Nameless male lecturer sexually exploits Edna Manley College students?

Grounds of the Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts, 2018

#MeToo has finally reached Jamaica’s shores with a number of female students at Edna Manley College of Visual Art accusing a male lecturer of sexual harassment. According to some reports these complaints span a decade, yet the lecturer, Winston Campbell, has continued teaching there, suggesting that the college, for reasons best known to itself, did not take the allegations seriously. 

A Gleaner article quoted a student who said:

“A lot of people have come forward with written and verbal statements in the past, but they have not gone anywhere,” a student who was allegedly sexually harassed by the same lecturer told The Sunday Gleaner.

“This has been going on now for years, and other students and teachers have brought it to the attention of the dean and the principal, and it has all gone unnoticed … swept under the rug and they kind of just – well, they haven’t done anything; he is still here. They are aware of what he has been doing and they haven’t done anything about it.”

Part of the outdoor theatre at EMSVA

According to my sources at the college, this situation would have continued indefinitely had it not been for an American lecturer, Professor Maluwa Meshane Williams-Myers, who–shocked by the number of students who complained to her about their sexual exploitation, and more conscientious it appears than her local colleagues–decided to blow the whistle. As she told a Gleaner reporter:

“I have known about four or five of the cases involving students. Some of them have had their hair grabbed. Some have been asked questions or told, ‘I can’t wait until you are old enough to have sex with.’ Others, basically, if you don’t do this for me, you are not going to have a good grade … a passing grade,” she told The Sunday Gleaner in graphic detail.

These are serious allegations yet Campbell was sent on leave only in late May this year after the Gleaner reported on the students’ plight, and the Board of the College was informed for the first time of the dire situation female students there faced. One is almost sure that if genders had been reversed and it was an older female lecturer preying on young male students, or a male lecturer preying on male students, action would have been taken long ago. 

Taken at the 2018 graduation exhibition at EMSVA

This case raises serious questions about the predicament of women in Jamaican society. Does the laxness with which the complaints of female students was treated suggest an entrenched belief that women’s bodies should be available for the sexual satisfaction of men? Does the scrupulousness with which the alleged perpetrator of these misdemeanours has been shielded in media reports—he remains unnamed–suggest a disturbing capitulation to the power and privilege of men in this society? 

In the absence of the naming of the person against whom all these allegations have been lodged public fury has been directed at the female principal of the college and two other female administrators. But even here questions remain. Shouldn’t a statement be demanded from the current Academic Director of the School of Visual Arts, Miriam Hinds Smith? And if allegations that this state of affairs has been going on for a decade are true, also from the one before her? Shouldn’t both be held accountable just as much as the Principal? They were surely aware of these complaints. Could they both kindly let the public know why they decided not to do anything about these complaints? And why they remain silent in the face of evidence of longstanding violation of the rights of female students? Are they afraid to speak? 

Not only have the institution and those who run it failed their female students, Jamaican media have as well. For by refusing to name the person who is alleged to have violated so many of them, they are sending the message that the rights of women to grant or not grant access to their bodies is not as important as the right of an alleged predator to protect himself against their accusations. If only Jamaican society believed in the right of women to remain inviolate as fervently as it believes in the seemingly supreme right of parties accused of sexual misconduct to an unblemished reputation!

Incidentally, I was informed by a lawyer that there is nothing at all in Jamaica’s Sexual Offenses Act that limits naming an alleged perpetrator of sexual violence while there is a raft of proscriptions against naming or identifying the victims or complainants in such cases. Both national newspapers therefore need to explain the excessive delicacy with which they have treated the accused.

Most dismaying has been the reaction of many who work at Edna Manley College whose first instinct was to insist on the integrity of the institution, all evidence to the contrary, rather than empathize with the victims of the harassment. It was reassuring therefore to read the following plea made by Lecturer in the School of Arts Management & Humanities, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis, M.E.S.

…why are we not loudly asserting a commitment to trust complainants in any case of alleged sexual misconduct and articulate our assurance that such complainants will be cared for and supported  while we seek to follow due process and investigate the validity of their reports?

Let us speak louder in empathy.We owe it to all women. We owe it to the great woman in whose honour the college is named. We owe it the women of Sistren – a renowned group of activist women whose genesis began at this college. We owe it to our sisters and daughters and granddaughters.    

Exit Mr. Seaga…cultural guru par excellence…

This interview with Mr. Edward Seaga was commissioned by Macmillan to accompany the release of his two-volume biography in early 2010. An edited version of it was published at the time but here is the original version. Mr. Seaga was famously, President Reagan’s poster boy, he was in anything an anti-hero, rarely smiling, devoid of the populist charm other politicians, notably Michael Manley, wielded. It was a rare privilege to be able to interview him. As you will see the interview ranges over a wide swathe of subjects from West Kingston, to Dudus, to homophobia, to Portia. 

Part 1

Interview with Mr. Edward Seaga by Annie Paul, December 11, 2009

AP:      The first question I wanted to ask you relates to the founding of the JLP. In the book you say, rather memorably, that the JLP was not against wealth, it was against poverty.  I thought that was a very intriguing statement because one of the other questions that I’ve always wanted to ask you is, and i ask this because many of the things that you are interested in and that you stand for, have convergences with socialism–so I’ve always wondered what’s the difference between you and a socialist?

ES:       No, the confusion comes about in the fact that the party was born out of a decision of the people to revolt against the social and economic conditions that they were experiencing.  Remember this was at the tail end of the great depression and exports of bananas and sugar were reduced considerably and so they were really going through an even harder time than they were before; for that at least they were able to migrate.  They migrated to Cuba for the sugar –-to cut sugarcane during the war and after the war they stayed on until it became a problem to the Cubans to find work for them too and so many came back at the turn of the 20’s and they came back to meet very harsh conditions here. So in that protest the leader of the movement obviously had to take into account what the protest was about and that was the protest for better pay and for better social conditions.

AP:      And the leader would have been Alexander Bustamante.

ES:       That’s right.  And there were many of them but he was the one that stood out.  In being the person who was at the front he realized that you can’t [just] talk all the time, you have to provide, and so when the time came to create a government it was a government that was set up for meeting the needs of the people, not State decisions and that sort of thing. So it was a populist government which of course has its overlap with some aspects of socialism but ideologically, it’s totally different – it’s a populism in action–so that populism was grafted onto a more capitalist type of approach because Busta always said, the poor cannot do anything for themselves, they depend upon their employers and so he was pro capitalist development for the sake of that, not for his own sake but for the sake of being able to help the poor.  Frankly that puts him virtually in the middle and that’s where a lot of parties who’ve gotten frustrated with the Washington consensus and those who left socialism behind have headed, probably they’ve gone a bit more to the left like South America but a lot of others have headed in that direction particularly in the Eastern European area.

AP:      But your own leanings were they always so pro-capitalist because I remember hearing that you were in the PNP first, right?

ES:       In what?

AP:      Weren’t you first a member of the PNP?

ES:       Absolutely not.

AP:      OK, this is something I’ve often heard people say.

ES:       It was spread by the PNP because I paid a visit to Drumblair once in the company of Mike Smith, MG Smith …

AP:      whom you were close to.

ES:       Mike Smith was going there, I was with him and he said come with me so I went there. It was in the afternoon, end of working hours, and Mike was talking with Edna, and Norman Manley came in.  I had never spoken to Norman Manley in my life and he called me into his sitting room and he was interested in the work I was doing which was by then indigenous art.

AP:      Kapo?

ES:       He wanted to talk about Ralph Campbell and John Dunkley so …

AP:      You were involved with Dunkley and Campbell?

ES:       Not as a person, but as the forerunners of Kapo.

AP:      I see.

ES:       And that’s what we really talked about.  These people had no training in African-style art yet they were producing art that could have been produced somewhere in Africa – we were talking about that — and I came away with a positive feeling for him as someone who had a good intellectual grasp and obviously he was a delightful person to sit and talk with but I had, prior to that, never accepted the ideology of socialism because it is a philosophy and an ideology that has within its own ranks its own self-destruction — seeds of its own destruction — and that is because of the two principles on which it stands –- egalitarianism which is impractical and on the business of the takeover of the means of production.  When Michael Manley got to power and he introduced those two features of what was the whole democratic socialist base of his father, that was when he ran into trouble because what he did was he equated wealth with race and with the problems of race and he pinpointed the people of wealth as people who were holding down the masses.

AP:      So at no point were you actually a member of the PNP.  People always say that as if it is true.

ES:       People always want to draft me in spirit because they couldn’t get me otherwise.  My basic philosophy is exactly as Bustamante put it, that was my own way of thinking, which is, you need to be right of centre to produce a viable economy; but you’re right of centre to produce a viable economy  for the purpose  of being left of centre and providing the social programmes for the poor and vulnerable. And that has always been my position, I’ve never changed it and the party has never changed. Nowadays I am not happy with what I see the–programmes that are there are still catering to the poor yes, but the outlook that I see among some of the younger members are all for themselves.  This has nothing to do with people.

AP:      OK, that’s interesting.  Have you read Obika Gray’s book “Demeaned but Empowered”?

ES:       Well, you know, I get a bit tired of reading this type of rubbish that all of them write.  I had a problem in Court with Laurie Gunst – I sued her and I got a judgement against her in New York and I just got a settlement from Tony Abrahams and Hot 102 last week after many years.[1]

AP:      Oh you did? Now what was that for … that he was responsible for airing the programme that Laurie Gunst appeared on, is that it?

ES:       Yes.

AP:      And what was it exactly…?

ES:       The way in which he led her in the questions asked.

AP:      OK.  Well, I don’t remember the details, can you detail it for me.

ES:       Well, they tied me in with the Shower Posse and all that the Shower Posse did and of course I had no such connection.  My work in West Kingston was broad and general yes, and you do run into people who are not part of your central core but it had nothing to do with …

AP:      You mean, like Jim Brown, for instance, because he would have been associated with the Shower Posse?

