Wednesday, 2 September 2015

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Out and About with Miriam Smith, Team Jamaica’s golden girls, Sharlene Radlein, Jah 9, and more

SISTER ACT: August 30, Kingston. Following a brief but memorable performances that included renditions of “New Name” and “Avocado”, singer-songwriter and witty poetess Jah 9 (left) caught up with on-the-rise artist Monique Gilpin. Occasion was the official opening of the 2015 Young Talent art exhibition at the National Gallery, coinciding with the August observance of ‘Last Sundays’. (Photo: TALLAWAH) 

FOR ART’S SAKE: Aug. 30, Kingston. With a few of her former students taking part in the Young Talent exhibition, Dr. Miriam Smith (right), Director of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Art, joined the National Gallery’s Executive Director Veerle Poupeye and senior curator O’Neil Lawrence showing support for the brilliant up-and-comers participating in the art showcase, which opened on Sunday. (Photo: TALLAWAH) 

GOLDEN GIRLS: Aug. 30, China. The fantastic foursome of Christine Day, Shericka Jackson, Stephanie-Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills had reason to smile on the podium during the medal presentation ceremony for the Women’s 4X400 M final at the IAAF World Championships inside Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium in China. “Knowing that all four of us were in the 400M Final gave us a lot of confidence,” Williams-Mills told reporters. “It was the four of us in [that] final and the four of us coming back [for the relay]. I couldn’t have done it without them.” Team Jamaica ended the championship with a total of 12 medals (7 gold, 2 silver and three bronze). (Photo: 

THE CHOSEN ONES: Aug. 29, Kingston. Over at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Saturday night, the radiant Sharlene Radlein, 24, was crowned Miss Universe Jamaica 2015, during a glitzy coronation pageant, where Tasmin Golding (also 24 years old) and Shana Simpson, 27, were the first and second runners-up respectively. As part of the pageant’s rebranding, it has been renamed the Miss Universe Jamaica Beauty, Fashion and Wellness pageant by organizers Uzuri International. (Photo: Facebook) 

FINE PAIR: Aug. 28, Kingston. It’s been quite a year for wonder woman Kaci Fennell, who passed the baton to successor Sharlene Radlein on Sunday night as the Miss Universe Jamaica pageant climaxed on a high note inside the Jamaica Pegasus grand ballroom. It’s anyone’s guess what Kaci will do next, but rest assured she will continue to inspire Jamaicans from all walks.(Photo: Facebook) 

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THE NEW SCHOOL: National Gallery’s 2015 Young Talent showcase yields a compelling and thought-provoking mix

STILL LIFE: A snapshot of Gilpin's "Porcelain Correlation"; (below) Nattoo's "Immersed" and Combs' "I Do/Not Have to Conform".

Today names like Ebony G. Patterson, Phillip Thomas and Leasho Johnson mean something in local and international art circles, years after they got their start in the Young Talent showcase put on by the National Gallery of Jamaica. The 10 impressively talented artists who make up the class of 2015 (a mix of experienced exhibitors and fresh-out-of-college neophytes) have produced bodies of work that stand them in good stead to one day join the ranks of the aforementioned names. In a nutshell, these are challenging pieces that enthrall, provoke and disturb.

What’s more, the diversity that the exhibition (which opened to the public on Sunday) highlights speaks volumes of the varied and vastly dissimilar experiences and inspiration sources of the participants who hail from eclectic backgrounds and seem drawn to themes and subjects that range from body politics and crime to events and perspectives that are shaping the post-colonial world. All depicted in a wide range of artistic media and practices.

From Howard Myrie’s controversy-courting etchings on glass to Monique Gilpin’s vibrant and hypervivid photo prints to Greg Bailey’s gritty-witty depictions of scenes from urban Jamaican life, the work on display command attention and serve as worthwhile conversation pieces.
Taking an uber-innovative approach, Katrina Coombs’ noteworthy “I Do/Not Have to Conform” is a fascinating fusion of satin fabric, wool and pins. Di-Andre Caprice Davis’ use of digital aesthetic reflects a desire to further the exposure and understanding of how technology continues to impact the world. The very skilled Richard Nattoo, an Architecture major at UTech, achieves something subtly spectacular with his pen-and-ink, glass-and-graphite creations. 

