Friday, October 24, 2014

PRIDE OF A NATION: Cultural giants get their due at National Honours and Awards

ALL HAIL THE QUEEN: Marcia Griffiths, flanked by Vance and Sherman Carter, moments after receiving the National Order of Distinction.

In front of a hundreds-strong throng, and with the rest of the nation enjoying live coverage from the comfort of their homes, scores of distinguished men and women solidified their place in the pantheon of extraordinary Jamaicans on Monday (Heroes Day) as King's House, in partnership with the government, acknowledged their contributions with national honours and awards.

Among the lot an impressive number of luminaries from the arts community, who stood shoulder to shoulder with newly installed members of the Order of Jamaica, namely Reverend Charles DuFour, Senator K.D. Knight, Professor Joseph Frederick, Dr. Karl Wellington, Florizelle O'Connor and Glen Mills.

TALLAWAH was particularly pleased that the spotlight was being shone on the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company's Doug Bennett, acclaimed artist Laura Facey Cooper, dance icon Patsy Ricketts, eminent academic Prof. Rupert Lewis and reggae's enduring supersongstress Marcia Griffiths (resplendent in lavender) all of whom were conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander.

Among the Officer Class honorees, loud cheers and applause greeted musician Dwight Pinkney, ace sound system selector Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell, gender and development specialist Dr. Glenda Simms and historian Dr. Laura Tanna (a vision in blue). Meanwhile, adding moments of tuneful splendour to the proceedings were tenor Commander John McFarlane and soprano Ana Strachan, who offered a note-perfect take on "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music.

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FACES IN THE CROWD: The King's House lawns brimmed with star power on Heroes' Day

Awards recipients weren't the only ones making their presence felt at the 2014 National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House on Monday morning. Here's just a handful of the noted personalities TALLAWAH captured while making the rounds.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: At ceremony's end, PM Portia Simpson-Miller was invited to informally meet the awardees, including this sizeable cohort of new Order of Jamaica members, among them Rev. Charles DuFour, Florizelle O'Connor, Senator K.D. Knight, Dr. Karl Wellington, and Glen Mills.

GIRL WONDER: Eleven-year-old Tricia-Ann Miller (centre) received a gallantry medal for performing the courageous act of rescuing two young boys from a burning house in Church Pen, St. Catherine, last May. "I want to become a firefighter," she told TALLAWAH after the King's House ceremony, where she was accompanied by relatives and Church Pen residents Judene Cunningham, Christi Cia and Sharon Bailey (left), who told us, "The whole community is proud of her."

FINE COMPANY: The JLP's Olivia 'Babsy' Grange (right) representing the Leader of the Opposition, shared a moment with honorees Marcia Griffiths, Vivienne James-Castro, and Sylvera Castro following the investiture ceremony.

LADY BE GOOD: Songstress Carole Reid was resplendent in a pop of bright colour.

LISTENING EAR: Education minister Rev. Ronald Thwaites caught up with Sonia Jackson.

MAN OF THE PEOPLE: Thwaites' colleague government minister Robert 'Bobby' Pickersgill was spotted greeting attendees.

POWER PLAYERS: IFNA boss Molly Rhone and Mike Fennell of the Jamaica Olympic Association showed support for this year's crop of honorees. 

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

GETTING HER DUE: Artist Laura Facey Cooper on her national honour and what's next

SUPPORTING ROLES: The artist and her boys — husband Gordon and sons Lee and Sam — at King's House.

When Laura Facey Cooper agreed to mount an exhibition of her most recent work in London this past September, she didn't know what to expect. But so successful was the show that it inspired an unprecedented creative move on her part. "The show was simply amazing, and it was so well received that it sparked the making of my my first i-art book, which is a digital publication of my work," reveals the award-winning Facey Cooper, famous for her stunning carvings in wood. Titled Radiant Earth, the digital publication recently went on sale and more or less confirms the artist's commitment to taking her career in fascinating new directions. Can the proper recognition be far behind?

Given the incredible spirit of excellence that has always defined Facey Cooper's work, it was only a matter of time before the noted sculptor (whose most well-known pieces include Emancipation Park's Redemption Song) was conferred with one of those prestigious national honours handed out every Heroes' Day. In fact, as we speak she has only moments ago made her exit from the podium at King's House, where she was among an impressive number of arts-community stars honoured by Sir Patrick Allen with the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).

For Facey Cooper, one of the very few women visual artists to be so recognized by the country, the moment represented an unqualified endorsement of her life's work. "It really is a validation of what I've done, but I feel like I have so much more to give," she confesses, standing alongside her husband Gordon and adult sons, Lee and Sam. "This gives me the encouragement to go on."

