David Miller Jnr

David Miller Jnr’s relationship with his father David Miller Jnr was crucial to his development as and artists, and it is rare that one is mentioned without the other, despite their stylistic differences. David Miller was apprenticed to his father in their carpentry business established on Bray Street of Windward Rd. They regularly did trades work for the house building business, but when that was slow, they wood create carvings for sale to the tourists that normally docked at Kingston Harbour. They did not sell directly to the public but instead used a middle man. In this way, they were insulated from the more commercial aspects of tourism trade, rarely dealing with the public and pricing of their work. When visitors did come to their workshop, the pair never haggled over prices but instead placed their work on display in a showcase that visitors were free to select from or leave. This is how they maintained their dignity as craftsmen and artists.

It is said that the family were Jehovah’s Witnesses but nothing in that spiritual tradition prepares the viewer for their images that seem to balk against Old Testament cautions against the creation of graven images. The Millers were adamant that their images were not idols but based on their faith and this is born out by the sense of reverence with which they treat the human form. In particular David Miller Jnr’s heads are a testament to racial dignity and bring a sense nobility to the depiction of black people during that time. Creating oversized heads with exaggerated racial features that were normally smoothly finished and highly polished, the craftsmanship in his pieces transcend carvings produced as souvenirs today. In fact, the distinctiveness of his imagery as well as their mysterious symbolism, such as horns and sacred markings suggest that these images were deliberately intended to communicate ideas about black divinity that paralleled the messages of  Garveyism and later Rastafarianism.

David Miller Jnr's death just eight years after his father’s suggests the empathy that existed within their partnership. It was a working relationship that had lasted more than sixty years and when it ended, they took with them an understanding of these works forever lost to the contemporary viewer.PA-S