Monday, 8 January 2018

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Derrick ‘Khafari’ Clarke puts his passions to work and strives for solid results

STEPPING OUT: The former Pantomime Company member is now busy building a diverse body of work.

SOME of the most expressive artists among us are individuals who paint their lives, their story, with colours taken from everywhere. In conversation with a performer like Derrick Clarke (aka Khafari Moor), you quickly realize that he ranks among those multifaceted artists who seem to view the world in big, bold strokes – and aim tick several boxes. Not only is he a trained thespian (thanks to EXED and the Edna Manley College), he dances and can carry a tune.

You’ve probably seen him in a few LTM National Pantomimes, like Blingalinga and Runeesha & the Birds, outshining some of his more seasoned co-stars. “The Pantomime was like my drama school. It’s really like a school, so I took it as a university to learn more about the performing arts and develop my skills,” recalls Clarke, who was invited to try out for the Pantomime Company in 2010 by well-known director Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke, who saw that he had that special spark. But “I got stage fright and almost chickened out because I was so nervous,” Clarke remembers. “As a mentor I think Bobby Clarke saw my potential and wanted to steer me in the right direction, because I definitely needed the guidance. I carry that experience with me everywhere.”

Apparently, Clarke’s “guidance” quickly earned dividends because by the end of 2015, Clarke was voted Best Actor at the ‘Pantomime Oscars’. What’s more, after six shows, he has graduated from the Pantomime Company to take on roles with the University Players (Garvey: The Musical) and Probemaster Entertainment (this season’s Jamaica Sweeter).

By his own admission, artistic growth defines this chapter of his life and blossoming career. “With my last two performances I feel like I am steadily climbing, based on the advice and feedback I have been receiving,” says the 27-year-old performer, who particularly relishes the opportunity to work with veteran actors that a show like Jamaica Sweeter has offered him. “I’m working with people I grew up watching, like Terri and Ricky and Luke, and they extended a warm welcome to me. So I feel better than when I’m working with people in my own age group. I feel motivated to give my best performance.”

Born and raised in Kingston to struggling parents, Clarke saw his passion for theatre arts as a means to a better life. He remembers acing drama-club auditions at the beginning of high school, and faster than you can say “Once upon a time,” he’d won a Best Supporting Actor trophy at the JCDC National Drama Finals – at age 12! “I realized I had a natural gift,” he recalls.

But Clarke also loves sports. So while at Excelsior High and Jamaica College (and later at Calabar High for sixth form), he dabbled in a little football, even trying out for the Manning Cup team. “I do football, tracks and cricket, but I mostly excelled in rugby. So I thought I would do sports professionally,” he says now.

For the record, Clarke is a pint-sized brother, who stands at about 5-feet-five-inches. But don’t let his small stature fool you. What’s more, he’s a Rastafarian with shoulder-length locks who’s been practising the faith for the past seven years. “Rasta is about realism. The concept of life that it teaches is what attracted me,” shares the former church boy who feels perceptions about Rastafarianism in Jamaica are rapidly changing. “Generally, people don’t look at Rastas like they used to, so I give thanks for the struggles that [the ancestors] went through because people are looking beyond the locks now,” he observes. 

Meanwhile, when he’s not preparing for a show or in the classroom, Clarke (who teaches drama/arts part-time at the St. George’s Girls Primary) is listening to music or watching movies or outlining plans for his future business ventures. “I see myself owning some businesses. I’d say I have an entrepreneurial mind. I lean towards the energy side of life. As long as something feels right, I’ll give it my attention,” says Clark, who has some film scripts in the works and has opened a home-based recording studio that’s already cooking up beats and riddims for local reggae artistes.

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