Sarine Arslanian writes about the politics of yard/street art in Jamaica. Her study is organized around several related and provocative topics such as Understanding Trench Town’s yard art murals: The identity of urban space (included below); Struggles and Exclusion: Innately Political Artworks; The Commodification of Art; Resistance Movements: Rastafari Culture and Reggae Music in Art; and Inner Sections’ Art: A Harsher Everyday Reality; among others. I highly recommend reading the full article in the link below. See excerpts here:
Jamaican art has always been closely related to the country’s troubled politics: reggae musicians like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh infused their music with social and political messages, creating a multilayered and accessible art form. Street art in Jamaica strikes a similar note: the ‘yard art’ murals that fill the streets of Kingston illustrate social struggle, showcasing it for all to see. We take a closer look at the politics and aesthetics behind Jamaica’s street art.
[. . .] Combining street art with politics is what Jamaican artists do best. Yard art murals express powerful political messages, sometimes with a humorous undertone. Artists often portray Rastafaris, African myths, popular music icons, local political leaders and religious symbols. The murals can be read as texts that shape a broader discourse on questions of urban territorial identity, social struggles and exclusion, commoditisation, resistance movements, and political realities.
Understanding Trench Town’s yard art murals: The identity of urban space
An inner-city community of Jamaica’s capital, Trench Town is one example of a place full of inscriptions that challenge or shape dominant local imageries and stereotypes. It is similar to other neighbouring communities with high poverty, violence, and unemployment rates, but at the same time different and unique because it’s the iconic home of Bob Marley, and the birthplace of reggae. Nowadays, the landscape there is a constant reminder of the area’s rich cultural history as residents prefer to identify themselves in a positive light by referring to reggae music and the legacy of those who made the community popular. Numerous murals portray their local reggae music superstars like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer together with well-known black leaders such as Marcus Garvey. The murals are placed in strategic locations at the entrance to Trench Town and along the main roads. As the majority of these communities do not have officially defined boundaries and street signs, but instead are considered to be part of the ghetto or downtown Kingston, yard art murals are essential to the development of the residents’ sense of identity.
[Image above courtesy of Dave Rowley, via The Culture Trip.]