Wednesday, 24 May 2017

CULTURE VULTURE: Safiya Sinclair for Bookophilia + J’can actors land roles in Yardie + Children’s Gospel finals this Sunday

POETRY WITH BITE: Her acclaimed anthology, Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press) recently won the OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry and a handful of other literary awards on the US mainland, putting her squarely in the company of the most important Caribeban poets working today. But Jamaican audiences haven’t seen or heard from Safiya Sinclair, in the flesh, in a miute. The Montego Bay native, who currently resides in Virginia, is coming home. She will be the guest of honour at a special reading at Hope Road’s Bookophilia, where she will deliver selections from her ever-expanding body of work and, indeed, some choice pieces from Cannibal. The reading, which has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 7, is expected to draw a standing-room-only crowd, filled with poetry lovers no doubt eager to get their hands on an autographed copy of Cannibal

CHARACTER STUDY: According to reports, Jamaican actors Shantol Jackson (Sugar), Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd (Better Mus’ Come) are set to add their film credits, when they begin shooting scenes for Yardie, the feature-film directorial debut of Hollywood hotshot Idris Elba, who is now an honorary Jamaican. The film, a novel-to big screen adaptation, is expected to begin production this summer, with filming to take place in both Jamaica and England over the course of seven weeks. By all accounts, it’s a passion project for Elba, Golden Globe-winning actor and future James Bond (*fingers crossed*), who recently spent time in the island, meeting with stakeholders in the local film industry. No word yet on the planned release date for Yardie, but alongside Storm Saulter’s Sprinter, it’s among the most anticipated Jamaican-themed films in the works. 

KIDS IN PRAISE: Considered the junior version of the National Gospel Song Competition, the Jamaica Children’s Gospel Competition has grown from strength to strength, unearthing outstanding talents who’ve gone on to do wonderful things on the local and international music scene. This year’s competition comes to a close this Sunday, May 28, when the cream-of-the-crop entrants, in several age groups and categories (solo and group), vie for a range of attractive prizes, at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. Setting the stage for a slew of cultural events in the run-up to the grand Jamaica 55 celebrations in August, the show begins at 5pm.

Monday, 22 May 2017

NEWS FEED: Germaine Mason gets emotional send-off + Kandi King appointed Miss J’ca World Pageant Director

> FINAL RESPECTS: Usain Bolt, top athletes among mourners at Germaine Mason’s funeral 
Tears flowed amidst glowing tributes, as a sizeable congregation bid farewell to British-Jamaican Olympian Germaine Mason, during a thanksgiving service for his life at the Hagley Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Kingston on Sunday. Sprint king Usain Bolt, Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner, Ian ‘Pepe’ Goodison, Chris Martin, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell, among other sporting figures and colleagues, showed support for Mason’s mother, Carol, and the other bereaved relatives, and served as pallbearers. Mason’s cousin, Eric Cyrus Jr, who read the eulogy, remembered him as the decent, stand-up guy. “He lived life to the fullest. Through his endeavours, he never gave up. He persisted until he triumphed. And that easygoing personality that we all know, he carried with him into his fatherly role.” A father of two (with one on the way), Mason lost his life on April 20, after his motorcycle crashed along the Palisadoes Road in Kingston. Following Sunday’s funeral service, he was buried at Long Road, Grange Hill, in his native Portland. Mason was 34 years old. 

> ‘KING’ OF QUEENS: Spartan taps Kandi King for MJW director 
Television presenter, businesswoman and tastemaker Kandi King is the Pageant Director for this year’s staging of Miss Jamaica World, a franchise that has been reclaimed by the Spartan Health Club. She is a former MJW contestant, now the CEO of Karnival by Kandi, a concierge service which has been providing destination and lifestyle packages for Caribbean carnivals since 2014. King is a valuable addition to the family, says Spartan. “With her passion for branding and strong organization skills, King will no doubt be a major asset to the Miss Jamaica World organization, as she helps to guide and supervise all aspects of this year’s competition,” the health club’s management said in a statement announcing King’s executive appointment. In 2016, King became a founding member and director of Xaymaca International, one of Jamaica’s newest carnival bands. Each week, she brings her radiance and charm to our living rooms as the host of Chill Spot on Business Access TV.

