Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LOTUS LIVING: Bena Nakawuki champions the year-round benefits of natural health and raw-food nutrition

VITAL STUFF: The Lotus Line invites Jamaicans to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Given the jaw-dropping rates of common lifestyle diseases (diabetes, heart disease, The Big C, etc.) among Jamaicans, it should come as no surprise that more and more of us are giving greater consideration to our overall health and well-being -- and increasingly looking to natural health products and services to savour the life-altering benefits they offer our bodies.

That's precisely why Bena Nakawuki conceived of and established The Lotus line, which provides an appealing range of "superfoods" and "detox juices", training and consultation services to help more Jamaicans discover the life-saving power of nutrients found in food, a greater spiritual connection to food, increased mental clarity, and even better reproductive health, endurance and vitality.

"I've always had a passion for wellness generally," explains Nakawuki, a thirtysomething Ugandan nutritionist and raw-food advocate who has called Jamaica home for the past decade-and-a-half. "I love natural foods, raw foods, and those kinds of things, and to feel the benefits first-hand is something I wanna share."

With clients in Kingston, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and other spots across the country, most of Bena's days are spent helping everyday folks strike a healthier balance in their approach to food, fitness and healthy living. "I teach workshops and classes as well," she informs TALLAWAH, before making mention of the hands-on training in food preparation, private catering jobs, personal chef services and retreats that her company also organizes.

Unsurprisingly, Bena says she's giving serious thought to taking her natural-health message regionally while setting her sights on taking the Lotus brand globally. "I think the Caribbean as a whole could benefit from just more awareness about natural health," observes Bena, an avid sports enthusiast who is equally passionate about arts and culture. "When we look to the West, they're already on board with the whole wellness campaign, with things like Meatless Mondays, and ho eating less meat can have a positive impact not just physically but on the environment and the planet overall."

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MISS CONGENIALITY: Radiant beauty Kerrie-Ann Baylis riffs on style, family, and supporting great causes

THE KERRIE EFFECT: Above, with a staffer at the Russian Embassy last September. Below, calling on PM Portia Simpson-Miller at Jamaica House in October.
Though impossibly fresh-faced and preternaturally gorgeous, Kerrie-Ann Baylis, 25, is more, way more than just a pretty face. The reigning Miss Jamaica Universe has a mind for serving the Jamaican community by aligning her star power with key projects aimed at transforming lives. Case in point: the National Blood Bank/Lucozade donation drive, which opened on Monday at the Girl Guides HQ in Kingston, where Baylis was on hand to motivate the young first-time donors (the KC boys seemed particularly excited to be in her company) and bring TALLAWAH up to speed on how she's been fulfilling her life's purpose.

TALLAWAH: Why was it important for you to endorse this Lucozade/National Blood Transfusion Service initiative? 
Baylis: Many people know this already because I have made no secret of it: my sister Katrina has a very rare disorder which affects her bone marrow and her ability to produce blood cells. She often needs blood donations, so this is a cause that's very dear to me; it hits home. And when Lucozade asked me to be a part of it I was more than happy to join forces with them. Something that I've always wanted to do is keep my own blood drive. I think people need to realize how important it is to give blood. It's all about raising awareness because the blood banks are very low constantly.

It's been quite a year for you. How have you been enjoying the ride?
My reigning year has been very busy, eventful, exciting. All of the above. Going to Russia to represent Jamaica was great because I always enjoy going to new places. It was my first time in Russia so I had to get used to the cold weather. But I think that's one of the benefits of actually being in a pageant like that; you get to travel the world and experience different cultures and meet new people. The Miss Universe pageant itself and just being an ambassador on a whole takes a lot of hard work. You quickly realize that it's not all glamour and red carpets as some people might think.

Apart from blood donation awareness, what are the other projects of national import you hope to get involved with?
The list is endless, so I try to help in as many different areas as I can. Having this platform, a lot of people come up to you, which helps. I try to say yes to everything that comes my way where I know I can make a difference.
What's next for you professionally?
I have a few things in the pipeline I can't mention quite yet. Just keep an eye out.

Let's switch gears and talk relationships. Do you see a spouse and kids in your future?
Hahaha! Not anytime soon, but we'll see.

What's one thing people would be surprised to discover that Kerrie Baylis is into?
I actually enjoy very simple things. I don't get much downtime, so when I do I very much like spending time with the family. I love going to the beach and visiting different parts of Jamaica and exploring the natural beauty that we have on this island.

You're always so impeccably turned out for your appearances. What does style mean to you?
I think style is a great way for people to express themselves, and especialy as a woman how you feel on the inside is reflected on the outside. No matter how I'm feeling, I make sure that I wake up and I dress up. It really brings out what I'm feeling and boosts your confidence. I love fashion and I love style; it's my little way of expressing myself. 

