Tuesday, 31 October 2017

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: J’ca Food Fest organizers making strategic moves to raise Kingston’s culinary profile

FESTIVE AFFAIR: Patrons had a blast sampling the fare at this year's festival.

AT a festival food market, you expect to find mouth-watering cuisine, exciting new food products to sample and patrons gliding from one vendor to the next because they don’t want to miss a thing. You got all that and much more at Meet Street & the Market, a foodie’s getaway, held under the Jamaica Food & Drinks Festival banner, that brought an awesome energy (and tantalizing aromas!) to the Kingston Waterfront on Saturday evening.

While a deejay supplied the party anthems, the scores of patrons got acquainted with the offerings from the nearly 25 exhibitors. They included Walkerswood Jerk, Appleton Estate, National Bakery, Bad Dawg Sausages, Tru Juice and Copperwood Premium pork, and a number of restaurants and delis gone small-scale for the event. You could smell the jerked chicken and jerked pork and wholesome gourmet goodness from a mile away.

The food trucks and pop-up kitchens staffed by talented chefs attracted hungry customers like bees to honey well into the night.

“We wanted to provide a platform for food purveyors and gourmet artisans, along with the food trucks and pop-up kitchens, to showcase what they’ve got and to create an outlet for them to get customers. It’s about growing the commerce,” explained Leisha Wong, chief coordinator of Saturday’s event, who is also known for her involvement with the seasonal Kingston Kitchen. “It’s a really nice family day out, with live entertainment, and a great way to support the food industry, which continues to grow. Food is at an exciting place in Jamaica right now. This year’s food festival events were sold out, so we’re definitely growing.” 

Festival director Alicia Bogues couldn’t agree more. “We are celebrating our third anniversary this year. We were very strategic in our approach, and it worked. We were oversold,” she told TALLAWAH as the patronage swelled by the minute. “We added a new event, ChopStix, and people came out to support all the events despite the rain.”

With such events as Meet Street & the Market and the other roster highlights, Bogues feels the Jamaica Food & Drinks Festival will only expand and play an increasingly diverse role in Kingston achieving a place among the food capitals of the world. “One of the things we’re most proud of is that we partnered with the KSAC as part of the 145th anniversary of Kingston gaining city status,” Bogues said. “The aim for us going forward is to help position Kingston as a global destination for food.”

MAGIC TOUCH: Xaymaca’s stellar 2007 season serves up a feast of quality dance theatre

SET IN MOTION: Vibrant choreography and costuming contributed greatly to the show's success.

THE just-concluded season of dance from Dance Theatre Xaymaca (DTX) was an affair to remember. What greeted audiences at the Little Theatre this past weekend amounted to a sizzling blend of innovative choreography, kaleidoscopic lighting design and vibrant costuming to amply demonstrate just how much the (predominantly female) company has evolved since we last saw them.

What Barbara McDaniel and her creative team have admirably succeeded in doing is to combine groomed talent, youthful exuberance and an appreciation for the rigours of dance theatre to create a kind of full-bodied entertainment that has amassed an ardent (and growing) following.

This year, the choreographers chose to explore a mixed bag of concepts and ideas, ranging from oppression and resilience to womanhood and healing, to where the Jamaican dancehall is going.

Of the repertoire’s eight works, McDaniel choreographed two. The stronger of the pair was show-closer “Cry Freedom,” a burst of bright colour and energy and Africa-derived aesthetics steeped in struggle and survival and sweet salvation. The dancers moved in sync, creating a series of gorgeous formations as the hyper-rhythmic accompaniment transported them – and us, the appreciative audience – to higher ground. 

McDaniel’s other offering, a remount of 2004’s “Space of the Mind,” was a stunning contrast, featuring red-clad dancers moving to Celtic musical accompaniment and making excellent use of space, as the piece grew in texture and urgency.

Fresh from her tour-de-force with North America’s Alvin Ailey troupe, Renée McDonald brought us “Until November Comes,” a dream-like sequence full of desperate yearning that took on surprising contours and impressive depth. The dancers (clad in long side-split skirts) found the requisite emotional intelligence to satisfy McDonald’s vision and to interpret the melancholy strains of singer Regina Spektor and the virtuosic stylings of Max Richtor. 

While Jessica Shaw looked to the Swing era for inspiration for her funky, big-band-jazz-infused work “Jigsaw,” which opened the show, Catherine Reid turned to the modern dancehall space for her energetic, attitude-laden “Talk to Wi Nice!” featuring sexy party girls working out to tunes by Ding Dong, Konshens and Aidonia. 

Only two male dancers (Orrette Beckford and Jeranimo Mullings) appeared in the whole show; three male choreographers made contributions. Onaje, who came of age with the troupe as a performer, created a latter-day wasteland where misery eventually gives way to joy in “Thirst.” Nicholas Alexander achieved a ‘feminist’ triumph with “Nemow,” a gorgeously costumed look at womanhood and healing, with Beyoncé and the Selma soundtrack supplying inspiration. (Reid delivered powerful solo work here.) 