ON HER MIND: Dance educator Patricia Noble shares her life-changing testimony of triumph after debilitating trials

LEAP OF FAITH: Noble, who still walks with a limp, has reason to smile.

SEVEN years before I started Praise Academy of Dance, I experienced the most intense emotional storm that rocked me to the core and tested my mettle. This was in the 1980s, and I was on quite a trajectory – from trained dance student to dance educator at the Edna Manley College to accomplished ‘secular’ dancer. I was on a career high, making my own plans for a great future. But God had other plans for my life.

I was on stage dancing with wild abandon to the words of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” when out of the blue I heard a voice ask me, ‘Who are you edifying when you dance like this?’ Suddenly, an excruciating pain hit me in my leg and I leaped off the stage. The following Monday, at Jessie Rippoll Primary, where I prepare students for the Common Entrance Exams, I tried getting up from my seat but my legs wouldn’t budge. Down came the salty tears. I was struggling to breathe. I was crippled for a week. I had to find a way to talk to God.

I met Gene Denham, a member of the Kingston Open Bible Church, who guided me through the scriptures, with fasting, prayer and deep fellowship with God. I felt changed. The Holy Spirit was now guiding me. 

Within a year, I gave up my job at Edna Manley and the Lord invited me to embark on a new journey with him, developing a new dance experience based on praise and worship. With two other women, Ann-Marie Williams and Curline Thompson, I took up the challenge of creating this Christian dance – interpretive worship – and that’s how Praise Academy of Dance was born, in 1993.

It’s been more than two decades since. In fact, next year brings our 25th anniversary. I consider this a journey of faith that’s changed many lives and opened a lot of doors. We not only have branches in Kingston and Portmore (populated by dancers from five years old to thirtysomething), we managed to branch out to establish Praise Academy Barbados in 2003 and in Trinidad in 2007. Cayman is next. Some of the dance teachers and administrative staff have been with me since the very beginning. 

Unity, fellowship and love have kept us together. I see where our young kids become leaders at their schools, displaying the discipline and hard work that we’ve instilled in them. But what I cherish most about the experience is that it has taught the dancers how to have a deep fellowship with Christ. 

For the 25th year celebration, there are so many things we want to get done. Right now we’re at rented premises, so we’re working toward setting up our own home base and expand into a performing arts academy. We are also preparing to welcome more male dancers into the company, and for the 2018 season, we’re inviting back some of our past dancers to join in the celebration. 

I just published my first book, The Journey Continues, which shares my story, and I’m working on getting it into the bookstores. We did a first printing of 100 copies, and we have only 10 left. My life is a series of lessons that I want people to know about. It’s a testimony I want to share with the world.  As told to TALLAWAH Magazine

TALK OF THE TOWN: Bon voyage, Kelly! + KOTE’s 10th anniv. cancelled + Giving journalists more

Will JPS ever be the same without Kelly Tomblin? It’s been announced that after five years, the hardworking President and CEO is making way for a successor, as her contract expires this summer. According to our hardly-ever-wrong sources, Miss Tomblin will be taking up the post of Chief Executive Officer of the US-based power company INTREN, effective July 10. Tomblin, a workhorse and creative thinker, brought so much to our light-and-power company, helping to transform it into a people-friendly and super-modern entity with special emphasis on social responsibility and being a good corporate citizen that goes beyond the call of duty. Since joining JPS in April 2012, she has repeatedly opened the windows to let in some fresh air. The results speak for themselves. Not only did she spark the genesis of the Women in Energy conference, she helped to kick-start numerous initiatives to make life a bit easier for customers. No word yet on Kelly will officially depart our shores, but INTREN is beyond lucky to have her. And with Winsome, Sharee and the other ‘Women of JPS’ still on board, her legacy is in safe hands. 

