Welcome

Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Art For Our Sake

Last December, we went to one of those highfalutin social events at Sandy Lane--a wine tasting. Through the various connections that we had built up, we had received an invitation and given that we like our wines, we took it up and rolled in a few Caribbean friends too. Our view: enough of these events just being the preserve of European expats. We were approached at the entrance by a lady who was on her own and admitted that she knew nothing about wine so wondered if she could tag along with us. Fine, we said, and so we traipsed around tasting, grading and sampling some really good wine, and enjoyed nice tidbits of food (including some very good roast beef). Along the way, the lady let us know that she was a teacher of English and Art, and also an artist. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. After a brief confirmation of each other's addresses by message, we exchanged Christmas and New Year's greetings and then had no more contact. That is until she sent an invitation last week for an opening she was due to have at Queen's Park Gallery, scheduled for this evening.

Last night, I was out having dinner hosted some Barbadian friends, along with a Jamaican couple, and two other guests whom I did not know. One of the guests did not make it in the end, but the other did. She mentioned that she was an art historian and we had a great conversation about the meaning of art and reality and interpretation. We did not have a meeting of minds. I could take it that putting paint on canvas does not make art. But I struggled to see the difference between those who practised what they called art, but did not devote their lives to it (like Winston Churchill or Anthony Hopkins, I cited) and those who seemed to 'make art' by flinging tins of paint on canvas or sitting on a plinth, but did so with dedication. Anyway, I mentioned that I was due to go to the art show at Queen's Park: "Oh, Jacqui was one of my students," said the art historian. Well, knock me down with a feather.

So, here is Sunday and I am looking forward to doing something very out of the ordinary for a weekend in Barbados, and for me in general: a trip to an art gallery. My good lady was due to come back from her cruise, but not till night time. I had the day to kill. Well, the day nearly killed me. Barbados Light and Power had decided to become the company of no light and no power, and from 10am till 5pm left me without a single volt of current. Was it hot? Yes! Was there a breeze? But, so feeble. What to do? Cool out and relax and think on the veranda. I melted, and for my sins listen to officials of the Barbados Water Authority demonstrate why that organization is a total shambles. Thankfully, I had had an early coffee and pecan pie (thanks to my dinner host). I also had some ackee, dumplings and roasted breadfruit sitting in my fridge, as well as curried chicken and roti. So, my meals were there, and I did not need electricity to warm them up. I survived the day, thanks to a brief spin to the Hilton so that I could recharge my cell phones. The rain poured intermittently so kept it cooler than otherwise.

So, to the art show. I was pleasantly surprised that it was mainly black Bajans in the audience. In fact, it was the first cultural event other than an Austin Clarke play at Frank Collymore Hall that I could say displayed the majority of this country represented rather than the European tourist/expatriate cohorts. Don't get me wrong, those who support culture are to be praised, I had just wondered where the nationals were with their support. Now, I had seen some.

The Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, was there to make some remarks, as were Jacqui's sister, Patricia, and Jacqui's good friend from childhood, Andrea Wells. On hand to steer the proceedings was a French-Canadian lady, Denyse Menard-Greenidge, acting as the guest curator. We were handed some refreshing drinks (rum punch for me, thanks) and the speeches were thankfully brief, ending with a few words and poems from Jacqui. videoI was wiped out from dealing with the day's heat and wanted also to write as soon as possible, so left after an hour. I will go back during the week to take another look.

The show, sponsored by the National Cultural Foundation, continues until August 8 and I recommend that you visit at least once and even buy a piece or two.

Jacqui's work on display is mainly her paintings,which she prepared over the past two years. Unfortunately, her well-famed work on leather was only displayed in pictures.

I'm not good at interpreting the interpretations of artists (something Jacqui mentioned we needed to do). I try to understand what I see and hear, from artists and others. If I can make sense of it, I can deal with it. I can make sense of Jacqui's work.

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