The show’s curators hit the bulls-eye in describing this 2015 showcase as a reflection of Jamaica’s “exceptionally energetic and innovative contemporary art scene.” But more to the point, it’s a kaleidoscopic feast of visual power and compelling arguments/statements about these rapidly changing times in which we live – and how we’ve been responding to the change. 

> More: 
DYNAMIC DUO: Rising stars Monique Gilpin and Richard Nattoo talk art and life

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

TALLAWAH BOOKSHELF: New and noteworthy titles from Colin Channer, Earl McKenzie, T.D. Jakes and Edwidge Danticat

MY SISTER’S KEEPER: Books by Haitian-American literary luminary Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory; Brother, I’m Dying) tend to strike a certain chord thanks to her lyrical and assured voice and a deft exploration of themes spanning family, womanhood and harsh Caribbean realities. We’re certain fans will follow as she makes a foray into young adult fiction with the September 29 release of Untwine, which critics are calling “a haunting and mesmerizing story about sisterhood, love and loss.’ More to the point it weaves the tale of identical twins Giselle and Isabelle Boyer, the tragic circumstances that shake their family to the core, and the strength one must discover in oneself when all seems hopeless. 

THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE: Readers who’ve devoured his previous bestsellers like Mama Made the Difference and Instinct: the Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive know that T.D. Jakes may be a lightning rod in the pulpit but the man can write. His latest offering is Destiny (FaithWorks), also due out this month, in which the internationally acclaimed preacher encourages us to pause and reset our inner compass, regardless of where we are on the journey. “Stepping into your destiny means fulfilling the role you were created to play in life,” Jakes notes. “You thrive and find the great elixir of contentment when you have the courage to pursue your true purpose.” 

TIME AND AGAIN: As TALLAWAH readers are well aware, bestselling Jamerican storyteller Colin Channer (novels like Waiting in Vain and Satisfy My Soul are popular hits) has decided to flip the script and release a poetry anthology this time around. Providential, his debut collection, “skilfully examines the brutality that permeates Jamaica’s history,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. “Channer’s poems rise to present the reader with a panoramic view of place built on old foundations of violence.” According to Booklist, [“Providential is] a dexterous and ambitious collection that delivers enough acoustic acrobatics to keep readers transfixed till the starlings sing out.” 

TALES OF HOME: A sense of place is easily one of the most dominant themes in the work of Earl McKenzie, whose oeuvre slips easily between poetry and prose. A prolific scribe, McKenzie has teamed up with LMH Publishing to release his third story collection, Ernest Palmer’s Dream and Other Stories.” At 156 pages, the author’s latest transports readers across Jamaica’s lush tropical paradise to explore themes such as cultural relativism, homophobia, Rastafarianism and conflicts spanning generations. Typical of McKenzie’s work, collection number three is sure to satisfy and challenge readers.

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FACING THE MUSIC: Hilarity and sobering message give Samson its strength and vigour

STREET  BEAT: Hendricks and Rowe play homeless hustlers who form a musical duo.

Samson & Di Liar (Scarlett Beharie Productions)
Director: Scarlet Beharie, Tony Hendricks and Ricky Rowe
Cast: Tony Hendricks and Ricky Rowe
Venue: Little Little Theatre, Kingston

Picture this: Tony ‘Paleface’ Hendricks dressed in rags and channeling Luciano Pavarotti to belt out “I Am an Innocent Man”, an operatic aria complete with top-of-the-lungs high notes and clever lyrics that weave a compelling tale of responsibility and regret. The scene I’m describing is one of the most visceral and laugh-out-loud funny moments in Samson & Di Liar, a solidly penned and incredibly well-acted drama-comedy that’s bringing the house down at the Little Little Theatre in Kingston.

That the show pairs up a comedic maverick like Hendricks with a thrilling and versatile talent like Rowe (performing a script by Winston ‘Bello’ Bell) is what transforms this production into a sizzling two-hander rich in entertainment value.