If like us you were anticipating the series of artsy activities to mark the 10th anniversary of Kingston on the Edge (KOTE), you should know that the urban arts festival will not be staged this year. It’s incredibly sad news. The organizers have publicly stated that lack of adequate funding is the reason for the unfortunate cancellation, but they want the arts community to rest assured that every effort is being made to guarantee KOTE’s return in 2018. It just goes to show that it cannot be emphasized enough that initiatives designed to promote and preserve and showcase the work of Jamaican artists need to be taken more seriously. For the arts to thrive, consistent financial support is paramount. 

It’s heartening to see that the Press Association of Jamaica, led by the fearless Dionne Jackson-Miller (far right), is fighting for local journalists to get their due. As TALLAWAH readers have been informed, the cash prizes for the upcoming National Journalism Awards (taking place in November) have been generously upgraded. The Journalist of the Year, in particular, will take home a quarter of a million dollars. That sounds like progress.

TALLAWAH joins the entertainment fraternity in expressing condolences to the family of reggae veteran Frankie Paul, who died at the University Hospital last week after ailing for some time. R.I.P Frankie. #TrueOriginal

Saturday, 20 May 2017

WAYS OF SEEING: Stellar artworks bring intrigue, electric energy to 2017 Visual Arts showcase

FACE VALUE: Jermaine Morgan's "Untitled," the Jury Prize winner in this year's competition.

ST. Catherine-based painter Jermaine Morgan has won the Jury Prize in this year’s JCDC Visual Arts Competition & Exhibition, currently on view at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, until August. Morgan, whose eye-popping, hyper-chromatic work has graced exhibitions at the National Gallery and Kingston on the Edge (KOTE), copped the first-place award (and a gold medal) for his spell-binding piece “Untitled”, a powerful portrait of a young Jamaican man staring back at you from the canvas in lush brush strokes of red and green. 

The piece truly pulls in the viewer upon entering the lobby of the conference centre, is on sale for a reasonable $85,000. A companion piece to “Untitled,” Morgan’s “Beautifully Broken” copped a silver medal. 

Over 280 award-winning and original works (in youth and adult categories) make up this year’s electrically charged exhibition, whose pieces adorn the walls all over the sprawling conference centre and the upstairs-based gallery, where the youth entries can be found. It’s an endlessly fascinating showcase, chock-full of stunning photographs, sculptures, fibre arts, works on paper and paintings that deserve to be added to collections at home and abroad. 

Among the lot are several gold medal winners whose creators hail from parishes islandwide. While Kingston’s Patrick Planter (“Hand Mask”), Gianni Jahziel (“Brother Nature III”) and Michelle Lee Lambert (“Behind the Blue Door”) were recognized for their skilful photography, St. Catherine’s Dwane Bailey (“Road to Africa”), Trelawny’s Nicholas Rose (“Mother and Child”), Kingston’s Kitwana Robinson (“Portal of My Consciousness”) and Ranford Anderson (“Madiba”) won gold for their fine paintings and works on paper. 

Sixteen-year-old Sashoy Bewry, whose black-and-white drawings “Mother Dearest” and “Fruit of the Womb” also claimed gold, got the 1st Place Promise Prize for most outstanding youth entrant. Manchester High, whose students submitted some truly exquisite photographs, took the Summit Prize for Top School/Group. 

On the local arts calendar since 1963, the Jamaica Visual Arts Competition & Exhibition aims to showcase local talent and provide opportunities for artists to gain access to local and international audiences.

Friday, 19 May 2017

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: A Holocaust survivor looks back + ‘Reasoning’ with Rupert Lewis + Geoffrey Philp’s latest release

> What We Just Read:
Night (Bantam Books) by Elie Wiesel
The horrors of the Holocaust concentration camp are brought to palpable, hypervivid life in this critically acclaimed memoir, a book that’s simply impossible to put down. Candidly written, it chronicles Wiesel’s terrifying near-death experiences, as a teenager by his father’s side (and in the company of hundreds of other persecuted Jews), at the hands of heartless German soldiers, at the height of Nazi rule. In a nutshell, Night is visceral, heart-pounding prose and gripping testimony that critics have likened to The Diary of Anne Frank. As the book attests, Wiesel, who went on to become an Ivy League professor and a recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, bore witness to and endured some truly unspeakable events that no one should be subjected to. Remarkably, he survived to tell the tale.