ES:       Well, one of them, it was two of them that I settled with, Jeff Stein, who wrote an article in Gentleman’s Quarterly in which he said that I was tied -– I was joined at the hip — to Jim Brown.  Those are highly libelous statements.  But I got a settlement so I didn’t bother to have to go to Court.

AP:      But Obika doesn’t … does he also do that?

ES:       More balanced ..

AP:      Yea, I thought so ….

ES:       More balanced, but some of the nauseous conclusions these writers come to as to the role of the Labour Party and my role and so on … one writes something and the next one follows that and copies it and the third one copies what the second one writes and so on.

AP:      Now, moving right along, another thing that I’ve always been led to believe about you and the Labour Party, is that there was no soft spot in your heart for the University of the West Indies and of course here you are today, and I was wondering, first if that’s true and second if you’ve changed your opinion having experienced it in the way that you have now.

ES:       Well I started my career, so to speak, here at the University but at the level of           doing research work on an informal basis.  I wasn’t asked by the University to       do it, I just simply said this is what I am doing ….

AP:      And as you tell in your autobiography they weren’t interested at the time?

ES:       No, Professor Huggins told me we can’t as a young University, be involved in          studying things like Pukkumina and while I was in the field a foreign scholar        Professor … I forget his name ……

AP:      Simpson?

ES:       Simpson. He came and did the same study under the auspices of the Institute of        Social and Economic Research.

AP:      That’s so ironic, you know that kind of thing probably still happens today.

ES:       So I did my own thing but I always had the intention of getting  an advanced degree and this [UWI] is where it turned out I would have to get it because I became so involved, I couldn’t break away to go to any University.  I went to London University and I spent about three months there.

AP:      You didn’t find the course very challenging after what you did at Harvard?

ES:       Well, after I had done two complete studies I couldn’t go there now to learn the basics and fundamentals of the material that I had already done two studies in.

AP:      Right, right.

ES:       So I would have gone along with them on some course work and I wanted to present my thesis but I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do that. So I came back and there was no graduate programme here, so I said later on I’ll do it and of course politics takes charge of you and you can’t … [go back to academic work.

AP:      Was this then after the three years you spent in West Kingston that you went to         London.

ES:        Yes ’56 .. .‘55

AP:      Now, is it true that you were not very enthused by the University of the West Indies because you viewed it as a hot bed of left wing academics?

ES:       Yes.  I had that impression very definitely and I don’t think the University can defend itself on that.  I believe that in the 1970s they behaved atrociously. I believe that they struck out on one course, one path and gave all their energies to that –- there was nobody thinking in any other direction and I blame them for not having the mind to be able to think -– they were all slaves to an ideology.  People who are slavish, slavish followers of an ideology I don’t rate them because they are not using their minds.   That’s why I don’t put myself in the position of any ideological position; I thought that they were just slavishly following the Soviet model and they ceased from seeing how they could outdo it . They produced nothing, nothing they produced, except Beckford’s plan on agriculture which I thought was something that would have a time and place but certainly not in that system at that time and place but I always believed  agriculture is the one resource area that we have not yet developed and that’s the one that has to be developed.

AP:      So you did find some merit in George Beckford’s arguments?

ES:       Just in that area, not in the rest of it.

AP:      That was primarily what he wrote about.

ES:       Well, I haven’t read all of it, so I was very disappointed.  I’m coming from Harvard where all views prevailed.

AP:      But you didn’t find that to be the case here?

ES:       Definitely not.

AP:      But has it changed now?

ES:       It has changed because…. people like Munroe have changed. And a lot of them        who were hard-line Socialists have changed.  People like Canute James who is     now over at CARIMAC and so on. And outside of the area a lot of them have      changed and you have to give a man room to change.

AP:      What do you think produced that change?

ES:       Well, there’s no question at all that Socialism, as I said, has within it the seeds of its own destruction and if you pull down wealth–the way I described it is that Manley thought of society as an onion with various layers. You peel off one and then peel off the next one — when it was no such thing  — they were interdigitated, these layers — you pull down a layer and what it is attached to is production and if you pull out production you have nothing to provide for the poor and so you are destroying the very people you are trying to help. Socialism destroyed itself when people like Reagan and Thatcher came on the scene at the end of the ‘70s.  They proceeded to offer an alternative and that alternative started to look better than a no alternative position and then my victory happened  which heralded a lot of other victories –- I was awarded the Man of the Year by Fortune Magazine.

AP:      Is that right?  I wasn’t aware of that.

ES:       I was awarded Man of the year by Fortune Magazine for my role in what they called the death of socialism. Not me alone but my picture was on the front page with Thatcher and Jayawardene  …

AP:       From Sri Lanka…

ES:       Yes, and Reagan. So people realized that Socialism wasn’t it, there was no where it was going – everywhere it was collapsing, election after election and so they started to turn themselves in the wrong direction.

AP:      So now I want to go back to a pivotal period of your life which was the three years that you lived in West Kingston ..…

ES:       No, not West Kingston

AP:       In Tivoli? In what is now Tivoli.

ES:       No, there was no Tivoli then.  I lived in a rural community called Buxton Town.

AP:      Right, I remember that.

ES:       And then in West Kingston.

AP:      Right, I’m talking about the West Kingston part of it.

ES:       The period in which I lived among the poor in both rural and urban Jamaica.

AP:      The thing about West Kingston that I found intriguing was that you mentioned that even in those days it was stigmatized because it was known, or it was seen to be a centre of Obeah, and other underground religious movements —  it had so many Pukkumina  bands for instance.

ES:       Well, I don’t think that that stigmatized it because people in those days were not really concerned about that. Obeah and Pukkumina had always held a sort of negative reflection for the people.  But it wasn’t a stigma that was condemning the people, it was just a condition that they didn’t accept and they didn’t believe in.  It was in conflict with the traditional religions but it was more representative of religion in the country than the religions that the uptown people practice because it was linked to hundreds of small churches all throughout the country who were what we call spiritual churches.  They believed in possession of the person by a spirit and they’re called spiritual whereas the others are not given that name.

AP:      But why would there have been a concentration of Pukkumina bands in that area?  Do you know the reason for that?

ES:       West Kingston is where all the voyages terminated into Kingston.

AP:      Voyages –- from the other parts of the country?

ES:       Yes, that’s right.  Coming into Kingston, the market system there is where you come to sell your goods and many come to buy to go out to sell somewhere else because it was the cheapest area …

AP:      So even in those days Coronation Market was the centre of market activity…

ES:       Yes.  Because it was a concentration of people who were of a low income background whose choice of produce was the kind of things that people wanted both to sell and to buy and there was no such other concentration outside of Kingston.  The other towns as we know them today were very  small villages so that was the only area that one would call a township where the concentration was so focused that you would find whatever you want.

AP:      So it wasn’t a transient sort of settlement?

ES:       Both.

AP:      Both.

ES:       The West Kingston population grew because of people coming there to settle and that’s why it remained an area of slum type conditions.

AP:      Now, I’m also getting a sense from dipping into Volume 1, I get the sense that West Kingston had a strong identity of its own and that the people who lived there had a very developed political sense — for instance you mention the fact that if they didn’t like their political representative or if that person fell out of favour they had no hesitation in booting him out.

ES:       They did that.  Every year or every term.

AP:      During what period would that kind of strong identity have developed?

ES:       ‘40s.  It would have had this identity from still further back, as long as people were moving up and down and there was migration going on from in the World War period – I’m talking about World War 1 — that identity would have been moulded –

AP:      You mean migration from where to where?

ES:       People were migrating in and out of the country and people were migrating in and out of West Kingston.  Those were the two focal points but West Kingston has always had a strong cultural identity – that is where you find, instead of having to go all over the country to find spots in which you have cultural manifestations from afro-centric type of culture you find it all in West Kingston.

AP:      Was that one of the reasons you decided to go and study that area?

ES:       To a certain extent yes because it was so rich in the culture and fabric.  One makes a decision that you go downtown and when you go downtown, I talked with a few people I was told to talk to and they all pinpointed West Kingston as the best area.

AP:      I see.  And it would have been one of the earliest instances of urbanization, no?

ES:       Yes, Kingston was, of course.

AP:      Kingston, yes.

ES:       But Kingston had already divided itself into areas, socio-economic areas.  You had the uptown area, you had east Kingston which was still very residential and you had West Kingston which was working class.

AP:      In those days uptown would have been what area?

ES:       Anything from Kingston Gardens going up to Half Way Tree and Constant Spring.  Barbican where I lived was all bush.

AP:      Bush?

ES:       Bush.  I remember when it was bush.  In the ‘40s somebody decided to start some development there.

AP:      I see.

ES:       The property was owned by one of my ancestors and he gave it to his daughter when she got married.

AP:      This is on Paddington Terrace by Barbican?

ES:       No not the Terrace, the whole property including Vale Royal and so on.  The whole of that area.

AP:      Oh, that’s pretty large.

ES:       Well, that’s how properties were defined at that ……..

AP:      Still, I’m quite intrigued by Western Kingston as an entity almost unto itself because I had the opportunity in 2004 of speaking to the Matthews Lane don …

ES:       Zekes?

AP:      Zekes… in his bar and pinned up on the wall of his bar was a photograph of yourself.

ES:        Me?

AP:      Yes.  It was quite a large photo and then a smaller photo of Michael Manley next to it.  At one point he turned to me and said – he pointed at your photo and said “Do you know who this is?” and I said “Yes, it’s Mr. Seaga” and he said, “Well, I’m very glad you said Mr. Seaga” because that is a man that I respect above everyone and I said “well, how come, because I thought you were a PNP don”?   He said, “This is Western Kingston and in Western Kingston Mr. Seaga is the leader”.  And it seemed to me like he was making a distinction between Western Kingston and the rest of the country.  And Western Kingston wasn’t just Tivoli you know, he was including …..