So how does Hendricks’ character Samson wind up singing opera of all things? Turns out he’s a musician and composer (with a flair for the dramatic and a dark past) who’s fallen on hard times - a homeless man trying to make life on the means streets of New Kingston. When he encounters Earsring (Rowe), a skinny, two-timing hustler with whom he has a few things in common, they strike up an unlikely friendship and decide to form a musical duo that’s willing to, more or less, sing for their supper. That’s where Samson’s musical gifts come into play, recalling Jamie Foxx’s memorable turn as Nathaniel Ayers in The Soloist

Though Hendricks is well known for his belly-busting stand-up comedy routines, as Samson he reveals another dimension to his acting talents – a spiky gift for dramatic intensity. In the end, he renders one of the most majestic male-lead performances this critic has witnessed in local theatre all year. For his part, Rowe is nimble and quick on his feet and keeps pace with Hendricks. Together, they produce some of that Bello & Blake-type joie de vivre that keeps the crowd in their thrall. 

But, thankfully, the play (in spite of its minor hiccups) doesn’t gloss over serious and pertinent matters like the plight of the city’s homeless folk – a demographic that continues to grow at an alarming rate in Jamaica. Not to mention the subtle interweaving of such themes as religion, the global status quo and the art of surviving on skid row when all you’ve got left is courage to face the harsh realities, come what may.

Simply hilarious and boasting a pair of fine performances, Samson & Di Liar is a terrific example of what can result when comedy and drama, entertainment and sobering message are (almost) seamlessly combined. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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Monday, 31 August 2015

POINT OF VIEW: Art-world rising stars Richard Nattoo and Monique Gilpin reflect on craft and creating challenging work

HER OWN CREATION: At age 30, Monique Gilpin holds down one of the single most coveted jobs in the Jamaican arts world: assistant curator at the National Gallery West in her hometown of Montego Bay, St. James – the newest arm of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Though the more theoretical aspect of life as an artist brings it owns rewards, Gilpin says she can’t live without the heady result comes with creating and showcasing works that speak open dialogue and reflect her myriad and varied experiences as a Caribbean native. “The way I see the world is based on what I have experienced,” shares the Edna Manley School of Art grad, who is among the 10 artists currently participating in the just-opened Young Talent exhibition at the National Gallery. Her ‘Porcelain Series’ is a striking mix of opulent colour and social commentary. “Growing up I’ve always yearned for some stability in my life, and that’s what inspired this series. I wanted to explore something that hits close to home.” The artist-audience relationship, she observes, is a tricky one but’s dynamic she’s come to cherish. “Art in general needs no explanation,” Gilpin insists. “If the viewer can relate to what I’ve created in some way shape or way or form then my work is done.” 

THE SURREAL LIFE: Richard Nattoo wasn’t your average four year old. As he recalls, that’s when his journey as an artist began – a trajectory that’s taken him from pen and ink to lush watercolor, glass and archival paper and the various media in between. In short, when it comes to artistic expression for Nattoo the options are endless. “Growing up I used art as a way to vent about whatever was going around me,” explains the 22-year-old St. Catherine native, who says he finds fulfillment in provocatively tackling the issues and ideas that capture his gaze. (Consider his “Lost in the Odyssey” and “Immersed”, both featured in the 2015 Young Talent showcase at the National Gallery.) “Exploration has always been a constant in my life and an integral part of my art and artistic processes. I create in an attempt to capture and deconstruct the common feelings and emotions in everyday life,’ says the University of Technology undergrad, who is pursuing a BA in Architectural Studies. Like Gilpin, he relishes any and every opportunity to forge a real connection with his audiences. Says Nattoo, “With my work I want to capture the feelings I experience and translate them into the kinds of surreal spaces that we all inhabit within ourselves.”

> The 2015 Young Talent show is on view at the National Gallery, Downtown Kingston, from Aug. 30 through Nov. 14.

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ON HER MIND: Kerry-Ann Henry recalls the moments that led to her transformation as dancer extraordinaire and educator

SHE'S THE ONE: "I think my response to music is dance," shares Henry, the NDTC's ballet mistress. "I like performing, growing, exploring and learning new things."

I have been dancing since I was about seven years old, and dance has been the one constant in my life. As a Campion College old girl, there were periods when I was completely involved with my studies, at UWI Mona (Maths and Actuarial Science), the University of East Anglia (Masters in Development Studies) and the University of British Columbia (Masters in Education Technology). And I’ve played a few sports. But I’ve never, ever stopped dancing.

