Last week saw the launch of Adobe's Museum of Digital Media (AMDM); an online viewing space that allows visitors to reflect on the impact of technology through its virtual exhibitions. The space itself is a curator's dream designed by Italian architect Filipo Innocenti with unlimited capacity, no walls and infinite creative possibilities. In the real world the building would occupy 57,680 square metres of prime real estate but in the virtual world its pod-filled towers soar 50 storeys above busy city scapes that simulate scenes from New York, Paris, Venice. Yet the museum is accessible to everyone everywhere 24/7 for free online, and a tour guide in the form of an amorphous-gliding-talking-eyeball is always available to take you on a building tour. As is to be expected of a company like Adobe, the production values of this tour and the building are high, with visuals and graphics that are exquisite. In this way the building's architectural excellence issues a challenge to artists invited to show in its atrium since they must demonstrate an understanding of digital media that is equally fresh and innovative.

The National Gallery of Jamaica's latest exhibition entitled Edna Manley’s Bogle: A Contest of Icons is a research based exhibition that explores the iconography surrounding the controversial image of Jamaica's national hero Paul Bogle. As with so many of Jamaica's national monuments, the Bogle statue created by sculptor Edna Manley has been the subject of dispute ever since it was first erected in 1965 outside the Morant Bay courthouse in St Thomas. More recently, since the monument's removal for repairs last year, parish residents have protested its return asking instead for an effigy bearing the true likeness of their folk hero Bogle. They claim, that Manley's statue (depicted here by photographer Amador Packer) was modeled from a local man claiming to be Bogle's grandson and they take exception to what they view as its muted and emasculated form. Instead they wish for a statue more closely resembling the photograph of Bogle which according to the NGJ has become the de facto official representation of the hero used on stamps and currency.

As a research exhibition, Edna Manley’s Bogle: A Contest of Icons takes no sides in the controversy but instead provides a fascinating history of the monument, its creation, Manley's iconographic sources, and its much debated reception. Central to the display are questions of artistic license, racial aesthetics and public taste. Yet by focusing its concerns around Manley's project there is an inherent bias towards that artist's imagery and a defense of her approach that favoured the symbolism of a 'bold black man' rather than photographic accuracy. While the monument is out of commission, it remains to be seen how this saga related to image and likeness will be resolved. If the politics of Laura Facey's Redemption Song and Christopher Gonzalez Bob Marley monuments are anything to go by, Edna Manley's Bogle may just remain at the National Gallery of Jamaica where its aesthetic can be best understood and communicated.

Three Moments/The Caribbean is the region's contribution to the Liverpool Biennial that opens at the Contemporary Urban Centre in the U.K. this weekend. Inspired by Stuart Hall's 2006 essay which explores three moments in black diaspora artistic practice, this exhibition turns the cultural theorist's concerns inside out by featuring artists  from the Bahamas, Barbados and Martinique whose works explore historical and contemporary global themes. Whereas Hall traced an artistic lineage of black diaspora art in Britain from the 1950s arrival of  artists such as Jamaica's Ronald Moody and Guyana's Aubrey Williams through to the destablising body-mapping of photograpers such a Rotimi Fani Kayoda and Joy Gregory in the 1990s, Three Moments/The Caribbean picks up the narrative afresh. Telling an 'other' story from outside western narratives of modernism and nationalism, it explores their ' 21st century modernist aesthetic' from a Caribbean perspective. The selected artists: Ewan Atkinson, John Beadle, Christian Bertin, Ras Ishi Butcher, Blue Curry, David Damoison, Lavar Munroe, Lynn Parotti, Ras Akyem- I Ramsey and Heino Schmidt are all from a post-independence generation who view their art practice in terms that prioritize their urban identities over their nationalistic ones, and they share an openness to explore their colonial past as well as their pluralized presents in ways that are provocative, challenging and engaging. Their display even suggests a break with more conventional notions of how Caribbean Art has centered historically around the larger islands of Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti to offer the imagery and experiences of smaller artistic communities in Nassau, Bridgetown and Fort de France. One concern might be the gender imbalance in the show since Lynn Parroti's Roadside Valentine Gift Baskets, Nassau, Bahamas,(2010) shown here, is the work of the single female artist in the show. This limited female representation suggests that the region's women artists still require greater visiblity in such international expositions. This might be something to consider for a future biennial as another 'other' story.