> What We’re Buzzing About
Garvey’s Ghost (Carlong Publishers) by Geoffrey Philp
Widely known novelist and poet Geoffrey Philp woos a Young Adult audience with this latest offering, an action-packed and emotionally charged narrative exploring fractious family dynamics, betrayal, redemption and every mother’s worst nightmare. It follows Kathryn Bailey, a single Jamaican mother of East Indian descent based in Miami. When her teenage daughter Jasmine disappears, Kathryn’s desperate search for answers leads her to Jacob Virgo, one of Jasmine’s college professors, a Rastafarian and Garveyite. Reluctantly, they join forces to find Jasmine before it’s too late. But does Virgo have to something to hide? And what about Cristina, Carlton and Russell Davenport – did they have a role to play in the young lady’s disappearance? As Carlong is quick to inform us, Garvey’s Ghost (packing some 256 pages) promises an intriguing ride and clever plot twists that will have you turning pages well into the night.

> What’s On The Horizon:
Caribbean Reasonings: Rupert Lewis and the Black Intellectual Tradition (Ian Randle Publishers) 
 From academic to cultural activism, Prof. Rupert Lewis has always distinguished himself as a force to be reckoned with. Now retired from the University of the West Indies (UWI), where he spent teaching sociology to undergrads, the renowned Garvey and Rodney scholar gets his due, as the headliner of the latest Caribbean Reasonings text from Ian Randle. Guest edited by Clinton Hutton, Jermaine McCalpin and Maziki Thame, the slender volume brings together noted and emerging thinkers who contribute articles centred on Lewis’ usual areas of focus – Black consciousness and the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Thame, Hutton and Maziki aside, the volume features work from such contributors as Mark Figueroa, FSJ Ledgister, Ken Post and Prof. Lewis himself, who offers his trademark insight and depth of research with a piece on “Jamaican Black Power in the 1960s.” Ideal for students and history buffs.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

TOUGHER STUFF: A Letter from the Editor

ALL THE WAY: Mignott and Suzie A (below, with Carlene Davis) continue to make strides in their respective careers.

ONE of the pieces we’re proudest to include in this May 2017 issue is our exclusive interview with Paula ‘Suzie Q’ Bonner, the veteran media player who epitomizes soul survivor and staying power. As you will read in “Not Easily Broken,” Suzie, who now hosts the weekly Suzie Q Gospel Trail, has been through quite a lot on her journey, but she’s emerged whole and eager to share her testimony with her international viewing public and those she comes in contact with in her everyday experiences.

Those who’ve been fortunate to witness the metamorphosis of her success story have certainly noted her graciousness in the good times and her grace-under-fire approach to the tough times. Today’s generation of young Jamaicans can learn a thing or two from her about dealing with adversity, and her profile in this month’s issue is a must-read for anyone caught in the undertow.
Akeem Mignott, our handsome cover star, is another noteworthy (and evolving) success story that keeps on getting better. After spending the past few years solidifying his place in the fickle performing-arts world, the 23-year-old has impressively – and with a little help from colleagues and those who wish him well – morphed into a bonafide leading man and a worthy contender for Alwyn Scott’s crown. Akeem has a brilliant career ahead of him, and as he tells us in “Standing in the Spotlight,” he’s set no ceiling on his plans for the future, particularly the work he intends to do as a member of the theatre fraternity. 

The ladies who grace “Cutting a Dash,” our round-up of the 10 Best Dressed Women in Jamaica, are well-known, dynamic divas who expertly balance the tough and the tender. To say the least, they are terrific role models for youngsters everywhere, while serving up that splendid mix of style and substance. Their names consistently pop up among the most admired and inspiring Jamaicans of the day for a reason. 

After all, like Suzie Q and Akeem, they never fail to remind us that there’s no substitute for hard work, resilience and the determination to rise to the top.