Then there was Michael Holgate’s robust “Trodding Thru,” about resilience and post-slavery attitudes, complete with Rasta-themed costumes and Junior Gong on the speakers. The diversity in content and context only served to heighten the show’s appeal. Minor glitches and occasional delays between the works aside, the show had great pace.

In the end, Dance Theatre Xaymaca’s 2017 season (their 22nd) reaffirms our belief that the combination of innovative choreography and strong supporting elements goes a far way in producing stage magic.

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Dare Not Linger adds a ‘vivid’ and ‘inspirational’ coda to Mandela’s legacy

CHAPTERS OF HIS STORY: The much-acclaimed new book recalls the African icon's historic presidency.

IT’S impossible not to have an opinion about Nelson Mandela, the freedom-fighter and South-African leader who passed away in December 2013 at age 95. Fortunately for his legions of admirers globally, what he has left behind is an inspiring life story that will be handed down from generation to generation. If you thought Long Walk to Freedom, his worldwide bestselling memoir, was the last word from Mandela, think again. 

This season brings Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years, a previously unpublished second volume of the icon’s story in his own words. It’s been expanded with notes and speeches written by Mandela during his historic presidency, making for a worthy companion volume to Long Walk to Freedom.

Released in early October, Dare Not Linger also benefits from additional writing and research by acclaimed South African writer Mandla Langa, with a prologue from Mandela’s gracious widow Graca Machel. The result critics, say, is a “vivid” and “inspirational” tribute to South Africa’s first democratically elected president, affectionately called Madiba.

Ever since his rise to international iconic status, the world has been in Mandela’s thrall – not least because of his fierce anti-Apartheid stance that led to his imprisonment at Robben Island for 27 years. Simply put, he was a man who loved his people and stood up for what he believed in.

World leaders, past and present, continue to sing his praises. “Underneath the history that has been made, there is a human being who chose hope over fear, progress over the prisons of the past,” says former US Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, another history-making public figure respected the world over. “Even as he became a legend, to know the man Nelson Mandela is to respect him more.”

For Bill Clinton, Mandela epitomized selfless and transformative leadership. “[He was] a rare human being who, in freeing himself of his demons also became free to give his extraordinary leadership to his country and the world.” 

Packing 384 pages, Dare Not Linger was published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

ON THE SCENE: Jimmy Lawrence + Kimisha Walker + Ikaya + Debbie Bissoon + Garth Walker + Queen Ifrica + Chris Dehring + Dr. MoniKa Lawrence

GLOW GIRL: Oct. 22, St. Andrew. Looking stylish as ever, Debbie Bissoon puts some power in her pose as she works the red carpet at the celebration-themed memorial for the life and times of Dexter ‘3D’ Pottinger at Boone Hall last week. Dozens of fashion-industry folks were out in their numbers to bid a final farewell to the ace designer and trendsetter. (Photo: Sleek)

OH, SNAP: Oct. 21, Kingston. Girls just wanna have fun! Queen Ifrica (left) and Ikaya (centre) and a gorgeous girl pal make it a selfie moment at last weekend’s Peter Tosh Music Festival at Puls8 in New Kingston. The popular entertainers graced the stage earlier, sharing billing with such headliners as Jesse Royal, Freddie McGregor and many more. (Photo: Skkan Media)

JUST THE TWO OF US: Oct. 20, Kingston. Behind every powerful man, there’s a strong woman, and Jimmy Lawrence has found his rock in Dr. MoniKa Lawrence, who makes a memorable entrance alongside her husband, at the recent Wray & Nephew-hosted party held in honour of the company’s two Order of Distinction honorees – Jimmy Lawrence and master blender Joy Spence.(Photo: Sleek) 

THREE’S COMPANY: Oct. 18, Kingston. Chris Dehring looked prom-king sharp with two of the prettiest girls (wife Katia Almeida, right, and AMCHAM President Allison Peart) on his arm, on arrival at the 2017 AMCHAM Business & Civic Leadership Gala at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. (Photo: Sleek)

PICTURE PERFECT: Oct. 7, Kingston. Adam & Eve Day Spa’s Kimisha Walker is not complaining as she finds her niche between Business Access TV hubby Garth Walker (left) and his creative partner Leighton Davis at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, for the 49th Annual Awards Ceremony, put on by the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA). (Photo: Sleek)

Friday, 27 October 2017

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR: Office politics, affairs of the heart create a magnetic mix in Mature Attraction

WORKING 9-TO-5: Drysdale, McFarlane, Crossgill and Hinds-Furzer play co-workers in the new comedy-drama.