ES:       Yes, I know that.  But there was no Tivoli in those days, Tivoli came at the end of the ‘60s but West Kingston has been the birthplace of every political movement.  The Labour Party was born out of the labour strikes that came from the waterfront of West Kingston.  The PNP had many of its leaders and community workers coming out of West Kingston.  Garvey, while not having an origin there had focal groups there and other movements from the Rastafarians and so on all started in West Kingston.  But the people there either love you or don’t like you–hate you–and that’s the way it has been.  They don’t like to be disappointed, they don’t like to be told you’re going to do something and you don’t do it;  it forces you to perform.  Well, all previous MPs that were there just never measured up and so at the end of one term they booted them out.  Bustamante left before they got that chance.

AP:      So the race aspect – you are considered a White Jamaican — that never presented a problem?

ES:       I have never had an instance – well, when I went into West Kingston there was one man who was describing me in terms of, not so much race but in terms of colour, saying they don’t want no White man in there, just one of the multitude and he was quickly isolated by the people.  Other than that, what people speak among themselves and in private, I don’t know, I wouldn’t know, but I’ve never had any confrontation.

AP:      I find that Jamaicans are very sophisticated about race actually.

ES:       What they want is performance.

AP:      Yes.

ES:       If you – as they say – can ‘ grounds’ with them and that means their culture and I was in the perfect setting for that because that was what I was doing and if they find that you are one of them, and can perform for them, that’s it, you’re covered.

AP:      Is it true that there is a mural somewhere in Tivoli portraying you, with a slogan saying “The blackest man in Jamaica”?

ES:       No, that’s not true. Where do people get that sort of foolishness?

AP:      Well that’s something I also heard or was told.

ES:       No — when they draw pictures of their local heroes and so on, they don’t put me in it, the Jim Browns and Marcus Garvey and all that – they don’t put me in it.

AP:      No.

ES:       I’m considered somebody quite separate and distinct.

AP:      Now going back to one of the excerpts,  well, let’s just finish with West Kingston before we move on.  West Kingston, one of the things that I remember very clearly in July 2001 was the day about 29 people were killed in a police raid.

ES:       The 4th to the 7th of July. 27 people.

AP:      27 people were killed and you were very distressed by that.

ES:       Extremely

AP:      You’ve written about this in you book so I’m not going to go over the details here but, yes, so police brutality and police targeting of Tivoli and Western Kingston has been a problem?

ES:       It’s not police targeting, it’s the political targeting.

AP:      Political targeting?

ES:       You see West Kingston occupies a very strategic location.

AP:      You mean because of the harbour?

ES:       No, it is surrounded, this is the entire downtown area, this is West Kingston [showing demarcated areas with his hands], but it is not a tiny part of it in terms of influence – it has the markets, it has the ports, it has the highway of Spanish Town Road coming through it and all of these other constituencies in central Kingston, south-West St. Andrew, etc. etc.  These are geographically neighbours but these are the constituencies that were given the responsibility by the PNP to bring down West Kingston, because if they control the West they control all of Kingston. You wouldn’t be able to hold any demonstrations, any marches, you would bring to bear from the influence of West Kingston people a massive influence throughout the whole downtown. And if you controlled all of downtown, any government that was in power that didn’t have a base there that people could say, well if I demonstrate you’re going to respond with a demonstration, they would just have to sit back and take it and that would bring down any government.

AP:      And so it’s a major political prize, Tivoli, Tivoli Gardens?

ES:       No, it’s not Tivoli, West Kingston.

AP:      West Kingston, ok.

ES:       So, because of that, they have always targeted West Kingston but they target it moreso because when I became Prime Minister, if I was brought down in West Kingston then the party would fail. So it was an extra level of targeting and that is why in July 2001 and before that, in May 1997 and the same sort of thing applied, handpicked, select policemen were given the responsibility of starting something within the communities and getting a response from others or creating a situation in which the authorities had to respond.  In the case of May 1997, what the people called a ‘tanker’, which is an armoured vehicle, rolled into Tivoli Gardens right in front of the High School, and this is on record from teachers there, school was out and it just went in there and started to fire shots into the buildings and then it went back out.

And this gave the police the opportunity to send in another set of teams and these were policemen on foot who would go into the community and fire shots into the air and then report on their radio that they were under fire.

Now when they do that, all of the police in the whole city and elsewhere hear that, so the ones that are mobile come rushing in and before you know it there is a whole lot of police but they are not responding to anything, they’re creating a situation in there and on that basis they were able to freely move around and shoot and the people that they shot, I’ve  described it in what I wrote – a woman coming back from making a purchase of salt that she wanted for breakfast, walking alone, a woman in her ‘60’s and being a hundred yards away from the school, and the snipers over there, military not police now, just cut her down and when her son who was nearby ran to try and help her, they fired after him so he had to move off.

AP:      Right, right.

ES:       And that was just symptomatic of all the others.

AP:      Right, now, I was looking at an article that was published in 2005 in the Observer, I think it was by Mark Wignall where he said that you yourself had conceded in an interview a few years before that that Tivoli has had its dark days, that’s a quote, “Tivoli has had its dark days”.  Do you remember ………..

ES:       Well, what is the context?  What is ‘dark days’?  Tivoli has had its dark days.

AP:      Right.

ES:       Dark days are when you carry out those sorts of attacks on the community so that’s what I call a dark day.

AP:      OK, so you weren’t referring to … I thought maybe you were referring to ….  I mean, Tivoli must have its own problems also apart from these that are inflicted on them.

ES:       In 1994 within the community there were men who were attacking within West Kingston and other communities and killing people and in the adjoining community of Rema which was adjoining constituency they were also sending young boys with guns in there to target individuals and shoot and kill them dead right there and I said this has to stop. And I called them and I told them , I said if you continue then I will have no recourse but to go to the police.

AP:      That was when you gave that long list of people to the police?

ES:       That’s right, that’s right.

AP:      To Trevor MacMillan.

ES:        I have the clipping of it.  And they told me that I can’t dictate to them because  I didn’t give them guns and I don’t buy them bullets so I gave the list to the police.

Yes, and I, in addition, I offered a reward for Dudus – they couldn’t find him, he had gone out of the community to hide and I offered a reward for his arrest.  That was in 1994 so since then we have not had any internal problems whatsoever.  It’s the safest place to be in Jamaica, I tell you.

AP:      No, I know.  I’ve heard that and I’ve actually been there – I’ve been in the community once. I want to just follow up since we are on the subject and the name Dudus came up. So he was a problem then, in 1994, and clearly continues to be.  Well now, we are in a situation where the US is asking for his extradition to stand trial in that country for crimes committed there and the government is delaying acceding to that request. Do you think that one of the reasons that the government is sort of pussy-footing around this is precisely because they might lose control of Tivoli if they hand him over?

ES:       No.

AP:      No, that’s not it?  Because that is a  popular belief.

ES:       The fact is that there is a genuine concern for a country saying to you there are persons who have given us evidence about another person in your country who is trading in arms and in narcotics and when you say who are these people, we’re entitled to know, they say we can’t tell you.  I say, well if you can’t tell us, we can’t work with you.  They say that’s our law that we’re not to tell you, to protect the witnesses.  Well, that’s all very well but we have a constitutional obligation, it’s not due process to send a man abroad to be tried under those conditions.

AP:      But would you say it’s true that Dudus is credited with maintaining the peace and so on in that community and with running it very well?

ES:       Well, he doesn’t run the community.

AP:      No?

ES:       What he does provide is a sort of local court for people who have been aggrieved and if he sends for somebody who has been the person who has aggrieved someone else and they come, he will remonstrate with them or sometimes they do apply physical force to them and people partly fear him and partly regard him as somebody who plays a useful role in the community.

AP:      And that – you have to link that kind of thing to the failure of the justice system.

ES:  Failure of the criminal justice system because the people won’t go to the police and report anything because they know the police won’t do anything and even within the station there are policemen who will give them the names of people who report.

AP:      Right, right.  One of the things I found interesting in reading the book, I think this must be in volume 1, you detail a number of police killings towards the end

ES:       The Amnesty part?

AP:      Yes. I think when you were talking about Amnesty International.

ES:        I could not do any better, I know of all of those killings ……..

AP:       And complaints about Reneto Adams and company – you say that they used firearms as the first resort and also used excessive lethal force.

ES:       Yes.

AP:      But were the police differently organized when you were Prime Minister?

ES:       No.

AP:      So they’re a law unto themselves, are they?

ES:       No.  They were tools of the PNP when they wanted to carry out these kinds of actions of State terror, politically-based State terror, the police was used but not the police force, groups like the Adams’ group, the Adams’ team, see they will form a team around Adams on the basis that Adams is doing a good job because he’s killing criminals and so on but Adams also was used with that same hand-picked team to eradicate people who were of the opposite political persuasion,  right, and who they wanted to get rid of.  That was what Adams was used for.

AP:      And there is no corresponding use of the police by the JLP?  When the JLP was in power?

ES:       For the simple reason that this is a socio-political thing.  The country is stratified, particularly Kingston, so the lowest income people is where you find JLP support.  Once you get into the level of the postman and the teacher, the police and the nurse and so on – almost totally  PNP.  Now it has not been as complete a picture like that in the recent past, people are now, from those areas, now giving support to the JLP too but basically the majority still is PNP, so you can look at a map and see where people live in certain types of houses you know that you’re middle income, that’s PNP.

AP:      Ok.

ES:       So you wouldn’t get people in there doing any favours  for the JLP.

AP:      Well now, Western Kingston was also a kind of bastion of Rastafari, wasn’t it?

ES:       Yes, within the downtown area.  One of them was a contestant against me in the first election, Sam Brown, got a hundred votes I think.

