Kapo (Mallica Reynolds) was born in Bynloss St Catherine, a rural community about thirty miles from Kingston. As early as age sixteen he began receiving visions and started traveling the countryside preaching and healing. In 1931 he came to Cockburn Pen on the outskirts of Kingston, but eventually settled in Trench Town where he established his Zion Revival church. Here, he began creating his sculptures and paintings that reflected the people in his community their ritual practices.His work came to prominence through the efforts of Edward Seaga, then a young anthropologist interested in African retentions in Jamaican society who would help to exhibit his work locally and internationally and to promote it to collectors then interested in ‘so called ‘ primitivc’ art. As a revival priest, much of Kapo’s subject matter is devoted to his spiritual beliefs as well as the depiction of rituals in his church such as spirit possession, casting out of demons, baptisms and resurrections. In another vein, he is a ‘folk’ painter, painting the beauty of Jamaica, its orange groves, hillsides and houses. Like other self-taught artists, his paintings share the same flat surfaces, coloured patterning and grid like presentation.
His sculpture, however, is more distinct. They are robust characters hewn from dense wood, heavily stained to a deep rich brown/black, that create anxiety for white and black viewers alike; indeed the artist remembers being beaten and arrested by the authorities because of the perceived demonic and seditious blackness they communicated. Edward Seaga would later become Prime Minister of Jamaica and instrumental in donating The Larry Wirth Collection, one the largest collections of Kapo’s work, to the National Gallery of Jamaica in 1982. Kapo’s works can also be found in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam as well as the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America and many other collections locally and internationally. Kapo died at seventy-eight having won numerous awards and honours. PA-S