And by that she means reprising her participation in the National Gallery of Jamaica's upcoming Jamaica Biennial blockbuster exhibition, the all-important showcase set for December, which traditionally features cream-of-the-crop contemporary talents this year's cohort expanded to include several overseas participants. And what's next for Laura Facey Cooper could also mean a minor detour into filmmaking. "I'm possibly going to do a documentary," she tells TALLAWAH, beaming, "which is about the transformation that has happened to me and what I'd like to share in the hope that it will inspire others." 

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PREMIERE LEAGUE: Fearless dedication, distinguished contributions paid off for these Jamaican stalwarts

WORLD'S BEST: Head coach of the Racers' Track Club, Glen Mills, received the Order of Jamaica (OJ) for outstanding contribution to track-and-field through the coaching of top athletes. On what sets him apart from other coaches, he told TALLAWAH, "I've been blessed. I work hard and my methods work." 

TAILOR MADE: Impeccably attired for the occasion, Neville Bell was recognized with the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) for sterling contribution to football coaching and sports commentary. 

TRUSTED SOURCE: Veteran media man Owen James was conferred with the OD for years of dedicated work in the field of journalism. 

CLOSE UP: "I'm really thrilled that my work in highlighting Jamaica has been recognized," said a beaming Dr. Laura Tanna OD, cited for invaluable contribution to literature and culture. 

CLOSER THAN A BROTHER: A family photo-op was in order for Rev. Charles DuFour, whose sister Joy was on hand for his appointment as a member of the Order of Jamaica. 

BUILT TO LAST: For his more than 20 years of distinguished service to the Jamaican parliament, politician Rudyard Spencer made the leap from Officer Class to Commander of the Order of Distinction. 

FAMILY TIME: CD honoree Chris Zacca's son, Ryan, played shy while posing with dad, Ashley Zacca and Jillian Zacca at King's House. 

GIRL POWER: Gender and development specialist Dr. Glenda Simms OD (centre) brought along her own cheerleading squad, including good girlfriends Joan Bogle and Yvonne Hynes. "I feel on top of the world!" an elated Dr. Simms told TALLAWAH

ON THE BALL: Well-known in local football circles, Boys Town's Andrew Price was honoured with the OD for outstanding service in the development of the sport nationally. 

TRUE ORIGINALS: Key players in the development of indigenous Jamaican music, OD honorees Dwight Pinkney (left) and Phil Chen got a show of support from friend Donna DeMercado.

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BEARING WITNESS: Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks truth to power in his rapturous Kingston address

ON MESSAGE: Farrakhan urged Jamaicans to build "an exemplary nation" in the spirit of our national heroes.

"This is a class!" announced Minister Louis Farrakhan, midway his lengthy yet absorbing presentation in Kingston on Sunday afternoon, which drew an unsurprisingly enormous crowd to the National Arena — folks from all walks who came out to hear the Nation of Islam leader's message for Jamaica and the rest of the world on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of the Million Man March.

And he did not disappoint. The 'congregation' enjoyed his presentation immensely. At times jolting and provocative, frequently amusing, but never less than enlightening, Minister Farrakhan didn't mince words as he spoke truth to power, challenging everyone from the British monarchy to the Pope and the Catholic Church. But personally, I liked very much his choice words for modern Jamaica, coming at this juncture of incredible challenge and change in the nation's history.

"You always punch above your weight. I want you to bathe in the sunlight of God and his purpose that we may truly be an island not only in the physical sun but an island bathed in the light of God," urged Farrakhan (whose father is Jamaican), his words delivered with an emotional wallop typical of speakers of his ilk. "Let us become an exemplary nation, an exemplary people that can continue the legacy of the heroes who we will honour [on Heroes' Day]. They have done their work and we are the beneficiaries of what they did. The question is, What are we doing to finish the work because the work is not done."

WISE WORDS: Five Key Moments from Farrakhan's National Arena speech
Drawing on passionate rhetoric, scripture and his devotion to his Caribbean heritage, the enigmatic preacher-activist rendered a two-and-a-half-hour presentation replete with choice sound bytes. Herewith, a few that lingered in TALLAWAH's ear:

> "The cultural community is the one that will save the world. Bob Marley proved that one song can change the world."

> "I am a Muslim, but I am a Christian too."

> "People want strength from their leaders; they want wisdom. You won't get what you don't have the courage to demand."