Mature Attraction (Probemaster Entertainment)
Director: David Tulloch 
Cast: Dawnette Hinds-Furzer, David Crossgill, Sabrina Thomas, Shaun Drysdale, Ricardo McFarlane and Ackeem Poyser
Venue: The Blue Room, Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston

CAN’T we all just get along? Getting ahead in a tough work environment is not for the faint of heart. It’s survival of the fittest – and the smartest. Gloria Ellington (Dawnette Hinds-Furzer) learns this the hard way, having to grapple with the demands of her job as supervisor, hard-headed colleagues and the romantic yearnings of her soft heart.

She is the central character in Mature Attraction, a humorous, reasonably satisfying comedy-drama that dives head-first into office politics, affairs of the heart and the age factor. 

Penned by newcomer Kevin Jones and directed by David Tulloch, the play (set at a faming needs company), forces us to ponder how relationship dynamics in the workplace can ultimately determine rapport and personal growth. But it also highlights the fact that, in spite of the professional environment and the ethics that go along with it, we are only human with deep-seated urges, wants and needs.

With her portrayal of Gloria, Hinds-Furzer is superb at zoning in on an upstanding, respectable middle-aged woman’s dilemma. She wants to channel her efforts into the job and be a sterling leader for her colleagues. But how does she cope when her boss, Mr. Rogers (David Crossgill, very commanding) starts putting argument to her, creating an awkward, uncomfortable scenario? 

When a new office manager, the strikingly young and attractive Keith Cole (Ricardo McFarlane), joins the team, he too starts putting the moves on Gloria. Poor Gloria. As you can imagine, Mr. Rogers is green with envy, red with rage, when romance starts to blossom between his two workers. You know the fireworks are only a few scenes away. 
The rest of the cast is just as ‘fascinating.’ Sabrina Thomas, showing increasing versatility as she builds a body of work, steps into the role of hot-to-trot receptionist Vanessa who, sadly, favours sex appeal over brain power. In spite of her obvious shortcomings, physically challenged handyman Dwight (Ackeem Poyser), who works in storage, has made her the apple of his eye. Dwight is drawn to Vanessa like magnet to steel, but he’s frequently getting into scrapes with the others, who he says grudge him for his “looks and street smarts.” 

Meanwhile, Shaun Drysdale plays nerdy accountant Reggie, who is a tad suspicious. Is he the one behind the mysterious disappearance of several cheques from the office files? 

All in all, it’s a feasible plot that’s sufficiently hefty on the meat. Jones is a promising writer who clearly had fun crafting these colourful folks. If only we could have had a bit more backstory on the characters to better understand their motivations. Still, Jones finds an ideal collaborator in Tulloch who, as a seasoned director of ensembles, knows how to bring out full-of-life performances from his cast. 

At the same time, the humour is ample and nicely balances the dramatic tension. Lighting and set design get respectable grades. 

As Gloria’s story emphasizes, the office can be a minefield to be navigated with the utmost vigilance and precision. You want to safeguard your job but sometimes it’s your heart that needs protection. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

RAW DEAL: Playwright-activist Masani Montague sparks thought-provoking dialogue on deportation with Danger to the Public

WISE WOMAN: Montague, 59, says her primary aim is to share a fresh perspective on a tough subject.

DEPORTATION is one of the most polarizing hot-button issues of our time. It’s always in the news and frankly, for many, it’s something they’d rather not discuss. Who can forget the strong reactions to the David Cameron prison offer, in the wake of a mass deportation of Jamaicans from the UK in 2015? It’s an issue that will always be with us. It simply can’t be ignored.

Masani Montague places the hot topic squarely at the centre of her provocative one-hour play Danger to the Public, an acclaimed work that delves into causes and consequences associated with deportation.

It’s set in Canada, Montague’s adopted home where the Immigration Act’s notorious Bill C-44 was passed in 1995. The play follows a Jamaican businessman (living in Toronto for 25 years) who runs afoul of the law and gets deported to Jamaica after being convicted, leaving behind his family and his business. As the playwright explains, she wanted to look at the plight of Jamaicans who land in hot water with the Canadian authorities – and the desperate struggle to get back on their feet.

“Jamaicans are the third largest population in Canada, behind New Yorkers and people from London, and Jamaicans get into a lot of trouble in Canada. A lot of things are written about Jamaicans that sometimes make you hold down your head in shame,” says the Toronto resident, who wrote Danger to the Public while pursuing a Master’s degree at York University. “So deportation is a major issue in the society. It’s still current. But I wanted to look at it through a different lens, make it a more personal story. I wrote the play nine years ago, and what I’ve found is that the problem is still affecting society in a major way.”
The Rastafarian playwright, who left Jamaica as a teenager back in 1974 to live in Toronto, has always explored social justice matters (police brutality, gender violence) in her work, taking very seriously her role as change agent. 

But deportation is the topic that gives her pause. “I think it is unfortunate that some people leave home at a tender age to make a better life for themselves in a foreign country and end up getting criminally penalized for small issues. Sometime it seems very unfair,” she argues. “So what I’m hoping is that people who watch the play will see the issue of deportation in a new light and be more sympathetic to the plight of deportees because they each have different stories to tell.”