I’ve learned so many different life lessons from my journey through dance. Sometimes you wonder why you have a passion for a certain something, and then you realize it’s what you were called to do. Music is another passion of mine, and I think my response to music is dance. I like performing, growing, exploring and learning new things, and in a way I see myself as a perpetual student of the arts. It’s funny, but I’ll probably be going to school for the rest of my life.

But my day job as Director of the School of Dance is serious business. I’m very much in love with the education aspect of my job, and I think having that love for performance makes it easier and helps me to be a better educator and administrator. You’re also able to link your experiences from the stage to theory. It’s also about looking at policy: What do you need (as students) to compete globally? There’s also the whole aspect of planning and putting on events. Yes, it’s a lot of work but having the passion for what I do makes it all worth it.

I feel the same way about the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which I’ve been a member of since I was 16. The curtains came down on our 2015 season at the Little Theatre recently, and I absolutely enjoyed it. It was very reflective of the theme ‘Renewal and Continuity’. We had a few new faces coming in and blending with the rest of us to put on an excellent production. Everybody in the NDTC gets along, and so it’s a lot of fun.
They say fun plus hard work equals magic, and we are the living proof of that. I’m glad that our seasons continue to reflect what the company stands for: creating and showcasing works that cross over into various different areas. But what I’ve loved most about the NDTC is the variety that defines the company. I love the breadth of our repertoire and how much I’ve grown as an artist with the company over the years.

Everybody who knows me knows that I’m all about growth. That’s one of the reasons why still being a part of Dancin’ Dynamites and helping to unearth and nurture new dance talents appeals to me so much. I really enjoy seeing the dancers grow from week to week and applying the comments that we give them – and just experiencing their energy and creativity. I want to see the show grow, provide more opportunities for the participants and reach a global audience.

In a way, that’s also a personal goal of mine. At my age (“mid-30s”), if I thank God for anything it’s for this incredible passion for dance – and the persons that I have been fortunate to meet so far on this journey. Dance is truly a wonderful thing, take it from me. It can enrich your life and give you perspective. – As told to TALLAWAH Magazine

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Saturday, 29 August 2015

CHAT ’BOUT: Sound bytes from Aloun Assamba, Dr. Peter Phillips, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, and more

“I’m sure that it was a characteristic determination to win and a commitment to uplift Jamaica, which carried him through the challenges of the past year and the hurdles he faced in Beijing on his way to victory. These are qualities which gave him the confidence to fearlessly take on the world and win again, days after celebrating his 29th birthday.”  The JLP’s Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange in a statement this week, following Usain Bolt’s sizzling 19.55 seconds run to nab the 200M gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China. 

“Jamaica’s contribution to the Fund was 15,000. However, Jamaica stands to benefit from more than 2 million in funding for a range of programmes and projects that support the development of youth entrepreneurship, youth in agriculture, and crime reduction in both rural and urban areas.”  Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Assamba, responding to news that Jamaican charities stand to benefit significantly from the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust 

“Too often what has happened over many years is that we bought the illusion of instantaneous solutions, which have resulted in a worsening of our fiscal accounts….. So, despite the fact that even the blind can see that Elections are on the horizon, we will not be engaging in any reckless spending simply to satisfy a set of short-term needs.”  Finance & Planning minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, addressing a press conference at the ministry’s Heroes Circle-based offices recently 

“I don’t think that people understand what [the Sunshine Girls] are up against when they go out there to play against these giants. They [Australia, New Zealand and England] are not only giants in terms of play but their size and the whole operations that they lead. Australia has a company of 150 employees, England has more than that and New Zealand about 60. We are still number four in the world and that’s some achievement for a team sport in Jamaica.”  IFNA boss Molly Rhone praising the senior Sunshine Girls for their efforts in Sydney, at a Scotiabank-hosted welcome-home ceremony in Kingston on Wednesday 

“I think it will be a better Yohan Blake in the sense that he is more mature after what he has been through. I think he totally understands. He had a lot of success at a young age and maybe people expected a lot from him. Though he delivered, these athletes do get hurt at some point in their career. But he is matured now and totally understands what it takes to get back. I’ve never met an athlete in my 40 years with his drive and we will certainly see him back to his best soon.”  Cubie Seegobin, manager of sprinter Yohan Blake, telling a reporter why the best is yet to come from the 2011 World 100M champion

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