AP:      oh, he just got a hundred?

ES:       Yes, somewhere around that.

AP:      And he was a Rasta?

ES:       He was the lead person in the rasta movement.

AP:      How do you explain that?  I mean, you would have thought that all these Rastas would have …

ES:       That’s explainable, and that is why colour doesn’t count because the Rastaman is not seen as somebody who can help me, I’m a poor man and he can’t help me. Add to that they’re eccentric, people don’t believe in following eccentric people so this is somebody who by his work, by his devotion to the poor and so on, can help, and therefore that’s who I’m going to work with.

AP:      Yes, which shows a certain sophistication as political citizens.

ES:       Absolutely.

AP:      Ok, let’s see, now one of the things you talked about in the excerpts was that when you were a child you had a problem with lack of temper control.  Today it’s called anger management.

ES:        I wouldn’t say when I was a child, no, definitely not, more like after I entered politics.

AP:      OK.

ES:       It was always triggered by injustice and it didn’t manifest itself until I entered politics.  The same people, the same incidents, anything in which the State uses its authority against the people used to anger me.

AP:      Are there any memorable incidents that you can remember where you lost it? Were there any instances of that during the ‘80s when you were in power?

ES:       ‘80s?  No.  I wouldn’t have found myself in any situation like that.  Well, there was the celebrated instance at Heroes Park where we were unveiling the statue of Bogle and ….

AP:      This is the one by Edna Manley?

ES:       Yes, no, not that statue, that statue was done at Morant Bay.  We didn’t use statues for Bogle and Gordon, because we’d done a statue at Morant Bay, we were unveiling the shrine …

AP:      Oh, at Heroes Park?

ES:       Yes and I didn’t know that Norman Manley had been offended that he had not been asked to speak.  He was leader of the Opposition and the protocol doesn’t provide for leaders of the Opposition being asked to speak in those days, today you can do that but in those days it was a very strict British system of protocol.  I didn’t invite him although I had no grievance about using the Manleys–I had personally asked his wife to do the Bogle statue for instance– but  they went down to Ward Theatre and held a meeting  and gathered a lot of people and marched up to the scene and everything went fine until I came to speak and when I started to speak they started to make a tremendous noise, shouting and singing the red flag and things like that so as to drown me out and I completed my speech without any incident but the anger was boiling up in me and at the end of the speech I shouted at them a threat of blood for blood and fire for fire, thunder for thunder.   Now that’s a Rasta saying, it wasn’t something that you must take literally – a Rasta will always tell you blood for blood – that sort of thing, it’s a threat.  And I used that, I regretted it afterwards but it was in the heat of anger but it was built up to be something that was literal which of course was never the case.

AP:      Now, another thing I found interesting about your autobiography, is that you actually talk about the treatment of gay people in Jamaica.  There’s a whole section where you discussed that.  You say, and this is a quote “Gay people in Jamaica or those suspected of being gay are routinely victims of ill treatment and harassment by the police and occasionally of torture”. I think it’s in the section where you talk about the police killings and Amnesty International …

ES:       Oh, that’s Amnesty, that’s not me.

AP:      Is that a quote from Amnesty?

ES:       A very long quote of many, many pages, I just used the Amnesty report – I couldn’t have produced anything more authentic or better illustrated.

AP:      Right.  But talking about homosexuality in Jamaica, do you have any theories about why Jamaican people feel so strongly about this?

ES:       Well, I can understand why they feel, they have a feeling because they are very bible oriented and the bible doesn’t allow for this but at the same time I can’t quite understand myself why they feel so strong.  I think Gays just became a sort of scapegoat  of men who sort of led down the male gender, if you know what I mean.

AP:      Yes.  Do you believe that men are marginalized in Jamaica as has been claimed by people like Errol Miller?

ES:       No, there are areas in which men have the stronger or the bigger part of the handle, in authority and are recognized as the persons of greater authority and better performers than women but women are gradually taking over more and more of those areas and are very definitely in the ascendency where it comes to leadership roles.

AP:      But there’s no sign of a female leader in the JLP who might one day become leader of the party, no?

ES:       Not yet, not yet.

AP:      Well, it’s a possibility you mean?

ES:       No, I don’t think there’s anybody on the horizon, but there are many sub-leaders.

AP:      Now, talking of female leadership, I want you to just touch on Portia Simpson-Miller Do you think that one of the problems that she faced was the problem of class, that she was viewed as not being as educated as a normal middle class person should be etc. etc.?

ES:       Well, to the extent that it affected her, not so much because of the class but because of her lack of education and especially the party she comes from, have a vaunted opinion of themselves as the educated part of Jamaica which is no longer true. But at the same time they feel embarrassed that someone like that could lead them and that has been one of the things that has affected her.

AP:      That’s what I feel too and I think it’s regrettable that there is that kind of bias.

ES:       Well at the same time, you know, you have to understand that there is a limitation to what you can do as a leader in the Jamaica of today if you’re not educated enough to be able to understand how the system works and to be able to make the necessary statements and create the necessary plans and so on to work within that system to create something better.  She’s a populist because  that’s the simplest of our political systems.

AP:      But, Mr. Seaga, neither did Alexander Bustamante have that kind of education.

ES:       Right but Bustamante’s forceful personality made him a leader, quite apart from any other aspect of his character,  made him a leader.  He singlehandedly, and by virtue of his forceful personality, bulldozed his way through the authorities to achieve a lot of what was wanted and that made him a leader but in the political sphere, he also was more understanding of the system in which he was working and he ringed around him people who were intelligent and people who could manage and who could do things and he never had any fear of being challenged politically. So he governed  on the basis that he was the supreme leader of the group but he allowed people to do the things that they had to do to make it successful.  Portia doesn’t enjoy that, she doesn’t have a supreme position; she’s constantly being harassed by other people …

AP:      Within her party?

ES:       Yes, who don’t want her.

AP:       Right.  Do you think the fact that she’s a woman also held her back or …

ES:       I don’t think so.

AP:      Why it was that at the end of the ‘60’s it was Shearer and Sangster who became the leaders and not you.  Was it because you only entered politics in ’59?  So you were a new entrant at that point?

ES:       That’s right.  I was 29 years old….I was a youngster in the party.  I never had any interest or desire or any focus on leadership.  It was after the crisis arose when Shearer decided that he did not want to continue because he wasn’t getting any traction in the party that the younger members came to me and said “You’re the person that the people out in the country and elsewhere are calling for and we want you to know we will back you”.

AP:      Did that come as a surprise at that point?

ES:       A surprise in the sense that I didn’t think anything was happening in that respect.  I had been out of the strictly political scene at that time because after we lost in ’72, I took off 2 years.  I did my parliamentary duties, my constituency duties but the raw political duties I stayed away from.  I had the feeling that politics doesn’t carry with it the kind of response to good works that you would like to see and therefore if good works don’t pay off what is the purpose of doing the good work.

AP:      Just one last question.  Do you think, I mean, just looking at the situation politically today, not only in Jamaica, in the region and the world, that the world has reached a point where there’s a crisis of political authority itself?

ES:       In many countries, yes.  Pre the last election with Obama that was the case.  The kind of candidates that were being put forward were very definitely far lower than the level that you would expect from a developed country.  Some countries have found leaders that are leaders who can perform and others are just doing what they have to do but there are no people who have risen to the heights of the great leaders of the past.

AP:      But maybe it’s the kind of political systems that we have that need to change, I wonder, I don’t know. The two party system…

ES:       It’s not a matter of the society producing the leader but the leader emerging from the society.

AP:      Yes, because when you took the helm of the Labour Party you were suddenly thrust into it, right, into leadership after Shearer …

ES:       Yes, yes.

AP:      And there’s a way, I believe, there’s a way in which leaders emerge but when you are thrust into a situation and you are at the helm, over time you develop those qualities of leadership, don’t you?

ES:       That’s right.  You don’t start out at being a fully recognized leader, you were saddled as having leadership qualities and that grows ..

AP:      Because I am thinking of someone like Indira Gandhi in India also. She was totally unsuited you would have thought, from her background, until she became Prime Minister.  She had not shown much interest and wasn’t cut out to be a political leader but then when she became one she certainly rose to the challenge.

ES:       Well it means she had latent leadership …

AP:       Thank you.

[1] “The respondent Edward Seaga, a former Prime Minister of Jamaica and then Leader of the Opposition, commenced proceedings on 26 November 1999 against five defendants in respect of the content of a radio programme known as the Breakfast Club broadcast on 3, 6 and 14 September 1999. The first named defendant is the present appellant Western Broadcasting Services Ltd, a broadcasting company which transmitted the programme from its radio station Hot 102 FM. The second defendant is The Breakfast Club Ltd, which was sued as the company making the programme. The third named defendant Anthony Abrahams is sued as the host of the programme broadcast on the dates mentioned. The fourth defendant, an American journalist Laurie Gunst, is sued for publishing statements alleged to have been defamatory on the programme on 3 September 1999 and the fifth defendant Jeff Stein, also an American journalist, is sued for publishing defamatory statements on the programme on 6 September.” https://case-law.vlex.co.uk/vid/-54061547

Being an artist: Janine Antoni

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Janine Antoni 1993-94 Lick And Lather 2 Chocolate And Soap

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Cradle, 1999, detail, two tons of steel, 59 x 58 x 60-1/2”.

An artist we don’t think enough about or include in discussions about Caribbean art is Janine Antoni. Her brother Robert Antoni is better known in the world of Caribbean writing. Perhaps this is because despite Antoni’s Bahamian/Trinidadian background she rarely references the Caribbean and her work has been effortlessly absorbed into the mainstream of Euro-American art. Still, young Caribbean artists have much to learn from this ethereal veteran of the contemporary art world about how to build an artistic practice, how to sustain it, how to nurture it without compromising yourself, the intimacy of your work or your ideals. Like many artists all over the world, and particularly in the Caribbean, Antoni had to figure out on her won how to fit herself and her work into the ‘business’ of art. Excerpted below are relevant portions of a 2008 Reality Check interview with Jackie Battenfield in which Antoni discusses how she got her start after graduating from RISD, the importance of audience, how to work with galleries and other art professionals, and how to negotiate the commercial side of an art practice. 