> "Independence, you don't have that yet! [Jamaica is] still under the British rule. I think that's a problem. You have not proven in the 50 years that you are not still bound to your former colonial masters. Don't you think you can handle your own affairs? That's what Independence means.

> "I came to give back to the island that gave so much to me. You are a prize, Jamaica. I have come here with love for you. I can never repay the Caribbean for what the Caribbean has done for me." 

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LIFE OF THE PARTY: Awardees and guests get 'Musgrave' merry at the IOJ

AUTHOR, AUTHOR: For some reason, this feels like a reunion of sorts: novelist and gold medal recipient Anthony Winkler sharing a rare photo-op with Dr. Kim Robinson-Walcott, author of 2006's incisive Out of Order! Anthony Winkler and White West Indian Writing. "Tony's achievements as an author are phenomenal," Robinson-Walcott dished to TALLAWAH, "therefore the gold is an appropriate acknowledgement of that." 

CLASS ACTS: Looking divine as ever in a form-fitting tangerine dress, Youth and Culture minister Lisa Hana was on hand to present the silver medals, while IOJ Council chair Ambassador Burchell Whiteman gave the welcome. 

DON DONOVAN: As Penthouse Records celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, it was only fitting that its pioneering founder, super-producer Donovan Germain (posing next to his citation), was honoured with a silver medal by the Institute. 

ICONIC MOMENT: One of TALLAWAH's favourites among Jamaica's art-world living legends, Petrona Morrison greets Custos Marigold Harding as she collects her long overdue gold Musgrave medal. 

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE: Her list of accomplishments in the medical field reads like a chapter out of the Guinness Book of World Records. Dr. Celia Christie-Samuels, one of UWI Mona's most distinguished professors, lets out a hearty laugh as she accepts her gold medal and citation plaque from Custos Harding. 

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A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: 2014's Musgrave medallists embrace the award's spirit of excellence

CLASS OF 2014: The awardees, joined by Custos Marigold Harding, assemble onstage for a group photos.

"Humbling and heartening." That's how gold medallist Petrona Morrison sums up the feelings of her fellow 2014 Musgrave Medal awardees, who were the toast of a well-attended ceremony at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) Lecture Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Called on to deliver the reply on behalf of the awardees, Morrison's bit also paid homage to the forebears and the Institute's pioneering spirit. "We are truly honoured to be part of the rich legacy that has preceded us," noted the groundbreaking and acclaimed fine artist and former director of the Edna Manley College's Visual Art School (who, for the record, couldn't want for a finer retirement present), "and it gives us the encouragement to continue the work that we do in our respective fields."

As in years past, the hour-and-a-half ceremony came off as yet another fantastic occasion, in keeping with decades of tradition, for distinguished Jamaicans, particularly in the fields of literature, science and art to be recognized for their stellar achievements, indelible contributions to national (and, in some instances, regional) development, and their lifelong commitment to excellence.

In addition to Morrison, gold medals for distinguished eminence went to Professor Celia Christie-Samuels for her work in the medical field (UWI's first female professor of paediatrics) and novelist and playwright Anthony C. Winkler (well-known for his impressive body of work) for literature.

Penthouse Records' Donovan Germain, the pioneering reggae producer, took home a silver for his vast contribution to Jamaican popular music; Dr. Karl Aiken for his committed and boundary-pushing research in the life sciences; and artist Jasmine Thomas-Girvan for her laudable achievements in jewelry and sculpting. Scientist Dr. Tannecia Stephenson, artist Philip Thomas, and musician-producer Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke were this year's bronze medal recipients.

As we all know, landing a Musgrave medal is no small feat. The oldest award of its kind in the Western hemisphere, the uberprestigious accolade has been in existence since 1889, and its enduring relevance (not to mention its hallmarks of legacy and tradition) isn't lost on the Institute's latest Executive Director Anne-Marie Bonner. "One of our missions here at the IOJ is to continue honoring this rich tradition by giving out the award every year instead of every two years," Bonner tells TALLAWAH. "The Musgrave Awards have been around for over 100 years, and I think it continues to represent a great opportunity for us to recognize our outstanding Jamaicans who have excelled with distinction in their respective areas of work."

This year's cohort of honorees didn't exactly lack for strong support from others in high office. Among those toasting the success of the class of 2014 were Custos of St. Andrew Marigold Harding and Oswald Harding, Youth and culture minister Lisa Hanna, and Chairman of the IOJ Council Burchell Whiteman. Delightfully tuneful and vocally sharp, the Hugh Douse-led Nexus ensemble thrilled the gathering in song. 

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