Montague, for her part, returns to Jamaica as often as possible – by her own free will. “I love coming home. It allows me to reconnect with my roots and share the play with Jamaican audiences,” says Montague, who recently flew in for the Rex Nettleford Conference and will be back in November for the Jamaica Music Conference. (Montague is also a show promoter, who’s been putting on Rasta Fest in Canada every August for the past 17 years.) 

This mother of two – a 27-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter – is turning 60 next year. To mark the milestone, she wants to release a documentary version of Danger to the Public, which commences filming next month. The author of 1984’s Dread Culture, inspired by the plays she’s written over the years, she’s also working on a novelized version of the work.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

2017 REX NETTLEFORD CONFERENCE: Two talented artists use visual media to illustrate and enhance their ‘investigative’ work

RORY Doyle, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, didn’t know what to expect when he turned to his passion for photography to start documenting the lives of immigrants in the Mississippi Delta, one of the most impoverished areas in the United States. It’s where you’ll find Mexicans, other Hispanics and Latinos, Blacks and other minority groups living in ‘hidden communities’, away from the busy streets, says Doyle, who gave the power-point presentation, “Photojournalism and the Current Immigration Atmosphere in the Mississippi Delta.”

“Our economy is weak and it became worse when farming became industrialized. It’s not exactly thought of as the land of opportunity compared to the rest of America. So why did these people choose to live here?” he wanted to know. Hence his artistic quest. And given the current political climate and Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, what does the future hold for these close-knit folks who are doing odd jobs and running their own little businesses to survive?

Doyle’s vivid and arresting photography (many of the images capturing people in the throes of cultural practices) spark interest about a section of the US population that is, more or less, living on the edge, people determined to hold on to their customs and traditions, in spite of the less-than-favourable circumstances. “People generally say we don’t have these kinds of people in Cleveland. They don’t know that these kinds of people are their neighbours,” says Doyle, who has been invited to observe some of their events and document his observations. 

He even ended up helping a family in need by publicizing their plight on social media, getting people to assist in cash and kind. Up next, Doyle (who is responsible for the marketing imagery at Delta State University) wants to embark on deeper exploration in these communities – populated by people “in a state of limbo” – by zoning in on some more personal stories.

For glimpses of Rory Doyle’s captivating work (and evidence of his great eye as a photographer) visit rorydoylephoto.com.

DENIEVE Manning doesn’t just watch music videos; she looks closer. According to the Edna Manley College-based performance artist and model, a well-crafted clip – an audio-visual work of art in motion – should not only entertain but also provoke thought and spark dialogue. “For me,” she says, “music videos [offer] an emotional touchpoint for human beings.” Doing her presentation “How I Hack Music Videos for Contemporary Art,” Manning drew on the spellbinding imagery in Beyoncé’s Lemonade opus (“What was interesting was how she presented her ideas using themes like spirituality”); the creative genius of rappers Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z, alongside Major Lazer and Chronixx, to speak to the visual currency and narrative power that all great music videos possess. “Watching music videos should allow us to be more self-interrogative. But they also highlight how we use new and existing media to tell stories and move the narrative forward,” Manning argues. “How we use new media and new platforms, like Tidal, is something to explore. Just because something is done one way traditionally, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done another way.”

> More interesting highlights from the conference

2017 BREAST CANCER SYMPOSIUM: J’can cancer patients to benefit from new treatment centres opening in 2018

 KEEPING ABREAST: Women in the high-risk group are advised to start doing their mammograms before age 40, advises Gordon.

AT least two new cancer treatment centres are set to be opened locally by early 2018. That’s the word from Executive Director of the Jamaica Cancer Society, Yulit Gordon, who says the society is stepping up efforts, in collaboration with partners islandwide, to bolster the fight against the deadly disease.

“One of the new treatment centres will be opened at Cornwall Regional between late December and January. The other one is a work in progress at St. Joseph’s Hospital here in Kingston, and it should be completed and ready to be opened by early next year,” Gordon said, speaking with TALLAWAH at Sunday's symposium at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “The advocacy work continues. We continue to lobby the government for new treatment centres, and we give thanks that we’ve been able to expand our work in this area.”

At the same time, Gordon laments the ‘demise’ of their old-faithful mobile mammography unit, whose absence has left a huge void. “That unit was instrumental in our serving women in rural and underserved communities. When it was up and running, it did about 2,000 mammograms each year. So we are appealing to the relevant authorities to help us replace it.”

The cost to replace the mammography unit (which they had for 14 years), Gordon said, falls somewhere between J$80M and $100M. “The JCS intends to continue its extensive work at the community and corporate levels. One recognizes the prevalence of cancer in the Jamaican population and the high number of premature deaths due to late-stage diagnosis,” she says. “So we still have much work to do in the areas of early detection and screening.”