Janine Antoni was born in Freeport, Bahamas. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship; the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Inc. Painting and Sculpture Grant; and the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award. She has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad at venues including Luhring Augustine Gallery, The Wadsworth Athenaeum; The Irish Museum of Modern Art; The Reina Sofia; The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Museum of Modern Art; The Guggenheim Museum; and The Aldrich Museum. Her work was included in the 1993 Venice Biennial; the 1993 Whitney Biennial; the 1995 Johannesburg Biennial; the 1997 Istanbul Biennial; the 2000 Kwangju Biennial in Korea; SITE Santa Fe in 2002; and Prospect.1 A Biennial for New Orleans.

JACKIE: So, when you left school and came to New York, how did you get yourself started? Did you visit the non-profits?

JANINE: Well, I found out that the Drawing Center would see anybody in those days. You could bring your drawings in and put them on the floor and they would look at them. So, I knew that I had a guaranteed studio visit of sorts. At the time, I did not make drawings. It was not a part of my process. I took the first date the Drawing Center offered. It was six months away. I drew for the next six months, preparing for that visit, and then to my surprise, I got a show. After the show, they gave me a job. So, that was also my first job in New York. I did a year of practical training, because I am a foreigner, so it was perfect. From there, Olivia Georgia gave me a show at Snug Harbor (on Staten Island). Thereafter, I exhibited at Artist Space. So, in those days, that’s how you did it. You began with the non-profits and then the commercial galleries found you there.

JACKIE: Is that how you would recommend artists do it these days?

JANINE: I don’t think that’s the way it’s done these days. At least, in the case of the emerging artists that I am most in touch with, some are showing in galleries before they leave the school. You can probably still do it through the non-profits and they certainly fill a role. It was great for me to begin my career at the non-profits because I didn’t have to deal with the commercial world. I could concentrate on learning to install my work and watch how it was being received before having to deal with the commercial side of things.

JACKIE: What is the best piece of advice that you got early on in your career?

JANINE: The best piece of advice is something that my husband, Paul, said.

JACKIE: You two met at RISD?

JANINE: Yeah.

My main support came from my peers. We all moved to New York together, which I think was unique to our generation. I came here with Paul Ramirez Jonas, Spencer Finch, Beth Haggart, Ricky Albenda, and Andrea Zittel. It was quite an amazing group. And we all shared studios, living, got each other jobs and shows, and helped each other to make and install our work. So, I came with a readymade community. We had already developed a pretty rigorous dialogue in school. It was also important to meet other artists, because we had all been taught by the same teachers. All of us had a similar approach, even though our work was very different. Meeting other artists really broadened my education and made me realize there were all these other ways of making and thinking about art.

But, the advice that Paul gave me was: “You build your audience one viewer at a time.” And that is something that still rings in my mind.

JACKIE: So, you were talking about audience all the way back?

JANINE: I think I’m a little bit of a weirdo in that way. I’m really thinking about the viewer all the time, even though my work is so much about me.

JACKIE: But I am really intrigued with that, because I do find that when I lecture and ask artists, “Who is your audience? Who is your viewer?” they look at me blankly like they have never ever considered that concept. And yet, how can you know where to put your work or what opportunities to pursue if you don’t?

JANINE: Well, yes, you definitely need to know who your viewer is. That’s one issue. The other issue is to know who you want your viewer to be. And then, the thing that I always encourage in teaching is to fantasize about that viewer. For me, the creative process is about the perpetual shift from being in my own body as the maker to then trying to step into the body of the viewer. I think about how they walk, what they think first, and what they think second. But then, if you have a notion of the audience that you would like to reach, that affects all of your decisions. From where to show, to what you make, and so on. There is another way of looking at it. You put something out in the world, certain kinds of people respond to it, and you then have to understand why. For example, in the case of my work, why do women respond differently to it than men? This is crucial to the way I think about what I make. Why does a particular culture have a strong response to my work? Why do I get more shows in Spain than in Germany? And then, there is the issue of venue. There is a gallery audience, there is a museum audience, and there is a public audience. I recently showed in Luang Prabang, Laos where there are no galleries or museums in the city, so they have a limited exposure to contemporary art. In this case, you obviously have to give a context for the work or else it doesn’t make any sense at all to the viewer.

JACKIE: Isn’t it up to the curator to make the context for the work? I mean, how does the artist?

JANINE: Well, that’s a good question. That’s another way I think you define yourself as an artist. I would say that we make that context together. It’s about a kind of collaboration. The first thing I ask when a curator asks me to be in a show is, “Why? What about my work makes sense for the theme of your show?” I tell them whether I agree with that and then we work together to really talk about their idea versus my idea. They are not always the same and sometimes, that’s okay.

JACKIE: Because it reveals something new to you?

JANINE: At times, the differences between our ideas reveal something new to me. In the best-case scenario, it provides a new avenue into my work. The curator might have a broader idea, because they are putting a lot of work together. I want to be aware of my role within that broader notion. I’m happy to play my role within that. I provide certain things. In the gallery, there is a group of artists and hopefully each one has a unique voice, but together it is one perspective. It’s good to be aware of what you have to offer.

JACKIE: I like that.

JANINE: Again, it’s about the audience, because you only learn what you have to offer by how people respond to your work. Sometimes, you come to realize that you don’t want to offer what is being perceived, and then you have to rethink the whole project. It is a dialogue between you and this viewer and if you’re not paying attention to who that viewer is, then the dialogue doesn’t exist. For me, the dialogue’s really the exciting part. Are you communicating and how?

JACKIE: I find that some artists will say, “I don’t want to think about another viewer.” They worry that it will somehow dilute what they are making.

JANINE: When I first began to show, I loved the idea of site specificity as a concept, but I was not fully formed. Snug Harbor was a perfect example. I got there and I became so involved with the site that I lost my core. And so, I look at that work and wonder whether it was mine. Now, I feel like I can go, and find myself in a site. But that’s about knowing yourself as an artist, and that takes years to do.

There is certainly a conversation that you are having with yourself in the work. That’s important and I don’t think you want to lose that, but the conversation you have with yourself and the conversation you have with the viewer don’t necessarily have to be in conflict. If an artist is afraid that thinking about the viewer will dilute the work, then why show at all? You would just make work in your studio and have a great time with yourself. There would be no need to put it into the world.

JACKIE: Did you get any business skills or professional skills at RISD?

JANINE: No.

JACKIE: So, how did you learn to work with other professionals? How did you learn about the collaborative nature of being with a curator or how to work with your gallerist?

JANINE: I learned by making a lot of mistakes, I guess. I mean, I certainly had a lot of advice and people that I could call up and say, “What do I do now?” Older women artists, like Kiki Smith were really generous with their advice. I had my mother, who is a very good businesswoman. She taught me to be self-sufficient and to be aware. I think as artists, we hate that stuff. We just want to close an eye to it. She taught me that to know what’s going on is to be in power. That was a really good lesson. I have really taken that advice to the extreme. I mean, my gallery does a lot for me, but certainly at the beginning, I took the time to figure out what that whole art world was about in all of its details. I represented myself for three years. During that time, I had to do everything and I learned a great deal. Because I had done the gallery’s job, I knew exactly what I wanted when it came time to choose a gallery.

JACKIE: Was this between galleries?

JANINE: This was between Sandra Gering and Luhring Augustine.

JACKIE: So, you were self-managed.

JANINE: Yeah. And then, I just kept that system going. In fact, the gallery and I work in a parallel way. Everything that they have, I have.

JACKIE: What’s the advantage to that?

JANINE: I think the advantages are that you become part of all the decisions that dictate your career. Certainly, they know more than I know when it comes to what collections I should be in. When they say, “We think we should offer your work to this collector,” I ask “Why?” I want to know, “What work do they have? Have they ever put anything up to auction?” etc.

JACKIE: The goal is to make the effort to create any professional association as a partnership. You’re partners here, so it’s not handing over your career. It’s partnering. It’s two or more people collaborating on the decisions.

JANINE:  I think we go in both directions. I use what they do for me as an opportunity to learn about how the commercial world works, but they are privy to my thinking from the beginnings of a project. So, I don’t just hand them an object at the end. I make sure that they have followed my creative process from the beginning. By the time they get the object, they understand it on all levels.

JACKIE: And you choose to work with a gallery that wants that kind of relationship.

JANINE: Yes, we find each other. I feel like they have something to offer me. I assume that all the professionals that I work with, whether it is the curator or the collector, are interested in how I make my decisions, and want to know what the creative process is like for me. To me, the creative process is what gives an object its value. So, I assume that we all love that part.

JACKIE: It sounds like you allow them to have a degree of intimacy and that carries over to how they can talk about the work with the collector or the curator.

JANINE: But also an intimacy that gets them excited about the show when they put it in their gallery. I’m not only talking about my dealers. I’m talking about the people who work in the gallery. I’m talking about the people who guard the work. My assistants and the docents. I’m talking about everyone that comes into contact with the work. As many as I can let in, I do. At the core, my work is very intimate. This is what I seek in all that I do.

JACKIE: I remember something you said when I brought the AIM artists to your studio that I have quoted ever since: “Your galleries interests are not exactly your own.”

JANINE: Yeah. It’s more complicated than that. I’d like to think that at some level, whether I’m working with a curator or gallery, we put the art first. But you know, their job is different than my job. They have something that is motivating them and I have something that is motivating me. One has to be realistic. I have to protect the work and make sure that it’s seen in the right way. That protection goes beyond the way it’s made, to the way it’s shown and talked about. Curators and gallerists have skills that I don’t have, and I want them to do their job. And I try to give them whatever tools help them represent me in the best possible way. Once this relationship is established, there needs to be trust on both sides.