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THICKER THAN WATER: Jamaica's Blood Bank and Lucozade mark ten years of a life-saving partnership

LIFE SUPPORT: Healthy Jamaicans aged 17-60 years can act as blood donors.

"The Blood Bank is always in need. Right now we should be getting 70,000 units of blood per year from donors, and we're only getting about half of that amount." A sobering revelation there from Sonjay Radway, one of the dozen or so nurses we encountered during Monday's blood drive (a two-day event) at the Girl Guides Headquarters in Kingston.

Since 2004, Lucozade and the National Blood Transfusion Service have been partnering to drive home the message to Jamaicans that safe blood saves lives and to spread the knowledge among the young that blood donation is a vital part of everyday life.

"We have a great concern because not enough persons come to give blood on a regular basis. So we are always in need," Radway explains. "But we've been doing our best to encourage people as much as possible, so we do a bit of marketing to make the process a bit more enticing, especially to the young people.'

And that's where Lucozade, a subsidiary of the GlaxoSmithKline conglomerate, enters the picture, putting on the two-day event with giveaways and musical entertainment to complete the package. "This is our tenth year of putting on this blood drive, and it all came out of realizing that there is a great need," notes Rebeth Streete, Lucozade's Caribbean Marketing Manager. "And it's a great fit for our brand because we're all about replenishing your energy and your fluids once you've given blood."

In addition to the numerous adults we encountered, Monday's event was also supported by reigning Miss Jamaica Universe Kerrie Baylis, a few reggae acts, as well as students of corporate area high schools like Immaculate Conception High and Kingston College, who all seemed to be enjoying themselves for the most part.

"We have watched it grow over the 10 years, and we're really grateful to persons who continue to support us," says Streete. "More and more schools have come on board; the young people are realizing that they can discard all the myths and appreciate that it's a healthy and life-saving thing to do."

Who can donate blood? Healthy people as young as 17 years and as mature as 60 years. "You need to think first of all that there's a bigger mission, and that is helping to save lives," Streete advises. "There are many occasions when people have relatives who need donations, or they themselves need blood for surgery after an accident or whatever the case may be. Donating blood means you're going to help someone else and, in the long run, you may end up helping yourself."

To learn more about the National Blood Transfusion Service and their "One Love, One Blood Partnership for Life" campaign, visit 21 Slipe Road, Kingston.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

THE BUZZ REPORT: Spotlight on Expo Jamaica + Paul Campbell to be honoured in New York + Ziggy jams at Sonos Studios

Ziggy Marley knows all about the requirements for keeping that promo wheel in motion, so Fly Rasta (his new album going on sale this month) is bounds to debut atop the reggae charts. Just this week the Grammy-winning hitmaker was the musical guest of honour inside the Los Angeles-based Sonos Studios or a Q-and-A session aptly dubbed "An Evening with Ziggy Marley," where he not only performed tracks for the live in-studio audience but also rapped with moderator Adam Weissler about art and life. 

And speaking of hard-working men, Calabash 2014 co-headliner Christopher John Farleywas a recent guest on NBC's The Today Show, where the Game World author joined in a discussion on gender and children's lit. As we previously reported, Farley is set to join fellow literary heavyweights Zadie SmithJamaica KincaidNgugi Wa Thiong'O and Salman Rushdie at next month's staging of the Calabash International Literary Festival at Jake's in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth. 

It's always headline-worthy when our artists and artisans get their due. The work of veteran Jamaican screen actor Paul Campbell (Third World Cop, Dancehall Queen, Shottas, Home Again, etc.) will be recognized with a much-deserved career achievement award at the inaugural Oracabessa Music and Culture Festival, slated for May 26 at New York's Roy Wilkins Park. The star power at the event will be turned all the way up, thanks to confirmed mainstage appearances by the likes of Konshens, Beenie Man and Tessanne Chin, who is also set to rock the Catherine Hall massive at Reggae Sumfest in July. 

Hands down the largest and most comprehensive trade show of its kind in the region, Expo Jamaica 2014 has assembled well over 500 participating entities (a mix of new-kid-on-the-block entrepreneurs and established corporate heavy hitters. It's a fantastic time to ponder the future of business in this country, says Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who officially opened the expo on Thursday. "We understand that the forces of globalization have changed the face of business everywhere, but for Jamaica to prevail and become more competitive," the prime minister says, "we have no choice but to fully integrate our economy into global value chains for the production and delivery of goods and services around the world." 

With the Commonwealth Games mere months away (this summer to be precise), Netball Jamaica is stepping up its efforts to ensure that the Sunshine Girls return home with a medal from the July 23-August 3 championship. Hence the return of Aussie miracle-worker Jill McIntosh, who is reprising her role as Technical Director. "The selection committee will look at the best players and the best mix of players," McIntosh says, "so you want a team of twelve that is very harmonious, that works well together on the court, which will allow you to change the combinations and it doesn't matter."