Gordon says it cannot be emphasized enough the supreme importance of Jamaican families keeping their eyes wide open when it comes to fighting The Big C. “We want to make an appeal to all Jamaican women to be very vigilant in performing their monthly breast self-exams and to access their annual clinical exams and start their mammograms by age 40,” she advises. “Those in the high-risk group, meaning they have relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or they have a history of the disease in their families, need to start [their mammograms] earlier.”

> How far advanced is The National Cancer Plan?
“It’s in the works,” says Dr. Lindberg Simpson (Head of Surgery, Kingston Public Hospital), who reminds us that in 2007 Jamaica became a signatory to the Treaty of Port-of-Spain, which had regional heads of government agreeing to pay special attention to non-communicable diseases, including cancer. Jamaica’s National Cancer Plan won’t come into effect anytime soon, Simpson says, as a long process is due to precede any such implementation. But, “I think [the plan] is absolutely necessary. We’re seeing too many patients with aggressive forms of the disease at an advanced stage. So I would like to see the plan developed,” says Dr. Simpson, “and it’s very important that it becomes accessible to the public for there to be greater awareness.”

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

CYBER CONNECTION: BizTech Forum brings J’cans up to speed on life on the digital superhighway

THE BIG IDEA: "We are about educating Jamaicans about where technology is going," says Powe (far right), pictured with a handful of presenters and guests at the forum.

STACY Kirk is one of those IT specialists who companies call in to ensure the continuous delivery of innovation and quality, given the ever-changing technology landscape. She works at the US-based film QualityWorks, one of the leaders in their field. “We design programmes for our clients to ensure performance, compatibility and sociability, and we do quality assessment,” she explains. “What is working and what isn’t working to ensure continuous delivery. So we help to monitor and continuously improve the quality of your product.”

QualityWorks was one of several tech giants (local and international) who made presentations or mounted booths to display and discuss their products and services at the BizTech Forum & Showcase, at the Jamaica Conference Centre last week.

Put on by the Jamaica Computer Society (JCS), under the theme “A World of Digital Opportunities,” the event drew a fair-sized turnout, allowing patrons to interact with personnel representing such brands as Fujitsu, E-Shore Cyber Security, NovGear Service Limited, C&W Business, the Vector Technology Institute, Ingenuity (and other IT specialists and service providers) and sit in on a range of panel discussions and informative sessions addressing everything from modern infrastructure, cyber security, hybrid cloud management and the pillars of digital transformation to data warehousing and analysis and software architecture.

One session was titled “Managing the Digital Transformation”; another looked at “Communicating Effectively with non-IT Executives in the Boardroom.”

In addition to Kirk (QualityWorks), presenters included IBM’s Rebecca Young and Paul Eurasuik, UWI’s Prof. Daniel Coore, Ryan Sterling (Vertis Technology), John Gibson (tTech) and Roan Daley representing Microsoft.
“This forum and showcase was more educational than anything else. We are about educating Jamaicans about where technology is going. So you see we have a lot of vendors with booths, and you can learn a lot just by talking to the different vendors and exhibitors,” explained JCS President Sheldon Powe. 

“We have it every two years, but this year we wanted to pay special attention to things like infrastructure management, artificial intelligence and big data. The speakers are in a relaxed atmosphere, so it makes for more effective sharing of information.”

Powe says another plus for the BizTech Forum is that they got to reach a wide cross-section of the Jamaican public. “You should leave here with a wealth of information to know what you need to do – if you work in the IT sector or if you own a business. Do you need to go back to school? What are the skills you need to acquire now? How can you better protect your business?” 

Founded in 1975, the Jamaica Computer Society is currently made up of working professionals from within and outside the technology sector who regularly meet to hold discussions and create a network of support for members.

NEWS & NOTES: Red Stripe creates history + CMU can rank among ‘world’s best’ + Why Jamaica needs more engineers

LEADING THE PACK: The forward-thinking team at Red Stripe might have a Trailblazer Award in their future. On October 5, the corporate giants became the first private Jamaican company to go LNG, having invested millions in a combined heat and power plant (CHP), costing upwards of US$400,000, which is now fully operational. “We’re very excited about this. It’s part of our sustainability agenda. Natural gas provides a cleaner burning fuel, more efficient, more reliable, and it’s far easier for our operations. And we’re building this as an industry in Jamaica to make it more appealing,” reports Diane Ashton-Smith, Head of Corporate Affairs at Red Stripe. “We want to see more companies come on board. We also call for incentives on duties for equipment that use LNG. As simplistic as it might sound, it augurs well for all of us to join the journey.” 

STEPPING UP: Now that the long-serving Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) has been formally re-introduced as the Caribbean Maritime University, what is it poised to achieve? For PM Andrew Holness, the outlook has to be increasingly global. “I am confident that the CMU will continue not only to be Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s leading source of talents and ideas in the areas of logistics and maritime technology,” he says, “but will also be seen as one of the world’s best institutions for maritime training and therefore a great export product.” Next to Mico, the CMU has become the latest tertiary institution in Jamaica to make the leap to university status.