JACKIE: A gallerist will have commercial interests at heart. They have staff. They have those exorbitant rents to pay. They want to think long term for you, but they have to think long term for themselves. There can be slightly divergent issues. You would be amazed by how little artists understand that. I don’t know what they think they are getting in a gallerist, Mom, Dad, or some unconditional love, but that is not there and it’s inappropriate.

JANINE: It’s interesting, because I think each artist has different needs. Like I said, each artist fulfills a different role for their gallery. It’s even more refined than that. Each gallery has a vision and a way they think things should operate. It’s really about finding two visions that somewhat align. I really feel like my gallery understands what makes me tick and what I think is important. And I know that I am different from other artists that they represent.

JACKIE: But you have gone through the trouble of educating them in a gracious and generous way.

JANINE: Yeah. We worked with each other for a year or two before we made a commitment. That way we both could explore whether it was a good fit.

What are some of your other guiding thoughts?

JANINE: Follow your Love.

Know what you are good at.

Get help with what you are not good at.

Make decisions that allow you to make work for the rest of your life.

Create an art family.

Be generous.

Help each other.

Give back.

Fantasize about the viewer.

Know yourself.

Challenge yourself.

Don’t be too narrow at the beginning.

For instance, I could still be making chocolate sculptures, and that would be a disaster. You are defined by the thing that gets you noticed, and there is an incredible pull to repeat yourself. I think that the wider you make your base at the beginning, the more possibility you have for the rest of your life. Saying all of that, I think of On Kawara. You could make a fabulous contribution finding the nuances of a very narrow space. Wide view is my territory. Finding the same thing in very diverse forms.

JACKIE: But again, it is following your own advice. Knowing yourself. And for you that wouldn’t have been enough. It wouldn’t have been satisfying.

JANINE: And then I wrote down a few other things:

Don’t get too good at making something.

Work at the edge of your capability.

Take a position.

Make rules and them break them, slowly.

Question every gesture in the making

Surprise yourself.

Pay attention

Stay open.

For the full interview please go here.

PRESSURE

Linking to the second issue of PREE, an online portal of contemporary Caribbean writing started by a few colleagues and me. check it out! If I’ve stopped writing my Gleaner column, this is the reason. Not a multi-tasker so if i take on something new, something has to be dropped. 

The second issue of PREE focuses on the theme ‘Pressure’.  Pressure buss pipe, yes. But, pressure also creates diamonds. What does pressure do for us tethered to the Caribbean? Is there a pressure to be ‘Caribbean’, to perform Caribbeanness, to act St. Lucian, Grenadian, Trini or Jamaican for instance; a demand that we rigidly embody our culture(s)?

There is the financial pressure to turn coins into dollars and deflated dollars into meals and school fees. There is the cultural pressure to persist and the global pressure to give in. Economic pressure to expand tourism and environmental pressure to protect. The desire for freedom and pressure to remain ‘authentic’. There is social pressure, atmospheric pressure, population pressure, the pressure to achieve the impossible. Also, and sometimes fatally, for too many of us in the region and the diaspora, pressure builds in our blood. Pressure takes root in our hearts and manifests clinically as hypertension and the dangerous possibilities of stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism. Pressure underlies any number of presentations of mental illness. Pressure is not just a soul-killing thing, but a thing from which we can actually die. Whichever way you cut it, pressure exists as a powerful invisible force. These are just some of the possible launching points that we asked contributors to wrestle with in this sophomore issue. Via prose, poetry, essays, memoirs, videos, and artwork that explored the possibilities that exist for pressure, PREE contributors did not disappoint.

Editorial

Letter from the EditorAnnie Paul

Fiction

Uncle Carlos’s SocksPatrina Pink

All That You Can Afford to LoseJustin Haynes

The Patience of StoneRichie Maitland

Cursing Mrs. MurphyRoland Watson-Grant

Caribbean Hurricane RhymeJulia Morris Thomson

Voice: Still Want SexOpal Palmer Adisa

Barrel Boy/Cyborg BirthKwasi Shade

“We Want Justice!”Agostinho Pinnock

Non-fiction

Turn up the VolumeLeniqueca Welcome

On Non-Renewable EnergyKatherine Agard

New Rules-Gerard Johnson

Poetry

Resurrection/Easter SundayJovanté Anderson

Three Poems from The Best Estimation in the WorldSonia Farmer

Transmutations/Hide me AwayTraci-Ann Wint-Hayles

Barbados Mulatto Girl/Mangrove VillageAdam Patterson

Da Fruit of Our SperitIde Thompson

One Day She Will Ask about Her NameAnna Corniffe

The Sun/TortolaJannine Horsford

a curse to Adam/DelilahLetitia Pratt

Pressure Drops/Bring Back Love-Ubaldimir Guerra

The Sky Has Not ChangedNigel Assam

Essay

The Gait of the ElephantSunny Singh

Memoir

CoppertoneSarah Manley

Politics TimeKaren Bumi Marks

ART-icles

10th Berlin Biennale: We Don’t Need Another Hero (REVIEW)–David Frohnapfel

Andil Gosine: Coolie, Coolie Viens–Ramabai Espinet

Bernard Hoyes: An InterviewAnnie Paul

Revisit

The Novel Of Tomorrow,  TodayChristopher Laird

PREE Shorties

Emancipatory PropositionBeatriz Llenin-Figueroa

Pressure CookingTiffany Walton

Audio Visual

Four Days in West KingstonDeborah Thomas, Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn


Image credit: Leasho Johnson. No. 5 afflicted from the “playing the field” series. Mixed media on paper. By kind permission of the artist.

Decoding Veerle Poupeye’s Laments

A response to a series of critiques of the National Gallery of Jamaica

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Philip Thomas, Pimpers Paradise, The Terra Nova edition, Beyond Fashion, National Gallery of Jamaica

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In a post titled “Too Close for Comfort” dated September 22, 2018, former executive director of the National Gallery of Jamaica, Veerle Poupeye, has publicly censured the institution she used to head, the fifth or sixth critique since the start of the year when she demitted office. The gist of these critiques is that the Gallery can get little or nothing right since her departure, and now, minus her vigilance and guidance, is in danger of violating museum ethics as the Board, by implication, is unaware of the high standards that must be maintained.

Please note that this response to Poupeye’s latest ‘warning’ is made in my private capacity as a writer and critic and not as a representative of the NGJ Board, on which I’ve served since mid-2016. Since September 22, 2018, Poupeye has reposted the article mentioned above at least 4 times, apparently dissatisfied with the scant attention it was receiving from those she sought to voice her concerns to.

In the preceding months Poupeye has focused an acerbic gaze at every single exhibition mounted by the NGJ since her departure and—not surprisingly—found them wanting. She freely offers her opinions and judgments on her personal blog and on her Facebook page where among other things she scolds the new PR team for allegedly failing to put out a press release before rather than after the exhibition, chides her former curatorial team for various alleged imperfections, and raises ‘concerns’ about the rights and wrongs of a board member who is also an art impresario somehow ‘benefiting’ from two of the artists she represents being in a micro-show at National Gallery West even though it is the Senior Curator who would have made the selection and not the board member in question.  It remains unclear how artists or their agents might benefit from exposure at National Gallery West, a tiny space not on the radar of most people in Jamaica, let alone the wider art world. In fact the premise of the exhibition was the opposite, to mount the work of interesting artists with connections to Western Jamaica for the benefit of audiences in that region–not to burnish the artists’ already healthy reputations.

In the screed under discussion Poupeye’s tone is lofty as she dwells on the shortcomings of the institution she has spent more than 30 years at, in one capacity or another. The subject of the former ED’s admonitions and cautionary statements is Susanne Fredricks, whose family owns HiQo Gallery, and who has recently set up an online platform called Suzie Wong Presents (SWP), designed to showcase and promote the work of Jamaican artists at international art fairs and other similar fora. Like myself Fredricks has been on the Board of the National Gallery since 2016, and has privately represented the same artists during Poupeye’s tenure as ED, although no alarm was raised at the time about this, even though the same artists were featured in National Gallery shows during that period.

The ambit and scope of what Fredricks is attempting to do with SWP is commendable, a much needed innovation that ought to be applauded rather than sneered at and disparaged as the former ED has done. Despite Poupeye’s facade of civility and feigned moral superiority her repeated attempts to try her case on social media a few days before the launching of SWP in London at 1-54, the relatively new African Art Fair held in conjunction with Frieze Art Fair, raise concerns about her motives. While Poupeye is careful to appear objective and impartial in her statements she cunningly allows her gullible followers to do the heavy lifting, generating snarky, derisive comments that verge on the libelous, and do little to show Jamaican art in a good light, as seen in the Facebook exchange below:

Veerle Poupeye Natalie D. A. Bennett Let me first say that I am delighted that these artists are getting this exposure opportunity. The required reading appears to make reference to Stuart Hall, who is referenced in the press material. Here is the other information I have: 198 is a charitable, non-profit gallery and organization in Brixton and the special projects at 1-54, to which they were invited to contribute, are not-for-profit, although the rest of the fair of course is. Suzie Wong Presents is, to my understanding, an online commercial gallery. Several works by both artists are being offered for sale through that gallery’s Artsy page. Four works by these artists that are presented as for sale on that page are presently on view in the I Shall Return Again exhibition at National Gallery West exhibition in Montego Bay. Susanne Fredricks, who operates Suzie Wong Presents, and who curated Required Reading as a collaboration with 198, is also a member of the National Gallery of Jamaica Board and the Chair of its exhibition committee.I am not familiar with the content of the display at 1-54.