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NEWS AND NOTES: Poet Kendel Hippolyte reissues Night Vision anthology + Beryl Rochester becomes St. Elizabeth's first female Custos

LEADING LADY: When Norma Walters was installed as Custos of St. Ann last month there was widespread rejoicing that (finally) a dame had ascended to the high office in the garden parish, poised to carry out the weighty responsibilities with a woman's touch. Weeks later, St. Elizabeth has followed suit with the appointment of Beryl Rochester as the parish's first female Custos. On March 27, Rochester, a retired accountant and a former financial controller at Alpart who has also served as a director of the Southern Regional Health Authority, officially entered office following a ceremony at Independence Park in Black River, where Governor General Sir Patrick Allen made her a member of the National Order of Distinction (Commander Class) and presented her with the Magistrates' Roll for St. Elizabeth, popularly nicknamed the bread-basket parish.

WELL VERSED: Recently in Jamaica for this year's iteration of A Love Affair with Literature at UWI Mona, noted West Indian poet Kendel Hippolyte has just republished his seminal anthology, Night Vision (Peepal Tree Press). According to the publishers, the 80-page collection, replete with dramatic monologues, blues and rap poems, calls on Hippolyte's verbal mastery and critical insight to draw sharp focus upon a nation in flux, his beloved St. Lucia, incidentally the home of that Nobel-winning master lyricist Derek Walcott. "Hippolyte turns his vision upon the people, the land and the culture," Peepal Tree notes, "and finds a microcosm of the Caribbean in the 21st century."

>> In recognition of Bob Marley's timeless message of peace and unity, the Tatnall Playground in the US state of Delaware has been renamed the One Love Park.

>> It's about time. Acclaimed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the Booker Prize for 1989's The Remains of the Day, is set to publish The Buried Giant (Knopf), his first new work of full-length fiction in over a decade. Ishiguro's bestselling Never Let Me Go (2005) was adapted for a 2010 film version starring new Spider Man, Andrew Garfield and Carrie Mulligan (The Great Gatsby).

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Monday, April 7, 2014

PROCESS TO PERFORMANCE: Cool concepts, electrifying energy elevate Danceworks 2014

IN STEP: EMC students and faculty collaborate for the annual showcase.

Danceworks is traditionally a celebratory showcase put on by the School of Dance spotlighting the latest and very best in conceptual choreography by students and faculty. By and large, a tapestry of what they've been working on all year. But this season while they stayed true to that original premise with delicious results, it's the contributions of two choreographers that I'd like to bring to your attention.

First, the NDTC's Chris Walker (presently on staff at the University of Wisconsin), whose 2011 opus "Cool I and Isaacs" came in fir a sublime remount thanks to the collaborative efforts of Sophia McKain, Paul Newman, and Kayon Wray. A feat of technique and swagger, the piece pays eloquent homage to the cool and identifiably Jamaican sounds of Gregory Isaacs and is a stirring ode to his memory, even as it delves into popular expressions in the wider Jamaican context. And while "Cool I and Isaacs" is chock-full of solo moments (Kimiko Miller opens the piece, Neila Ebanks slips into a militant mode), Walker reveals a gift for choreographing group that lends the dance a collective richness all its own.

Secondly, Newman deserves high commendation for producing two of the most riveting pieces of the season: the sharp and pacy "In-Transit" and the robustly thrilling "MCon (Military Conformity)" which draws on the talents of an energetic all-female troupe and a hard-hitting dancehall soundtrack (Damian Marley, Mavado et al) to explore attitudes towards, not to mention, the pros and cons surrounding the whole idea of conformity. (I, for one, am very much in support of "expect the unexpected".) As a performer with the NDTC, Paul has consistently brought intelligence and flair to his movements on-stage; as an emerging choreographer, on the other hand, the imagination and intellect his work conveys is nothing if not impressive. 

Elsewhere, Danceworks 2014 (the 18th instalment) delivered its signature mash-up of kinetic energy, fascinating ideas and fit, fleet-footed bodies to bring the pieces to life, all these elements shaken and stirred to produce an electric cocktail in motion. While Michael Holgate ("Reach Back Forward") was content to continue his fixation on movement spurred by African beats and rhythms, final-year BFA student Camargo smith ("Chasing Time") chose to tackle the everyday rush and corporate gleam of the corporate world where it's all about getting ahead and he tick-tock of the clock.