FILLING THE GAPS: “The country needs to graduate at least 1000 engineers per year.” So says Dr. Paul Aiken, Director of the UWI Mona School of Engineering, who believes Jamaica has been losing out on valuable opportunities due to the shortage. “There have been many lost opportunities because the workforce isn’t there. So we are training them not just for Jamaica but to work globally,” Dr. Aiken says. “Our engineers must be able to go anywhere and compete with a Mr. or Miss Ivy League, and they will perform.” Aiken, who is also a Deputy Dean at Mona, was among the speakers giving informative power-point presentations at the recent Jamaica Natural Gas Conference in Kingston.

TAKING HOLD: Unbound reels you in with a captivating look at crime, revenge and justice

DANGEROUS LIAISONS: Hazle's detective comes face-to-face with D'Aguilar's Big Ice; Below, Hamilton as the vengeful Roman.

YOU see their faces plastered on bulletin boards, at the police station and on the nightly news – young girls who’ve gone ‘missing’. Some eventually make it back home safe and sound, others are not so lucky. The excellent Jamaican short film Unbound is about these unlucky ones – rape victims who emerge from their ordeal badly scarred and fighting to remain among the living.

Written, directed and produced by David Johnson and Alecia Dawkins, the film weaves a realistic, frequently jolting, sometimes suspenseful tale about the scourge of gangs and criminality, resilience and family honour. But, on a deeper level, it vigorously delves into dark and disturbing themes of human trafficking, sexual violence and vigilante justice.

One of the strongest contributors to the film’s success is the sharp central performance given by Stephanie Hazle, a versatile stage actress known for her spark-filled turns in dramedies and musicals. In this thriller-drama, she transforms into Mia Richardson, a no-nonsense CISOCA detective who is investigating her toughest case yet. As we learn, two weeks earlier, a young woman was picked up by a cab at a party in Negril. But she never made it home. She was later found raped and badly beaten and has been confined to a coma.

Richardson – pretty, shrewd and tough-as-nails – is determined to find those responsible and put them behind bars. Trouble is, the girl’s brother, a “soldier” named Roman (Kevin-Sean Hamilton) is not waiting for the law to take its slow course, embarking on his own personal crusade, which leads him to a group of low-life gangsters, who he puts out of their misery, Rambo-style.
Things get even more complicated when Mia learns of a sex-trafficking ring preying on little girls, and before long she’s on a collision course with the criminals. But what Mia never expected to discover is that she shares a deeply personal connection with this particular case, forcing her to confront a sad chapter of her past.

Kaleb D’Aguilar (as police informant Big Ice), Pepita Little (playing a counselor) and John Chambers (as the notorious Rimma) round out the main cast. 

The filmmakers deserve kudos for taking such difficult and touchy subject matter and elevating it into a piece of art that hits hard. (Some scenes are very uncomfortable to watch.) 

In the end, Unbound, clocking in at close to half-an-hour, is one of those short action-packed films that worms its way under your skin and gets inside your head. Fortunately, it’s a well-made film that delivers the requisite emotional payoff. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Monday, 23 October 2017

GAME ON: Spectator-friendly atmosphere brings a spark to int’l chess festival finale

SHARP FOCUS: A number of natioanl champions and international child prodigies participated. (Below: the triumphant Raging Rooks).

WE’RE all accustomed to the horse-racing, basketball and football kind, but have you ever heard live commentary for a chess match? That was one of the bonafide highlights at last Sunday’s Rapid Chess mini-tournament, which brought the curtains down on the inaugural Jamaica International Chess Festival at the Worthington, Spanish Court Hotel.

A stadium-like spectator atmosphere – complete with stands and live digital boards on jumbo-sized screens – got the patrons in on the action as the trio of commentators, led by Jamaican grandmaster Maurice Ashley offered their expertise. In the adjoining room, quieter than the Library of Congress, the young players with eyes glued to their chess boards are deeply focused (concentration overdrive) as they plot their next move. It’s a showdown between the Dark Knights and the Raging Rooks (made up of national champions and visiting child prodigies and other international guests).

Two rows of tables are neatly arranged, as the red and yellow-clad teams launch into the fierce battle. If a pin drops you can hear it. Back in the main room, where the trophies to be presented grab your attention, the spectators/supporters (parents, friends, chess community members, members of the public) watch the screens. “It’s the first time we’re seeing this format in Jamaica, with the live digital boards, where we can watch and get live commentary,” says organizing committee member Rowena Coe. “The aim was to make it spectator-friendly.”

So it was. The kids were the stars of the show. Among the day’s participants were Zaina O’Connor (National Under-8 girls champion), Cameron Coe (Under 8 Absolute Champion), Kishan Clarke (Under 10 male champion), Laila Griffiths (Under 10 female champion), Shreyas Smith (21-year-old national champion) and Joshua Christie who, at 16, is our latest Fida Master.