Natalie D. A. Bennett what is that mi jus read…? the sed person who runs the commercial gallery that is charged with selling the works also sits on the public board of NGJ and used their position of access to put those works in a public exhibition suh more people can see it and thus buy it so dem can personally reap the benefits? so the public exhibition, while it’s bringing important and necessary visibility to the artists themselves, is actually enriching the person who put it on display in the public gallery? Suh ef it sell ah di individual an dem commercial gallery and not the public institution a get di money and then dish out fi dem portion to the artists? Suh fi dem commercial gallery nevva good enough an naa draw enough attention?

None of the above is true but Bennett has correctly decoded what was implicit in Poupeye’s statements. Alarmed by these insinuations Lucy Davies, director of 198, the non-profit, London-based gallery mentioned by VP responded to the same post pointing out there was little basis for the claims being made of conflict of interest. She also corrected Poupeye’s misconceptions about what constitutes a non-profit in the British context:

Lucy Davies It is most unfortunate that you have chosen to try and undermine our involvement in 1-54 with your posts suggesting that our partner Suzie Wong Presents is gaining financially from their participation . We in London have worked hard to achieve this opportunity for Jamaican artists and invited SWP to participate. You might be surprised to learn than no actual artworks are on display. Both partners invested considerable funds in creating a bespoke multi media installation (which has been really well received btw) without external sponsorship.

Even if works had been sold it is unlikely that any commission due to partners would have covered the costs incurred in providing this opportunity to two great artists. Also non profit does not mean you cannot sell works. We do this at 198 quite often. It simply means that any funds raised are reinvested in further work to support artistic endeavours.

You are welcome to post this comment on the Caribbean Artist network page as 198 would like there to be complete clarity on this. Also I’d like to suggest that any grievances you might have with SWP be approached via appropriate channels as calling people out on social media is not exactly a professional look.

In the back and forth that ensued on Facebook  (see screenshots below) the former ED does what she does all too often; she climbs on her moral high horse and rides it for all its worth, accusing Davies of personal hostility and animosity although no one reading Davies’ calm and measured comments would come to the same conclusion. In fact a glance at her comments in the screenshots pasted below show that Davies is the one accusing VP of personal motives in the timing and nature of her attack on SWP but in a classic instance of gaslighting VP throws the accusations back at her with absolutely no evidence offered!

“The comments by you I have read since then ARE personally hostile and it is clear that you bear animosity towards me for reasons only you can clarify. I believe that it is your professional conduct that is inappropriate here and I will write the governing body of the organization you represent with a complaint about same. Enough is enough!”

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It has become commonplace for any criticism of the ex-ED to be routinely dismissed as “highly inappropriate” or “distasteful” and the critique characterized as a personal  attack. Quite often in her lengthy jeremiads Poupeye moralizes on Jamaican society beyond the art world. Her statements are oracular, and “delivered like Holy Writ, without sourcing or self-reflection or doubt”, a quote from Mark Judge’s article, “Are You Guilty of ‘Virtue-Signaling?’”  in which he discusses the phenomenon of less than virtuous individuals going out of their way to signal their superiority and integrity by frequent expressions of moral outrage. According to Judge “Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or even the weather.”

It’s something one cannot help but notice in Veerle Poupeye’s Facebook utterances: her vigorous, indeed, aggressive virtue signaling. The following are examples of what I’m talking about.

Veerle Poupeye
29 September at 20:44

 If you sell works of art, in a space or online, you operate a commercial gallery, and you are a dealer; no matter how many times you call your operation a “platform.” or yourself a “curator”. Nothing wrong with selling art, dealers and commercial galleries are very important and the good ones fulfill many other roles, but at least be clear, and honest, about the fundamental nature and purpose of your operation and do not try to masquerade as a non-profit operation.

This statement indirectly references SWP, the fledgling art platform that for reasons best known to herself, VP seems determined to scuttle. Yet SWP has never masqueraded as a non-profit operation as suggested in the above Facebook post, and further it is an incorrect assumption on Poupeye’s part that non-profits can’t sell work, so what is all the alarmist talk and concern about? Let’s throw mud, some of it is bound to stick, seems to be the rationale behind it. In the following Facebook update, Poupeye tries a different tack, laying on her moralism with a trowel and introducing the victim card:

Veerle Poupeye
3 October at 10:59 ·

 Why do some people attack the messenger in very personal and disparaging way when an issue they do not want to hear or acknowledge goes into the open, especially when they are directly or indirectly compromised in the matter. Should we just ignore things that are plainly wrong out of fear for those reprisals? What message are we giving to people who speak up for what they believe in, that they will not be supported and should keep quiet? That it is “all good” even when what is happening is clearly wrong, merely because it benefits them? And why is this happening in an era which is full of rhetoric about “speak truth to power” and “me too”. Very, very disappointing, especially when it comes from someone who should know better, but chooses to act otherwise out of self-interest. Whatever happened to integrity and principle? Is it just optional when it is convenient?

Veerle Poupeye
8 October at 15:53 ·

 Earn your position through hard work, carried out with integrity, and through ability and achievement, and you’ll have my respect, no matter who you are or how I otherwise feel about you and what you represent. Earn it through opportunistic, talentless hustling (or with the hustle being your only real talent), and through dishonesty, disregard for others, and taking credit for other people’s work and vision, and I can only offer total contempt, no matter how far you get.

What is all this frantic virtue signaling about? James Bartholomew, the man who invented the term, gives us a clue:

“It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying you hate things. It is camouflage. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact you are really saying how good you are. If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandizement would be obvious. . . . Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.”

In general Veerle Poupeye poses as a moral exemplar and has set herself up as the ‘conscience’ and gatekeeper of Jamaican art. But how reliable is she as an objective commentator on Jamaican art or anything else?

In the post under discussion Poupeye mischievously uses a bee metaphor to introduce her latest bee(f). The reference is to an essay by Kei Miller in the inaugural issue of PREE, a new online platform of writing on, from and of the Caribbean, that I am associated with. Titled The White Women and the Language of Bees, the essay prompted Poupeye to pen an open letter to Miller on her blog. Her blog has a ‘commentary facility’ she says to Lucy Davies. However Kei’s response to her open letter remains unpublished, for undisclosed reasons. Did it contradict Poupeye’s assertions perhaps? Was it an inconvenient counter to her narrative? Whatever the reason, to voice a strong critique of a writer, then decline to publish his response, is an act of bad faith and does not demonstrate a commitment to the fostering of critical discussion in the region, a claim often made by Poupeye.

Miller’s essay provoked quite a reaction in certain quarters, which caused us to temporarily take it down until the firestorm, in which Poupeye was a vociferous participant, subsided. When the essay was subsequently restored to the PREE website Poupeye immediately added a note to her post stating authoritatively that Kei’s essay had been “replaced by a  substantially revised version.” This is patently untrue and I challenge Poupeye to provide evidence of these substantial revisions (WordPress keeps scrupulous track of edits so this is easy to do). I am the one who uploaded the new version and I struggled to identify the minor changes Kei had made to his essay long before PREE came out. We had published an earlier version and he asked us to put up the most recent version which he had neglected to give us at the time of publication. There were no changes made to the parts that caused the fuss, and the objecting parties continued to campaign against it, so it’s unclear why Poupeye felt the gratuitous lie was necessary. But lie she did, making one wonder how many of her sweeping truth claims are fabricated and how many or how few are accurate and true.

Finally, in her post “Too Close for Comfort” Poupeye quotes from a 2009 essay of mine in which I drew attention to the conflict of interest in one person, then curator David Boxer, simultaneously being Chief Curator, a practicing artist whose work was shown in almost every show the NGJ curated, as well as one of the biggest private collectors in the country. Poupeye rightly observed that “Any attempt to critique these issues was construed as a dismissal of the otherwise indeed valuable and pioneering work done by the NGJ and Boxer” but neglects to mention that she was very much part and parcel of this construal. I had been trying to draw attention to this problem long before 2009, but never received support from Veerle Poupeye who was then very much Dr. Boxer’s right hand woman, having been his protégé since the 80s. Mine was a voice in the wilderness, except for Roberta Stoddart, who in the 90s demanded a meeting with the then Board to insist that something be done about this conflict of interest.

Was Poupeye unaware then of the ICOM Code of Ethics she so frequently waves in our faces nowadays? Had she not found her moral compass yet? There is no published work I’m aware of in which Poupeye raised the alarm about the state of affairs at the National Gallery in the days when she was part of the inner circle. Her 2011 thesis Between Nation and Market certainly doesn’t mention the conflict of interest although David Boxer figures prominently in it. Incidentally my critiques of the incestuous Jamaican art world Poupeye is very much a product of, were disruptive in the true sense of the word. I take it she’s in agreement with my views now though there was never any indication of it back in the day when she could have done something about it.

One notes with amusement the former ED positioning herself as the lone disruptive voice today and generally posturing as a daring art crusader who will ‘tell it like it is’ whether Jamaicans like it or not. “I will continue throwing stones in the pond and to act as a “disruptor,” to use fashionable management speak, for as long as I can and as long as I am convinced that it is important to do so. I believe that it is needed for the health of the Caribbean art ecology.” Good! Better late than never, welcome to the stone-throwing club! But beware: if you live in a glass house don’t throw stones.

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Quilt performing

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Crowd waiting outside the National Gallery of Jamaica

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My writings about the insular curatoriat of the NGJ, of the fraught and problematic concept of the ‘intuitives’, of the importance of contemporary art, preceded Poupeye’s  belated critiques by more than a decade, something rarely acknowledged today. What is curious is that Poupeye is suggesting that the non-issue of Susanne Fredricks’ online platform Suzie Wong Presents is equivalent to the conflict of interest involving Boxer’s triple role in his time. This is a false equivalence Madame Poupeye and you would be hard put to prove otherwise. If you actually believe this then it’s a clear sign that you’re dangerously out of touch with reality.

