly changing lines of authority, and what became for me — and is for many staff — a hostile work environment.

 

“…Many staff also suffer from the larger leadership issues that plague the Gallery, including: a disregard for reporting structures and lack of clear direction, authority and accountability; the inappropriate disciplining of staff; and the inability of the Executive Director to accept criticism or any responsibility when her actions contribute to delays or difficulties at the Gallery.”

Less than a year before this, as I mentioned earlier, the talented young curator and writer Nicole Smythe-Johnson, then Senior Curator, also abruptly resigned. During her curatorial stint she produced solid shows such as Natural Histories and New Roots, the latter co-curated with O’Neil Lawrence. The Gallery’s website benefited from a series of stellar essays authored by Smythe-Johnson, who has continued to write and curate shows since leaving the Gallery. As mentioned earlier, her most recent curatorial intervention at Myers, Fletcher and Gordon, which took place this last weekend has been hailed as a huge success. The opening was flocked by dozens of Kingston’s stylish young professionals, tomorrow’s art buyers thirsty for their taste buds to be tickled. This is a demographic the National Gallery should be cultivating, a missed opportunity they may have benefited from had they managed to retain Smythe-Johnson.

 

Smythe-Johnson being interviewed by Tanya Batson-Savage at the opening of Trajectories, Myers, Fletcher and Gordon.

Smythe-Johnson being interviewed by Tanya Batson-Savage at the opening of Trajectories, Myers, Fletcher and Gordon.

For me the first inkling there was something wrong with the ED’s management style was when Smythe-Johnson, a close associate of mine, started talking about the problems she was having at the Gallery. The former Senior Curator finally resigned because she got tired of the constant, unjustified surveillance, the quasi-hysterical accusations of holding secret meetings, claims that she wasn’t doing her job, interference in what she posted on her Facebook page and a host of complaints eerily similar to those Campbell would face less than a year later. Feeling that she really wasn’t being ALLOWED to do her job Smythe-Johnson tendered her resignation after explaining her reasons to the Chairman of the Board. Despite this, board members I spoke with represented her departure as being caused by her leaving to take up a better job with the magazine ARC, something I know to be blatantly untrue. The assistant editor job with ARC was a part-time one, would have taken 8 hours a week and only paid US$400 a month. Smythe-Johnson had applied for it as an additional job to gain experience and didn’t actually get the assignment until after she had resigned. Yet board members seem to have been told that this was the reason she left the gallery.

As mentioned earlier I serve on the Exhibitions Committee of the National Gallery and have witnessed at first hand the high-handed tactics of the Executive Director on more than one occasion. In fact the previous chair of the committee, Tina Spiro, resigned from that position complaining that she wasn’t interested in chairing a “rubber-stamp committee”. The lack of agency of the committee was manifested again at a recent emergency meeting of the Exhibitions Committee ostensibly to discuss the postponement of In Retrospect, an exhibition in celebration of the Gallery’s 40th anniversary.

Citing a list of problems topped by the unpreparedness of the catalogue for publication in time for the show the ED basically threw the Chief Curator, whose responsibility it was to curate this show, under the bus. She completely neglected to mention her own failure to deliver her catalogue essay by the deadline required in order to meet the publication date. In refuting the allegations made against his competence to deliver a “compelling exhibition” Campbell pointed out that his exhibition proposal had originally been presented to the ED and the committee on Feb 11. Despite ongoing meetings to update the ED and obtain her feedback which was provided over the next few months, without warning on May 28th the ED did an abrupt about turn and rejected the plans provided by the CC, now at a very advanced stage.

The plans were pulled apart and the CC ordered to go back to the drawing board, completely disempowering him as a curator and giving him less than two months to re-conceptualize and deliver the 40th anniversary show. Keep in mind that this was not the only show the CC was responsible for. He had successfully mounted the Japan: Kingdom of Characters show which opened on May 11 with its accompanying, groundbreaking Cosplay party and was in the process of curating the urban street art show Anything with Nothing which subsequently opened at the end of June. The CC was also working on selection of artists and plans for the upcoming Biennial scheduled for December. In the midst of all this he was now expected to produce a completely new proposal for a major 40th anniversary show, all of this in his first 6 months at the Gallery.

Was this a realistic expectation on the part of the ED I asked at the meeting. Surely sbe had miscalculated the amount of time needed to put on the kind of revamped 40th anniversary show she was now demanding from the CC? Surely she needed to acknowledge and take some of the blame for the delays rather than shoving it all onto the shoulders of the CC? My interrogation of the flimsy excuses provided by the ED was met with hostility by her supporters on the committee who rushed to her defense insisting that the CC was solely to blame for the postponement.

This is merely one example of the kind of tactics used by the ED to convince the board and committee members of the incompetence of the CC. Switching the goalpost on upcoming exhibitions, placing obstacles in the CC’s path by rejecting a proposal more than 3 months after it was submitted rather than in a timely manner, neglecting her own failure to deliver her essay by deadline, and the final nail in the coffin– the imperious announcement–“I am not satisfied that we have a compelling exhibition.”

