Jamaica Hidden Histories Exhibition: Independence, Identity and Belonging


Full Spectrum Productions presents the Jamaica Hidden Histories Exhibition: Independence, Identity and Belonging at The Drum, Birmingham (UK)—the exhibition is free and open to the public. It opened on June 25, 2015, and will be on view until July 30, 2015. This is the culmination of a two-year project that uncovers and showcases cultural and historical links between Britain and Jamaica, and forms part of a UK gallery tour. [Curated by Jamaican-born, UK-based Lorna Holder, the exhibition was previously on view at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, London (UK) until May 17, 2015. See previous post Art Exhibition: Varala Maraj Reviews “Jamaica Hidden Histories”.] The Drum is located at 144 Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham, and is open Mondays to Saturdays – 10:00am-6:00pm.

Visitors will be also entertained by continuous screenings of films created for the project, including a film outlining the historical context of the “Jamaica Hidden Histories” project, an art video inspired by the sculpture Meditations Beneath Duppycherry Tree by Fowokan George Kelly, and a short film entitled Independence, Identity and Belonging from the oral history workshops.

Description: Jamaica Hidden Histories is an educational project by Full Spectrum Productions, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It aims to unearth and communicate information to diverse communities to understand the history of Jamaica, its distinctive cultural identity and links with Britain. The project will explore how Jamaican culture has become a recognisable and global brand.

Departing from commonwealth of England’s capture of the island in 1655, and navigating its way through 1962 independence and the 1970s cultural re-awakening; the exhibition explores how early social, cultural and environmental influences have shaped notions of identity in multicultural Britain, with a particular focus on the Birmingham community.

At the start of the exhibition we are greeted by a photograph entitled Maroon Boys Collecting Wood, part of a series capturing everyday life in Jamaica at the turn of the 20th Century from the rarely seen photographic archives of English photographer, Sir Harry Johnston. The objects held by the boys depict trade links between Britain and Jamaica.

Wood was one of the key exports from Jamaica during this period. The machete, which was manufactured in the West Midlands, would have been used to cut the wood. One such machete company, Ralph Martindale & Co Ltd. Crocodile Works, operated just round the corner from The Drum, on Alma Street, from the late 19th to the beginning of the 21st Century.

Many Jamaicans who came to Britain before and after Independence did not intend to stay. However, while many had returned home by the 1970s, a large number remained settled in cities around the UK.  The exhibition features striking images from the archive of local photographer Vanley Burke, depicting Jamaicans at work – bricklaying, working in restaurants and running pubs and garages – all documenting the Jamaican community’s historic contribution to the economic growth of the city.

At The Drum in August 2014, elders from the local community shared their memories of Independence, while young people spoke about their own identities and sense of belonging. Through these oral testimonies in video and print format, the exhibition explores Jamaican influences in Birmingham.

[. . .] The Jamaica Hidden Histories Educational Pack, launched in May 2015, will be available free of charge to the first 25 secondary schools visiting the exhibition. This cross-cultural educational resource for secondary schools provides teachers with a unique and readily accessible toolkit to engage students on the historical and cultural links between Jamaica and Britain.

The exhibition unearths and unravels the narratives surrounding Jamaica’s transition from Small Island to global brand. The exhibition attracted over 21,000 visitors at the gallery@oxo in London earlier this year.

For more information, see http://jamaicahiddenhistories.com/jamaica-hidden-histories-independence-identity-and-belonging-exhibition/

Also see https://repeatingislands.com/2015/05/08/art-exhibition-varala-maraj-reviews-jamaica-hidden-histories/

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