But the best of the rest was undoubtedly Oneil Pryce's newest effort, Opacity, an atmospheric and deeply affecting take on existence and identity. It's a rather lengthy but intensely watchable piece with a certain delicacy to it, from the filmy Barry Moncrieffe costumes to the cinematic musical accompaniment. If nothing else, this year's Danceworks managed to refresh the persuasive argument that when it comes to dance theatre, there's always a certain bliss, and potential for discovery, in making the journey from process to performance.

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INSIDE EXPO JAMAICA: The island's premier trade show takes the Kingston spotlight

MADE IN JA: PM Portia Simpson-Miller greets exhibitors during Thursday's opening ceremony inside the National Arena. Above, Azan at the podium.

For all its appeal and status as the largest and most comprehensive trade show of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, Expo Jamaica (now 42 years old) still has tonnes of room for improving on the framework, as it seeks to significantly increase export orders and boost local sales for its participants. Yet for some the question remains: Is the National Arena the ideal venue to host an event of this magnitude?

"First of all, we need a better Kingston facility for an expo like this. The Arena is way too small," concedes noted businessman Omar Azan, CEO of Boss Furniture, one of the more than 140 exhibitors that set up shop at the expo last weekend. "There are many, many more manufacturers who would have loved to exhibit here, but the space is too limited." Dennis Hawkins of Spur Tree Spices Jamaica concurs. "The space for an expo of this size needs to be bigger," he says. "It would attract many more exhibitors."

Branded the business hub of the Caribbean, both the upper and lower levels of the National Arena were appealingly done-up to hold displays spanning the gamut from art-and-craft to food and agro-processed products to furniture to printing and packaging services, with just enough space remaining for single-lane pedestrian traffic.

But in spite of the perceived shortcomings, both Azan and Hawkins readily join their fellow businesspeople in expressing gratitude for the existence of such a wide-ranging consumer-oriented showcase. "It feels good to come here and sell because I am able to give my Jamaican people work," says Azan, whose company employs over 250 persons. "If I don't come here and sell goods I have to lay off the people, and I think that's something everybody here can relate to. It's great for marketing your products."

Trekking around the venue, checking out the merchandize on display at this grand Jamaican affair, one can certainly see why Jamaica Manufacturers' Association boss, Brian Pengelley, says Expo Jamaica has set the bar for variety, quality and innovation among the Caribbean's largest business events. Signalling, indeed, that Jamaica is serious about business.

"Expo Jamaica is a testament that the manufacturing sector is very much alive, with over 2000 quality and authentic Jamaican-made products on showcase," he says, "and it presents a unique opportunity for buyers to forge linkages with manufacturers and become aligned with the great Jamaican brand, which continues to be in demand worldwide."

And that is perhaps the key benefit for participating businessmen like Hawkins. "Export is our main thrust," he points out, "and the expo helps because the more you build and market locally, the more likely you will export."

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ANIMAL KINGDOM: Wild Alice spins a campy tale of whimsical song and dance

WILD AT HEART: The human-to-creature dynamic is at the heart of a new kiddie musical.

It's tricky bringing children's theatre to the stage. For all the successes (The Button-Hole Bandit) there's the occasional misstep. The School of Drama's Wild Alice, written by Jean Hart and directed by Pierre LeMaire, falls somewhere in the middle: a frequently humorous, nearly note-perfect portrait of the human-animal dynamic.

After numerous attempts at getting her enrolled in a new school, the last resort for Alice (a convincing Joylene Alexander) is enrollment at the Peaceable Kingdom Wildlife Centre. But here's the catch: it's an animal menagerie, run by the androgynous Principal Lion (Alicia Taylor) and guarded by Billy Goat (Kerrian Johnson). 

But Alice, much to her mother's chagrin, eagerly wants to get in. When her mom finally relents, Alice's eventful day-long experience ensues, proving tougher than the adventure-loving lass had anticipated. 

Still, though things start off on an awkward note in the "classroom," also occupied by Jack Rabbit (Rajeave Mattis), Gypsy Moth (Amoy Myers), Box Turtle (Tiara Kay Woodbine) and Star Fish (Shanice Christie), once the kids realize that animals and humans, for all their uniqueness, have much in common (underscoring the play's takeaway message: we've all got to get along somehow), things start to mellow.

With sprightly musical numbers, vibrantly eclectic lighting that appeals to the senses, and a sensible set, the show makes for a whimsical two-hour escape, engaging the audience with just enough clever ideas and subplots, the primary one revolving around a scheming komodo dragon and a deer. Go figure. 

The casting is solid, as student actors of the Children's Theatre Workshop classic effectively elucidate serious topics with a lighthearted touch, such as the relationship, and indeed coexistence, between humans and animals, humans and nature.

Overall, Hart's Wild Alice represents a fascinating riff on the classic Alice in Wonderland model, this campy interpretation riddled with tween angst and all sorts of whimsy and dreamscape fantasy. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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