The latest issue of Small Axe: a caribbean journal of criticism is now available and it is, as usual, well produced. The journal edited by cultural anthropologist David Scott and supported by a collective of some of the Caribbean's best critical thinkers, has built its reputation  on a commitment to interrogating conceptions of class, gender, nation, culture and race related to the region. Its sustained quarrelsomeness for almost a decade has meant that the journal's scholarship is of necessity impeccable and the recent experience of having my own article vetted by its editorial team confirms that process even while applauding its focus on quality.

This summer issue,  although not themed, still holds to the collective's basic principle that debate is not the prerogative of any single creative form or genre but instead resides equally in literature, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, visual arts. Its offering of essays such as Carter Mathes's, Circuits of Political Prophecy that explores cross-currents between the thinking of Martin Luther King Jr and Peter Tosh alongside its showcasing of winners from its most recent literary competition such as Ashley Rousseau's story, The Color of Green Lizards, demonstrates this commitment to diversity. These, combined with the visual projects of artists such as Nikolai Noel's The Dimming (featured on the cover) and Satch Hoyt's Hybrid Navigator, that are also carried through to its SX space online demonstrates that the journal is also a platform for artists and writers whose works are yet to be fully acknowledged. Even more compelling and consistent with its professed interrogation of tradition is Lorna Goodison's response to the theoretical unstitching of her autobiography From Harvey River by Donnette Francis and Sandra Pouchet Paquet. The back and forth between this time-honoured writer and her scrupulous critics shows that argument is alive and well in the region mainly because journals such as Small Axe take themselves so seriously.

Jamaica's art history has always acknowledged the presence and influence of European itinerant artists such as Auguste Brunias (1730-1796), George Robertson (1748—88) and Joseph Batholemew Kidd (1808–1889) and who travelled through the islands in the 18th and 19th centuries. Maybe because of our colonial biases, scant attention has been paid to North American artists who came here with similar intentions. The exhibition of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church entitled Fern Hunting Among These Picturesque Mountains: Frederick Edwin Church in Jamaica, curated by Evelyn D. Trebilcock and Valerie A. Balint currently on view in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery,  Olana, New York shows us that this is an aspect of our history that deserves greater attention. Frederick Edwin Church (1826-1900) visited Jamaica in May 1865 in search of solace after the tragic loss of their two children in a diptheria epidemic two months earlier. From the majestic quality of his paintings we sense that Jamaica was a tonic. His landscapes bring all of the Hudson River School's characteristic style to the depiction of the Jamaica's landscapes, they are breathtaking in their grandeur, parochial in their attention to details and disarmingly spiritual in their pre-occupations. His scenes of 19th century tourist spots across the island including Blue Mountain, Moneague and Fern Gully show us how dramatically our vistas have changed in the face of modernity and tourism. It is also significant that during his stay he too experienced the island's drought and remarked on the disparity between the cities aridity and the greenness of the mountains. Our lesson from the past and Church's paintings reveal that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Read more about the exhibition on view until October 2010.


The Jamaican art community is saddened by the recent death of artist and poet Seya Parboosingh. She died at 85 having spent more than fifty years here. Born Samila Joseph in 1925 in Allentown Pennsylvania, Seya changed her name in 1957 when she married expressionist painter Karl Parboosingh in New York. They moved to Jamaica the next year and with Karl's encouragement, Seya began painting and exhibiting alongside him. Their styles were remarkably different. His paintings were strident with bold, brash brushmarks that critiqued the social conventions he abhored. Seya was more introspective, reserving her poetic forms for domesticated scenes with young women that like In Sorrow (1977) seemed to blend a childlike imagination with adult poignancy. In 2000, over a number of weekly visits, I had the privilege of talking at length with Seya while we prepared an article about her life and work for the magazine Caribbean Beat. I will miss her. Read the article.