And after 34 rounds, the Raging Rooks won the tournament – and the all-important bragging rights. “I’ve been playing chess for about eight years now,” shares Lantae Walker, 14, who attends Wolmers’ Boys. “Chess teaches you a lot of discipline. You have to sit down and be patient, plan and look ahead for things than can affect you in the game. So, in a way, it has improved my life.” 

Chief organizer of the weekend-long festival, Nigel Clarke, gave himself a much-deserved pat on the back. “It surpassed my expectations. The energy and the vibrancy of the local chess community was on show,” he says. “At Emancipation Park we couldn’t contain the crowds. People were eager to get in and participate. Where else in the world have people seen 75 chess boards in one park?” 

Coe agrees. Mission accomplished. “Part of the intention going forward,” she says, “is to build on this success and spread the appreciation for chess and watch it grow across the island.” > 

> ‘CHECKING’ IN: Sponsorship offers emerge from inaugural chess festival

PRAISE IN MOTION: The Nickeisha Jones-led Laud Dance Ministry wins you over with high-energy dance theatre and stirring testimony

'LAUD' AND CLEAR: The 11-year-old troupe earns kudos for its entertaining and spirit-lifting works; Inset: Jones.

TO the dozens of tweens and teens who make up the junior cohort of Laud Dance Ministry, Nickeisha Jones is simply Auntie Nicky. Sitting in on a recent dress rehearsal at the Little Theatre, before long, you totally understand why. In person, Jones comes off like the affable relative, neighbour, church sister, you’ve known all your life. In other words, she feels like family. What’s more, here is a woman, a devout Christian, who took it upon herself to bring together talented dancers from several denominations to form a dance company committed to life-changing ministry through the performing arts.

Laud Dance Ministry, currently based off Molynes Road in the Corporate Area (a temporary arrangement), fuses praise-and-worship, unbridled energy and stirring movement to create sometimes haunting, sometimes profound, but always powerful dance works that hold you riveted.

It’s been 11 years since the troupe flew out of the starting blocks, emerging from a church concert/rally, as the story goes, where Jones felt inspired to do something unprecedented. “I got the idea to bring together all the dancers who took part. We started out with just nine members, and we’ve been growing steadily ever since,” recalls Jones, who in the demanding role of Artistic Director guides an army comprised of tiny tots, primary-school kids, high-schoolers and young adults – all putting in hard work to present performances that both uplift their audiences and glorify God. 

“Our work is just to go out there and minister, but the aim for us, is to, at the end of every performance, to touch even one soul who wants to give their life to God,” Jones explains. “We want to show people that we’re dancing for God and we are transforming lives for God.”

The troupe’s 11th anniversary season at the Little Theatre last weekend got the job done and then some, delivering and entertaining and spirit-lifting blend of community drama, interpretive dance theatre and rapturous musical accompaniment that lived up to the curious label they’ve been given since entering the annual JCDC Performing Arts Festival. “They call us ‘brute force’ because the energy we bring to the stage is hardcore. We’re not cute,” says Jones, chuckling. They call their style Laud-tech – less technical rigour, way more vigour. “We make it a point of duty that whatever we’re doing for God, we must do it with our all.”

The West Kingston-based Tivoli High is where Jones began her performing arts sojourn with the school’s widely acclaimed dance troupe. A stint with Praise Academy of Dance followed, starting in 1999, shortly after she got baptized. Since then, she’s worked with Praise Academy as performer and choreographer and still lends her time to their ministry while grooming her own dancers at Laud. 

Above all, the growth of the group is what Jones, now 37, is most proud of. “I was thinking about that up to last week; how much we’ve grown over the 11 years. I know groups that have started out and within two years they stopped,” she says. “We have our issues, like any other family, but we always rise above them and come back to our main objectives because we have a mandate and that keeps us focused.” 

In the meantime, finding a permanent home base to call their own is high on the priority list going forward – as well as taking their pyrotechnic brand of dance ministry to overseas audiences. “We want to see Laud in the Caribbean and further overseas,” Jones says, waxing optimistic about the road ahead. “We’re committed to spreading the ministry through dance.”

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

ON THE HORIZON: National Honours & Awards recipients look ahead to what’s next

IN GOOD COMPANY: Culture minister Olivia Grange and OD honoree Theodore Whitmore sharing a moment.

On Monday, the grounds of King's House, as is customary, played host to the National Honours & Awards ceremony. TALLAWAH was amidst the elegance and elan, as scores of outstanding and well-deserving Jamaicans were honoured for service to country. We spoke to a few noted names to hear about their new and future endeavours/

Dr. Paul Pennicook, former Director of Tourism 
After serving the Jamaica Tourist Board as Director for the three years (2014-2017), Paul Pennicook demitted office this past summer, but he remains staunchly devoted to the tourism industry. “I’m not leaving hospitality. I’m now working as a consultant in hotel operations and destination marketing,” says Pennicook, whose JTB contract ended in August. For outstanding and dedicated service to the tourism industry, he received the Order of Distinction (Officer Class). He’s optimistic that the staff will continue the work he started. “When I left there, we were on a roll. We had record arrivals, and we left a plan in place,” he shares. “I certainly hope we can maintain that momentum and take the work to another level, and I’m certain they will.” 

Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore, Reggae Boyz head coach 
“We are a work-in-progress but the squad is looking good, so I’m expecting great things going forward,” Whitmore tells TALLAWAH moments after being presented with his Order of Distinction (Officer Class) for contribution to sports nationally and internationally. “Right now I have my concerns; there are certain things that need to be addressed, but let’s wait and see. We have a new president, and I’m confident that he’ll do a great job. We’re looking forward to playing another international friendly to close out the year, and then we’ll begin the real programme in the New Year.” 

Michael ‘Stringbeans’ Nicholson, Actor and JCDC stalwart 
For long and dedicated service to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (well over two decades and counting), Nicholson received the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service. “It means that somebody has been paying attention to the work I’ve been doing at the JCDC all these years. I’m excited and honoured, and I keep using the word elated, but that’s exactly how I feel,” says Nicholson, now 55 years old. The work continues. He might be heading overseas later this year with his Bad Breed castmates, and there’s some major planning to do for December’s ‘Fireworks on the Waterfront’ to close off the year in spectacular fashion. “It has been an up and down year for me,” Nicholson admits. “I had some health issues to attend to, but I’m feeling much better, much healthier.” 

Rosina Moder, musician and music educator 
Working with her talented students and doing research on Jamaica’s unheralded composers is all in a day’s work for Rosina Christina Moder. Now a member of the Order of Distinction, in the rank of officer (for contribution to the development of Jamaican music and the preservation of its history), she feels newly energized to do the work that she’s so passionate about. “My new passion is doing research on Jamaican composers whose work has never been documented. We are being funded by the Jamaica National Foundation, so we have a website that’s a work-in-progress and we’ll be producing a book at the end,” she says. In addition to lobbying for scholarships and other financial aid for students to study music at the college level locally and abroad, Moder is organizing a couple of free concerts for November, which will feature acclaimed German organist Gabriele Schenkel (currently in the island for workshops) at the Kingston Parish Church and the Spanish Town Cathedral.

2017 REX NETTLEFORD CONFERENCE: Three experts tackle net neutrality, millennial multitasking and the new business model

Wearing multiple hats has long been hallmark of the working world, but for a huge portion of the WhatsApp and Instagram generation, it’s the only way to make ends meet. Making her witty and wonderfully insightful presentation, “Slash/Slash: Millennial Multitasking in Today’s Creative Economy,” Rachael Barrett (at left) put forward the argument that doing more than one thing has not only become the status quo; it’s an essential method of working and networking and engagement in modern/contemporary society. So get with the programme. She puts the spotlight on a few multidisciplinary artists as sterling examples of millennial multitasking at its finest, particularly in the all-important realm of branding: musician/activist./businessman/band frontman Will.I.Am; entrepreneur/tastemaker/designer Vashtie Kola; creative whiz/fashion savant/Team Kanye director Virgil Abloh and reggae singer-songwriter/producer/In.Digg.Nation Collective mastermind Protoje. “We live in an age of constant distraction where multi-focus can be problematic. But it’s the reality of how human beings function now,” says Barrett, editor/college lecturer/real estate agent/art consultant/aspiring DJ. “We are products of our environment and [millennials] are simply responding to the environment they are in.”

According to Bianca Welds, to fully benefit from the economic advantages of their creative outputs, artists must seek to turn their art into a business, and determining the right business model is a first step to entering the entrepreneurial world. Presenting “Business Models for the Arts: A Creative Canvas,” Welds noted that a new approach to the business model canvas, designed specifically for creative arts enterprises, places the artist’s vision at the centre of the process. She offers these 7 elements for one to consider as you design your ‘canvas’: the desired experience; your audience and customers; ways to reach your customers; key activities; key resources; partnerships and collaborations; costs and revenue streams. “This approach enables customers to take a strategic big-picture view of their potential business and evaluate it for its feasibility,” Welds says. “Once you’ve assessed the business idea you can start the planning process to bring it to life.”

Spotify is still not available in Jamaica. So much for net neutrality, the concept championed by Tim Wu and like-minded advocates that states that the internet should be open to all and available to all at the same time. In other words, net neutrality promotes an open internet free of restrictions to access. Dennis Howard (“Net Neutrality and the Threat to Millennial Artist Engagement”) says it has benefits for countries like Jamaica “because it levels the playing field.” Still, hindrances remain like licensing restrictions, IP restrictions, monetizing restrictions, geographical boundaries and the list goes on. How many times have you encountered the viral message, “This video is not available in your country?” (Personally, too many times.) Still, here in the “Third World”, we have a lot to be grateful for. “If Trump and the Republicans have their way, there will be reversal of net neutrality that will have far-reaching implications for the Caribbean,” Howard says. “We need to enact net neutrality laws in Jamaica to make people aware of it because they are not aware of it.”