Let me close by relating an anecdote. A few years ago my friend Elsie was returning to Jamaica for the first time after retiring as Executive Director of an institution she had helmed here for about 15 years. Are you looking forward to visiting your old haunt and catching up with your former employees I asked? Elsie looked at me in horror, “Oh no! I would never do that,” she said, shaking her head vigorously. “It’s considered infra dig to appear at a company you used to head, I might be accused of interfering. As former head, best international practice dictates that I maintain a distance, allowing the new head to find his feet and develop relationships with the staff, without my casting a shadow over them. So no, I don’t intend to go anywhere near my former office.”

Poupeye, who is fond of reminding us of international best practice in relation to art and aesthetics should take a leaf out of Elsie’s book and stop haunting the National Gallery. It’s not international best practice for former executive directors to appear at every event and exhibition mounted by their former institution, haranguing staff and dominating q and a sessions. Stop policing your former employees, Board and institution unless you’re vying for a Provincial Best Practice medal. Your former position as head of the NGJ renders you unsuitable to provide meaningful critique on a subject that is much too close for comfort to your own personal history. Now there’s a true conflict of interest we can and ought to discuss.

It would be advisable also for Poupeye to pay attention to the reception of her posts. When you post an article on social media four times and still get the cold shoulder while a post about the possibility of starting an online art journal receives an enthusiastic response, your social media ‘friends’ are trying to tell you something. Drop the accusatory, finger-pointing mode and embrace the ‘building new platforms’ mode, something as I said you are uniquely well-placed to do. Of course to accomplish this you might want to park the high horse, rest the Voice from Above and ditch the Veerle Knows Best approach to art and life. It doesn’t sit well in this era of decolonial aesthetics. If possible bring back the Veerle Poupeye who wrote Between Nation and Market: Art and Society in 20th Century Jamaica, a magisterial study that I highly recommend to anyone interested in Caribbean art or just art, period.

 

 

If there was ever any doubt that the NGJ is undergoing a resurgence since Poupeye’s   departure it was manifest at the opening of ‘Beyond Fashion’, the exhibition that has put her former protégé O’Neil Lawrence on the map. A record-breaking crowd of young folk descended on the Gallery on September 30, 2018, showing that there is indeed life and art after Veerle Poupeye. It’s a tough truth to swallow but take consolation in the fact that your protégé has done you proud. You deserve some of the acclaim for his success just as you deserve some of the blame for the many faults you continue to find with the Gallery, for you were in charge of this institution for at least 10 years, and associated with it for 30.

PS: As I get ready to post this Veerle Poupeye has just posted a review of Beyond Fashion in which she’s refreshingly self-reflexive about being too close for comfort to the subject at hand. She goes on nevertheless to level critiques against the curation of the show, the text panels, their placement, their content, “the thematic considerations that shape Beyond Fashion, and the underlying scholarship and critical engagement,” proving her point that she’s too close to the subject matter she’s discussing. We predict that Veerle Poupeye will continue to review every show presented at the NGJ and find them all wanting, in one respect or another.

Just to add that the unprecedented crowd at the opening of Beyond Fashion cannot simply be attributed to the Kingston Art and Architecture Walk (which had about 100 people) or the performance group Quilt both of which have happened there before  without attracting such a large crowd. A lot of credit must go to the curator, O’Neil Lawrence and his team, the curator who according to Veerle Poupeye, can’t get anything right anymore. Yet this is the same curator Poupeye relentlessly tried to have appointed as Chief Curator some months ago, angrily vilifying those who suggested he might not be ready. Did you get it wrong then Veerle, or is your current judgment off? You were wrong then, or wrong now, proving that your judgement is not infallible. Time to stand down?

When History Comes to Meet Us

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Photograph of Marjorie Williams and her daughters from the Bearing Witness exhibition accompanying the film Four Days in May.

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Information board from the Bearing Witness exhibition accompanying the film Four Days in May.

My last column in the Gleaner was published in April this year. For the time being I’ve decided to take a break from writing a column to focus on other projects which need my attention and time. Will resume writing on Active Voice as and when time permits. Thanks for tuning in!

At a discussion after a sneak preview of the film Four Days in May, a documentary about  what survivors experienced during the blitzkrieg we refer to as the Tivoli incursion a young man said:  “We can all remember where we were when history came and met us.”

“It come like a war zone. Caw dem a drop three bomb eno. Nuff a mi fren dem dead. After di incursion mi can tell yu seh mi guh funerALS,” said another resident who can’t forget what happened to his community in 2010, when the armed forces conducted their search for Dudus, the strongman of Tivoli Gardens on whom the United States had placed a bounty.

History will record that the most senior custodians of the state lied about what took place during those 4 days. They said there were no bombs; there was no surveillance drone when men and women had seen it with their own eyes; they did not ‘recall’ any such thing;  moreover no angels had died in Tivoli. The 73 or so civilians who were killed should be seen as collateral damage they implied. What is worse is that large swathes of Jamaican society agreed with this view of things.

Nearly 8 years later the country has had to bring back limited states of emergency in different parts of the country after declaring them zones of special operations—ZOSO. While the clampdown in Montego Bay seems to have contained the spiraling violence there, it feels as if the criminals have simply scattered to different parts of the country. How else to understand the murderous turn of events in August Town as soon as 2017 ended and 2018 began?

In a remarkable article called “Teaching In The Line Of Fire” published in the Gleaner on March 5, UWI senior lecturer Saran Stewart tried her best to raise the alarm about what is going on in the country. For those of us who live and work in this corner of Kingston the last few weeks have been punctuated by gunfire, sometimes so loud it seems to be on the UWI campus itself. Wrote Saran:

It is now month three of the new year and the shots have left the dead of night and ring loudly in the peak morning time when children are still walking to school. Our educators teach in the line of fire and not only in the community of August Town, but also Denham Town, Flankers, Norwood, Cambridge and Rose Heights, just to name a few. In these communities gunmen trade bullets for the simplest necessity, such as a tin of mackerel, and barter lives for a ‘bills’ ($100). I have taught numerous students from volatile communities, whether they were born and raised there or currently boarding. Trying to centre their minds about the philosophies of education becomes futile when my students learn first-hand the ideologies of gun violence. As an educator, I have had to drift from the standard course outline and include students’ lived experiences as a mechanism to navigate their realities and consciously re-centre the course around their true learning environments. There are students who write their papers in the shell of their bathrooms by candlelight as it is the safest concrete box in the house. When the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) suspends bus services, how do children leave those said communities to go to school? As educators, we try to find ways for students to unlearn what they perceive as standard, normal activity such as seeing mourning, orphaned children, weekly funeral gatherings, yellow ‘caution’ tape, bullet holes, blood stains, smelling gun powder, and reading WhatsApp messages stating, “Daddy dead”.

Yet this excellent article remained relatively unnoticed while the media exploded in an orgy of moral outrage about silly statements by members of one political party calling a member of the other party “black royalty”. Day after day for the entire week radio talk shows gave oxygen to this banal nonsense as if we live in Switzerland or Singapore and have nothing else to worry about.

When one of Saran Stewart’s students texted her from August Town to say that her assignment would be late as a family member had been shot dead Stewart asked her to forget the assignment and document her raw emotions instead. This is part of what she wrote:

“Over 20 years of blood shed! Has violence become my norm? Without thinking about my answer to this question, I would immediately say ‘yes’, crime and violence has become my norm. Born and raised in the community of August Town, nestled in a valley in the parish of St Andrew, surrounded by hills, the Hope River and in close proximity to two universities, this is my community.”

There’s more but is anyone listening? Is this really how we want our youngsters to meet history? Brutalized, shattered and traumatized, with no one even willing to pay attention when they write or talk about it?

PRESSURE…

PressureRoland

The submission window for the second issue of PREE is now open. Submissions may be sent to preeliteditors@gmail.com during the period July 1 to August 15. Our note on the theme is below:

PRESSURE

The second issue of PREE focuses on the theme ‘Pressure’.  Pressure buss pipe, yes. But, pressure also creates diamonds. What does pressure do for us tethered to the Caribbean? Is there a pressure to be ‘Caribbean’, to perform Caribbeanness, to act St. Lucian, Grenadian, Trini or Jamaican for instance; a demand that we rigidly embody our culture(s)?

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Leasho Johnson. No. 5 afflicted from the “playing the field” series. Mixed media on paper. By kind permission of the artist.

There is the financial pressure to turn coins into dollars and deflated dollars into meals and school fees. There is the cultural pressure to persist and the global pressure to give in. Economic pressure to expand tourism and environmental pressure to protect. The desire for freedom and pressure to remain ‘authentic’. There is social pressure, atmospheric pressure, population pressure, the pressure to achieve the impossible. Also, and sometimes fatally, for too many of us in the region and the diaspora, pressure builds in our blood. Pressure takes root in our hearts and manifests clinically as hypertension and the dangerous possibilities of stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism. Pressure underlies any number of presentations of mental illness. Pressure is not just a soul-killing thing, but a thing from which we can actually die. Whichever way you cut it, pressure exists as a powerful invisible force. These are just some of the possible launching points that we are hoping to wrestle with in this sophomore issue. PREE invites submissions of prose, poetry, essays, memoirs, videos, and artwork exploring the possibilities that exist for pressure.

If you have any comments and want to get in touch, let us know via preeliteditors@gmail.com

SUBMITTING TO PREE

Pree will only accept works during our Submission window, and this will be in response to a call for submissions. As a general guide, take a look at the following criteria and keep an eye out for the next Call For Submission.

If you are a publisher or agent who wants information about submitting writers you publish or represent please email preeliteditors@gmail.com 

Thanks to Leasho Johnson for allowing us to use this image which seems to perfectly express the theme.

If you have any comments and want to get in touch, let us know via preeliteditors@gmail.com

For more information please look here. Also read the first issue of PREE here.