A conference honouring Marcus Garvey's birthday, the 60th anniversary of the publishing of Report on The Rastafari Movement in Kingston Jamaica, is taking place at the University (UWI, Mona) this week. It's a big celebration gathering Rastafari scholars from the African Diaspora. They are exploring ways that the Rastafari world view has influenced all areas of life under the banner 'Negotiating the African Presence: Rastafari Livity and Scholarship.'

Much has changed since Roy Augier, Rex Nettleford and M.G. Smith first offered their report to the nation about Rastas. In 1960, the movement was still in its infancy and greatly misunderstood amongst Jamaicans. Rastas were effectively demonized by wider society that could not accommodate their desire to return to Africa, beliefs about the divinity of Haile Selassie and their use of marijuana as a sacrament. Yet, in many ways Rastafari's stand against what it called 'Babylon' including corporate culture, the hypocrises of the church and excesses of state control, were visionary. Today, with the universal popularity of reggae, a global youth culture that favours outsiderism and Rastas inclusion within 'Brand Jamaica', the movement has achieved acceptance and a place of national pride for its ability to survive. Rastafari's lifestyle that promotes 'ital' vegetarianism, self reliance and ecological stewardship has proven inspirational and very much in keeping with new age thinking. It is a movement that needs to be honoured for its spiritual fortitude, and the way that its convictions have contributed to the conscience of our nation. See an extract of my paper.


The organisers of a recent Black Atlantic conference in Liverpool have launched a site devoted to the subject where all the materials from the conference as well as more useful resources can be found. The site, Black Atlantic Resource established by the University of Liverpool was inspired by the exhibition and publication Afro Modern: Journeys Through the Black Atlantic that took place at the TATE Liverpool in the spring. The Resource offers artists profiles, research documents, videos, podcasts, a blog and an extensive bibliography all related to the African Diaspora. It's a fairly ambitious site for a subject that has received insufficient attention, especially in the UK and it is significant that it has been launched in Liverpool, a city with such questionable connections to the history of slavery. If it can be sustained, it might prove to be an important archive for scholars interested in black art now..., take a look, it's worth a visit.

One of the highlights of this year's Kingston on the Edge festival was an all too brief exhibition of drawings by the late artist Karl Parboosingh shown at the Bolivar in Kingston. Mounted by curator Claudia Hucke and very competently documented in its accompanying catalogue, the show presents a selection of Parboosingh's drawings taken from a sketchbook that he carried while he traveled through Europe and New York during the fifties. Additionally, there are drawings representing later works such as the preparatory sketches for his Wilton Gardens murals painted in Tivoli Kingston once he returned to Jamaica. Appropriately titled Jazz and Tings, the exhibition provides a fascinating glimpse into Parboosingh's bohemian life amongst avant garde artists that included modernists Fernand Leger and Raoul Dufy, and musicians such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker; all major influences on Parboosingh. Created very early in his career, these drawings show little of the bold style that would define his later work. Instead, these are simple sketches that reflect Parboosingh's earliest development as an artist as well as his exploration of techniques and styles. Watercolours, line drawings and dense cross hatching reflect his search for a distinctive style. They also reveal the insecurities and weaknesses that he would learn to mask in later paintings.


Recent disturbances in Kingston's down town communities has given these areas of the city increased visibility. Especially in places such as Tivoli, we who live uptown have a sense that we are viewing these neighbourhoods for the first time. Fear of violence has meant that many of us have closed ourselves off from certain areas and rarely travel through them, even though much of Kingston falls within a 10 mile radius. As Kingston's middle class retreat further and further up town, it is a shame that our vision has become so limited even to places literally on our doorstep. Yet a visit to many of these communities reveals a history and a heritage that many would have been familiar with in earlier decades. These are communities where many of our grandparents were born. How can it be that the city of Kingston has been divided between uptown and downtown and that we have forfeited this sense of place? Can we afford to lose these connections to the past? Can we afford to abandon them to violence? As we flee the inner city and turn our backs to the sea, we must be careful not lose our sense of the past and our sense of identity.