The emergency meeting itself was simply a rubber stamp gesture for a decision the ED had already taken, a familiar modus operandi that had forced the previous chair of the committee to resign in protest. The example I have presented above and the numerous resignations of staff suggest that where staff management and executive direction is concerned the ED is completely out of her depth–not surprising considering that her skill sets are in curating and art history–not management of any sort.

In closing I would like to say that I have never been afraid to proffer trenchant criticism under my own name as and when it becomes apparent to me that I should do so. In this instance the fastidious refusal of the Jamaican media to investigate the quagmire at the National Gallery, a public institution funded by taxpayers money, has forced me to speak for I believe that it is in the public interest that such matters be brought to its attention.

I am forced to speak also because it has come to my attention that my name is being bandied about as the author of the anonymous letter to the editor that appeared in the Gleaner on July 19, titled Crisis at National Gallery of Jamaica. As my close friends know and my record shows I don’t do anonymous. That letter first brought many of these matters to light, highlighting, among other things, the fact of Veerle Poupeye’s Belgian birth and her current status as a Jamaican national. To me these are non-issues. If competent local talent can’t be found for a job, whether it be police chief or executive director or Chief Curator of the National Gallery, by all means hire a competent foreigner or naturalized non-native. But institute a proper search committee to identify qualified individuals instead of relying solely on advertising to fill such positions. Such a search committee should include top flight Jamaican art professionals in the diaspora like Head of the Curatorial Department at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam Wayne Modest, art consultant Rachael Barrett, curator and former director of Deitch Projects and Pace Gallery Nicola Vassal, Karen Harris of the Rhode Island School of Design and many other internationally connected and high level professionals of Caribbean or Jamaican origin who would be more than happy to help find the right person. Headhunting is the name of the game not passively waiting for people to apply.

The field of candidates should never be restricted to locally available talent; it’s a myth that the salary offered isn’t capable of attracting top talent from outside. Such individuals aren’t always drawn only by the money offered. The National Gallery of Jamaica is an institution with a rich history that many exciting talents looking for something off the beaten track would be attracted to. There are also qualified members of the Jamaican diaspora who ought to be considered.

Certainly in Jamaican visual art with the tragic, untimely death of Petrine Archer-Straw in 2012 the field of competent individuals locally available for such a job has been vastly reduced, making Poupeye a prime candidate for the post of Chief Curator. The position she occupies however, is a different one, that of Executive Director. To my mind the issue is not Poupeye’s nationality or race, but her incompetence at heading a national institution as evidenced by the resignations of the Senior Curator and Chief Curator in quick succession and the numerous other problems that have plagued the institution under her leadership. Due diligence will show that Poupeye also ran into trouble when she taught at the Edna Manley School in the 90s.  Her students actually took out a petition demanding her resignation because of numerous problematic interactions they had with her in her capacity as their instructor.

It seems then that questions can and should be raised about Veerle Poupeye’s ability to optimally discharge her functions as Executive Director. Should the public demand accountability from those the government puts in positions of such enormous responsibility? Should Boards be held accountable for not performing the oversight function that is their mandate? Doesn’t the long-suffering staff of the National Gallery deserve better management? Should the media continue to fastidiously avert its gaze from these issues? These are merely a few of the troubling questions raised by the recent management problems at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

 

 

“I don’t swim like a shark”: Why I’ve taken down my National Gallery post

A short while ago I received a call from Charles Campbell, former Curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica, asking me if I would take down my post about his resignation. He is in the middle of exit interviews and even though I informed him on Friday that I would be posting something this weekend he hadn’t realized how much it would focus on him, and feels that this isn’t the best time for this information to come out. Out of respect for our friendship and concern for his well-being I have done so but the substantive issues still stand and I will rewrite my post to focus on those.

Monique Roffey’s Discovery of Caribbean Literature

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Annie Paul:

The following essay by Vladimir Lucien from St. Lucia is causing some waves among Caribbean literati. When is a writer a Caribbean writer was a debate that raged on Facebook for a while in May and seems to have spun off this searing critical response. Lucien takes the discussion into territory we don’t examine enough. His comments below amplify my own initial introductory remarks.  The question “Who has the right to call themselves a Caribbean writer?” appeared in the original discussion on Facebook and remains a cogent one. Do Caribbean writers have the responsibility to represent the corpus of writing from the region with a depth born of serious engagement and research are additional questions he’s asking. And of course much much more. What do YOU think?

Originally posted on caribbeanlitlime:

Monique Roffey’s recent article on the Waterstones blog created quite a stir when it was posted and shared over various social media. The article was an echo of an essay Roffey had published in Wasafiri, Vol. 28 No. 2, in June 2013, entitled ‘New Writing from the Island of Trinidad’. This contentious one however was supposedly wider in scope, entitled ‘The New Wave of Caribbean Writers.’ In both articles, Roffey seems to be attempting to inform persons about not just who is writing or worth reading, but also on the trajectory that Trinidadian and Caribbean literature has taken to bring them both to what she thinks is a particularly auspicious and mature period.  Via e mail threads, facebook threads, private messages, there has been a lot of talk going around about the article on the blog. Many persons were displeased with it for a number of reasons, many of which…

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